The Open Road

Growing up in rural, southern England, I got used to narrow, winding roads. My first exposure to long, dead straight roads was in Libya, but I would usually fly deep into the so it was during my time in South Africa that I really started to become conscious of them.

The long, straight road was at first liberating. Free from the twists and turns I could see just where I was going. But they soon became tedious, because I couldn’t get where I wanted to go fast enough. I could literally see where I was going to be in 15 or 20 minutes (when towing a trailer or driving the speed limit).

I soon grew to hate them, longing again for the narrow twists and turns of the single-lane roads around my home where each curve in the road brought excitement tinged with the danger of encountering an approaching vehicle.

To drive the narrow, single-lane roads of Wiltshire I needed to be alive, tuned in to the vehicle I was driving and the world around me. I soon found when driving the long straight roads in South Africa I tuned out and I constantly had to find things to do with my mind to protect myself from the crushing boredom and monotony.

Roads, be they straight or winding, enable us to get from A to B, but at the same time, they constrain us to a vision set by someone else, to travel a path blazed by others.

When people ask me where I most enjoyed working my immediate response is, “Libya”. Most are stunned at this response but for the vast majority of my time in Libya, I worked in the desert where there were no roads. There were no fences hemming me in. I was free to travel in any direction I wanted to.

January is usually the time when people set out on a new path with the best of intentions. But by the end of January, most resolutions lie in tatters. Perhaps that’s because our goals are really someone else’s. The roads we have embarked upon are long, straight, and boring, laid out before us by some forgotten surveyor whose motivation was completely different to our own.

So if you find your resolutions unfulfilling, take a moment to stop and look around you. You’ll likely find a different destination or a more interesting route is close at hand.

The Open Road BW

The open road stretches straight into the distance, yet the road tempts us to follow someone else’s path rather than our own.

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