In February 2012, I began a 17-day solo road trip through ten US states, driving a total of 2,498 miles. The following travel notes are from that road trip.
Much like the message in that essay, the journey to Ithaca took seemingly forever, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it because I wasn't focused on the destination.
On the way there I made some interesting observations: I saw someone refilling five-gallon water bottles with water from a stream trickling down from the mountain (there was a pull-off for cars; it looked like that was a common source of drinking water). I also saw a farm with lamas grazing in the... snow.
The road to Ithaca snaked up and down the mountains with an average speed limit of 55mph; it was typical to drive 65mph on these roads with no divider between you and oncoming traffic. I felt like I was on a racetrack for most of the drive once I got off the main highway.
Lots of farms surrounded Ithaca, but they were mostly used for growing feed for the animals (cows, horses). While Ithaca itself felt affluent and modern (especially in the downtown area), only a few miles away in all directions lie farms and communities that hadn't changed much in a hundred years.
I met my friend Molly Yarrington for the first time after arriving in Ithaca and we walked to a small local cafe where there were lots of young people with at least a dozen laptops. It reminded me how much the Internet is changing everything.
What would've once been a town to leave for the "big city" (or 'village' as many signs on the highway called them) is now a place where you can experience small town life while remaining connected to and working within the modern world.
After the cafe we walked around a bit and visited a waterfall (Molly tells me there are lots of trails and other outdoor stuff to do in Ithaca). We then had lunch where the conversations continued.
I ended up spending the night in Ithaca and after doing an interview with Radio Enso, Molly and I continued talking into the early morning.
We talked about a seemingly endless number of things but one topic that we explored on several occasions was that of what to do with our natural talents.
Should we pursue the things that we're naturally good at, or should those things become the foundation for exploring other areas that are of equal interest to us but are perhaps of less natural inclination?
For example, few people know this about me but I'm very military-minded. I genuinely enjoy the hardship, the discipline, and the dedication of soldiers and warriors.
Emotional detachment comes naturally to me, as does the tendency for sacrifice and service. I even generally live the lifestyle of a warrior, only living with what's necessary.
But I have other interests that are in conflict with those natural inclinations. For example I consider myself a humanist and I enjoy philosophy. The concepts of peace and equality are very important to me as well and I seek sustainability and harmony.
If I pursued only the things that I was naturally good at, then I would probably become a solider or focus only on sports or other activities that complement my natural inclinations.
However, if I instead use those natural inclinations to create a foundation from which I can explore other things, then I would create and live a more vibrate and rich life.
Harmony would be built upon a foundation of dedication; sustainability would be created with a willingness to sacrifice. I would create and build things with a tendency for sharing and service.
I feel that I've been fortunate that my interests have always been so varied and so strong that I've never 'settled' on one thing. The closest I've come to 'settling' on something was in the choice of my first career. I didn't like computers any more than I liked space travel, but in my early teens pursuing a career in the technology industry was the most practical choice.
I believe that balance is important and if all we do is pursue what we're good at, then we'll end up living a very one-sided life.
On leaving Ithaca the following morning, I drove by several of the 'finger lakes'. These huge lakes are literally shaped like giant fingers. (See them on the map.)