A journey of personal transformation can span 6,000 miles—or happen in your hometown
After graduating college, like many young men with wanderlust, I thought about taking a year off to travel the world before entering the world of work. But also like many young men, reality quickly settled in. My part-time college job (as a hotel supervisor) turned into a career (as pool supervisor, recreation manager and eventually spa manager), and so it never seemed to be the right time to go off on my quest for adventure.
But I never lost the yearning. I always imagined that at some point I would quit my job and take a year off to explore. I even purchased the URL ayearoff.com to have a place to blog about my adventures, perhaps eventually even publishing the story as a book. For years I renewed the URL in hopes that my sabbatical would one day become a reality, only giving it up a few years ago after getting married and having two kids seemed to put the final nails in the coffin of my younger self’s dream.
For this reason, I was particularly interested (and envious) a few years ago when I connected with someone through the Positive Psychology community who was planning to put his work on hold to ride his motorcycle across the country in search of personal peace and transformation. Like me, Ran Zilca also had invested in a URL for his journey: rideofyourlife.com. But unlike me (and in spite of being a father of three), Ran made his dream into a reality, and wrote about his adventures on his site and in a wonderful book, Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace (Booktrope Editions).
To make his adventure more interesting, Zilca added another wrinkle. He not only benefitted from the 6,000 miles of solitary reflection on his solo journey, but also decided to stop and meet with sages along the way: visionaries, thought-leaders and scientists, who all shared their wisdom for a life well-lived.
Reading Zilca’s book, of course, I was inspired by how he brought his bold dream to life in such an amazing way, but even more interesting were some of the lessons he learned that can benefit all of us. Here are just a few examples:
- Comfort kills. “Challenges,” Zilca said, “are the fuel of your life.” Personal growth and development come when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, confront challenges and embrace risk.
- Possibilities abound. Zilca marveled about how far his journey took him. He went from not owning a motorcycle, not even knowing how to ride a motorcycle, to riding one on a cross-country journey. “If all of this is possible,” he wondered, “what else could be possible?”
- You don’t have to leave home. Some of Zilca’s greatest lessons came from ordinary people who had found their calling, even in a simple life. After meeting a contented inn owner, Zilca noted, “You can run the same business in the same tiny town for 50 years and still be on the ride of your life.”
Zilca’s story reminds me of my own dreams of adventure and self-transformation. But it also helped me to realize that life already is an adventure, we are all on a personal quest, and transformation, ultimately, comes from within.
Jeremy McCarthy is the group director of spa for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. He is the author of The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing and hosts a blog at psychologyofwellbeing.com.