The road ahead of us is pitch black other than the few feet illuminated by the headlights.
The sudden change to darkness was startling and my eyes haven’t quite adjusted before I hear the road shift from paved to dirt beneath us. I turn to look out my window and instead of other cars as there had been a moment ago, I catch a glimpse of a road sign warning drivers of potential horse-drawn carriages.
It was just my mom and I in the car, two adventurers off to see the world. Or, at least, see the dirt side roads of rural Wisconsin.
We’d taken an unexpected exit off the freeway and were now following the GPS as it rerouted us, the voice rising above and cutting through the audiobook narration in the background. It was not far after I noticed the horse-drawn carriage sign that we spotted a one-room farmhouse. And then another. My mom and I looked at one another, wondering how this slightly unnerving side road was possibly the right road to be on.
The road didn’t appear to be heading anywhere. Ahead of us, I could see we would have just the option to turn right or turn left.
It was at that moment that the GPS told us in a clear, steady voice, “Turn left here.”
Seconds later, the audiobook playing on the car’s CD player spewed out the directions turn left as a part of the storyline. I can’t make this up.
Needless to say, we turned left. The character in the book turned. And I burst into a mad peal of laughter.
I mean, I really laughed. I lost it. I’m sure the folks in those lovely farmhouses heard my laugh from the end of the road, wafting to them on the wind.
And it was the correct turn. Soon enough we were back on the freeway and the darkness was disappearing behind us as we joined a line of other cars.
This happened a few weeks ago, but the memory has stayed with me. In those moments between the GPS and audiobook syncronizing and my laughter spilling out, I experienced the most wonderful feeling of being in the right place at the right moment.
It was as if all of the universe and I were in sync and for that short, split second I was acutely aware of it.
This has happened to me before. It happens to us all, probably more often than we’re aware.
I felt this same emotion when I stood on the Cliffs of Moher. I felt it when I held my nieces and nephew for the first time. It was there when I spotted a bald eagle a few summers ago, and it was there when I was seven or eight and my baseball bat connected with the ball pitched by my brother in our backyard.
I felt something akin to this when I met a fascinating stranger while I was on vacation. I’m positive that this is the sensation I felt when my writing was first published. And I know that I feel in sync when I pick up my phone just before it rings.
What this moment in the dark back roads of Wisconsin reminded me is that when we’re fully present we can live our lives in awe of these moments because they’re just as easily found in the little things as in the big events in our lives.
My GPS took me on a detour to find my footing.
It rerouted me just long enough to recall that life is about the space of time between the seconds when you let yourself feel the pull of life. For that, really, is the purpose of our travels. It can’t be the destination. It’s the adventure and feeling, the tug of what you haven’t planned.
And maybe when in doubt, turn left.