“You’ve heard of the phrase “wanderlust,” but do you know the German word “fernweh”? It means “far sickness” or an intensely strong urge to travel. The next time you feel the need to head out on a road trip, you’ve got a case of fernweh. And the only cure is to travel somewhere new!”Ernie Smith — a local friend, equestrian and world traveler
Aikido Retreats are Truly Special
Aikido retreats, camps, and seminars can give one a new understand and fresh perspective. The solid span of intensive training, away from the distractions and responsibilities of daily life, is an opportunity to settle in and focus, exploring techniques presented in different ways, explained in new voices, and training with new partners and old friends.
This year I finally get to come out and play again. Right now I’m planning a road trip adventure on my way to and from Aikido at Granlibakken, in Tahoe City, California, taking 3 days to get there, and 4 on the way back. I’ll be sharing about that as I solidify my route and stops. Meanwhile, the project has brought to mind past trips.
Getting There is Half the Fun
Traveling to the events is an important and enjoyable part of the experience for me. I’ve rarely flown to one; the pressure changes can trigger my vertigo, and that’s no fun, so I avoid it when I can. As a practical matter: driving lets one pack all the uniforms, training weapons, and dorm supplies one might need: a fan, towels, blankets, and other bulky items.
Even the process of preparing to go has value. It’s a time to prioritize goals, finish up incompletions, and generally tidy up my life. Make sure the car is in good working order! Been meaning to get the oil changed and brakes inspected? Now would be a good time. Those unfinished projects around the house? Best get them wrapped up so as not to leave a mess for Michael to deal with. Completing things creates space, physically and emotionally, so I’m in a better position to enjoy the trip without lingering distractions or concerns. It’s a good excuse to get one’s life together.
But most important, the trip itself – at least two days each way in most cases — provides space and time to think, to let one’s ordinary way of being drop away on the way there, and to steep in and absorb the teachings and experiences on the way home. And of course it’s an opportunity to see a lot of the countryside.
So I have been missing my road trips these past few years.
Hunkering Down During the Pandemic
Since about 2012 I have made a practice of doing two to four road trips each year to Aikido seminars – Occidental, Tahoe, Redlands, Roseville, and others. The pandemic shut that down for that past few years, of course — both the events and the traveling. Even as things began to start up I remained cautious. I tend to catch any illness I encounter when I travel — I’ve ended up an an urgent care, missed days of training, and once even had to turn around and head back home (over 600 miles) after only a day of training — so I hunkered down longer than others.
I’m glad I took the extra time on my most past trips — in 2018 and 2019 especially — to see so much of the the state, the California Coast along Highway 1, the coastal farming valleys on 101, California’s Central Valley via I-5 and Highway 99, and the Owens Valley and Eastern Sierra along 395. I visited historic sites and natural wonders, hiked along rivers, saw bubbling hot springs and gorgeous lakes, climbed and circumambulated the crater of a volcano, and stayed in adorable little cheap motels.
Sometimes I even visited friends and family along the way. But I value my solitude on these trips. I am alone with a cooler of snacks and drinks, good music, relevant audiobooks, and my own thoughts.
During the Covid lockdown I looked back on those trips, glad I had taken the time to see so much. We never know when we might be able to return to a place. I had detoured down random byways just because I didn’t know where they might be headed. I saw intriguing places on the map and visited them just to see what they were — Obsidian Dome, the Tehachapi Loop, Ragged Point.
Slow Down. Stop and Look. Enjoy the Trip.
I stopped at dozens of wide places along the road on the theory that if there was a well-worn space to pull over there must be something there worth seeing. I was almost always rewarded, peeking over a short stone wall to see a beautiful green river valley, or looking up between trees to a hidden view of dramatic mountains.
I recommend adopting this practice. You never know… You might not be back this exact way again. A wildfire might alter the landscape by this time next year. That out-of-the-way soda fountain might close down. Things change. Take an extra day. See all the things. Enjoy the journey.