would you like to avoid the toll roads?

IMG_2997I slid into my car, turned it on, rolled the window down in preparation for a warm day, plugged my phone in and opened up reliable TomTom. My brother wasn’t far behind across from me. When the app loaded I was asked where I wanted to navigate to. I typed in “Zurich” and was promptly asked if I wanted to avoid the toll roads. At this stage we only had two options: Avoid the tolls through France. Pay the tolls through France. We knew we weren’t staying so we had to choose one.

Reasons to avoid the tolls: Avoiding the toll roads often means a more scenic route through countryside. It usually means a bit of a longer journey as well. Tolls cost money.

Reasons to pay the tolls: For a long day of driving it means that we get to our destination in a shorter amount of time and can enjoy exploring a little longer. When it cuts driving time considerably it might save money on petrol.

So far, we had mostly avoided the tolls on our road trip from Dublin to Beaune because we wanted to experience the small villages and get a more personal look at the fields and forests spread across rolling hills. Going from Mont Saint Michel to Versailles wasn’t a difficult decision because the route wasn’t that much further and we were just beginning to enjoy the pastoral area. From Versailles to Beaune we decided to take the shorter journey and go for the tolls after skirting Paris. Apart from travelling faster, the journey was a little dull. Once we exited the motorway my brother thought I’d been caught for speeding because of the price we paid! … We had been charged for every kilometre we’d travelled on the motorway. Sitting in Beaune we knew that going toll free to Zurich would take us a couple more hours than taking the tolled route. Knowing we’d be heading for some extremely beautiful mountainous areas and unsure what the tolls would look like, we opted for toll free without regrets. We also knew we would be spending a few nights in Zurich.

What I learnt was that we always have those options. When we consider the people we want to become or the things we want to do we have to choose whether we want to get their quickly and pay the toll so as to enjoy more of the destination or take a longer route to enjoy the journey. Either way, we sacrifice something and it is our choice as to what. This morning I wondered … if I were to open TomTom, how would I respond to its first question: Where would you like to navigate to? And then the second: Do you want to avoid the tolls?

The morning we left Zurich we had a better idea how the Swiss roads worked and decided to take the shorter route to Basel under the hills and mountains through some pretty cool tunnels. During the whole trip we clocked up 3333km while driving and a total distance, including ferries and tunnels, of around 4610km.

Want to read the stories from road trip as it happened? Check out our family travel blog: Road Antics

stop checking out my adventures and go have your own

Adventure is wherever you find it, on whatever budget you are willing to spend. Adventure is always a choice. I love adventures … crave them, actually. They make me feel alive and fuel my dreams. They give me determination and teach me I am strong – I am strong enough to choose to be fully alive with every day I wake up to.

This time last year I was in Canada traveling around, speaking in places and meeting with friends and family who cheer me on in my work here. In previous years I would dread the thought of staying in a different bed every couple of nights, driving long hours and participating in activities that were so far from what I do best (i.e. public speaking). As much as I love the people I visit on these “tours” I usually feel so completely exhausted and drained by the end of them. Last year I decided to do things differently. I planned on approaching the journey the same way I would here: an adventure, during which I would look for every opportunity to really see and then give. The difference was astounding! I found places in my home country that I had never heard of before. I participated in people’s lives with depth. As I drove from one place to the next I encountered generous people who have come to love my adventures as much as I have. In one home I arrived to delicious muffins that had been baked just for me … all because I bake muffins and share the joy with others when I do. When I got to my home town I was greeted with several invitations to an adventure with other friends! People experimented with meals just for me. They took me to cafes and constructed beautiful day outings just to experience the wonder of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary adventure is not as complicated as it looks. If you’ve been on an adventure with me, you already know this. All you really need is:

To notice – The cafe you have always walked past. The path through the park. The shape of a leaf. The feel of the breeze. The emotion of the environment. The little brown sign pointing off the road to an historic site you have never heard of before. Not that I really want to, but I could probably sit in my living room every day for a month and notice something new without even moving. It has to do with forgetting the familiarity of the mundane. It has to do with seeing the different colours of the sunset from one day to the next, watching the shadows dance, wondering about the curves and creases of fonts over that shop across the road, savouring each flavour and texture of peanut butter and jam on toast.

To stop – Noticing is only enough to make a day interesting if you don’t stop. It doesn’t have to be long, just a moment at the very least. Sometimes it is to stop the direction you are going to follow the rabbit trail. To stop is to let go of the fear of trying something new, being somewhere new, of losing control.

To feel – Only when fear is gone can you really begin to feel – from the ground beneath your feet to the sun or rain on your face; from the lazy meanderings of small town life to the tension filled street of a driven city. Let it all soak in – what the senses pick up and what is revealed without any evidence at all but leaves impressions in the mind. To feel is to acknowledge and allow the moment to interact with your own thoughts and emotions. These things will change you but they won’t consume you.

To memorise – Replaying the moments over and over again seals them in our memory as enticements to really live. Remembering the moment is more than a picture that paints 1000 words. Remembering the moment is giving validity to your existence and experience. I have begun to own the experiences I have and take them to heart as gifts that I have been given to treasure. From them I feel the heartbeat of something so much more that whispers purpose and love on my heart. I no longer have to grasp and claw for the experiences I see others having, but rather feel generous in genuinely wanting others to know the same.

Believe it or not, my adventures are not costly apart from my own willingness to take my eyes off myself and put them on everything else, cherishing this broken and beautiful world that grows old beside me … every single day. That includes you. You are in this world with me. You are part of the adventure. Join me. Take an adventure today.

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the road trip

CanadaCompared to the journey we took as a family when I was 17, this road trip has been a piece of cake! In 1999 we took a minivan and covered over 18 000 km in four weeks. Seeing all 10 provinces and 27 of the states was an experience and primer for all road trips to follow. Along the road there were unexpected adventures – two particularly memorable ones were driving through New York City the Friday night after J.F.K. Jr.’s funeral while listening to Woodstock 99 live and seeing the spaceship Columbia in the Texas night sky on its way in for landing.

At the end of May I flew into Calgary and hired the rental car. Since then it’s been about 2500 km of road trip adventure! 01dc0bb28254b5d8e146898715c093e67c52b8ba59Discovering exciting things along the road in rural areas tends to be more of a challenge here than in Ireland but I was determined to appreciate all that I could along the way. First there were the dinosaurs in Drumheller. In Castor I asked about interesting sites on the way to Edmonton. I admired the beauty of Big Knife Provincial Park, learned the history of mining at the Diplomat Mine Interpretive Site, stopped for a coffee and a sausage making tour (which I cheekily asked for) in Heisler and discovered more about the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) and the start of early prairie communities at the Railway Museum in Camrose. In Edmonton the history tour continued with a visit to Fort Edmonton, a non-military fort used for fur trade. This lesson progressed as I made my way to Athabasca as it was a primary river in the life of the fur trade. On the return journey south I stopped on the northern end of Edmonton for a relaxing tea and scone in the beautiful Enjoy centre. Eventually, I started west. Canmore was my only real stop on the journey. There is a fabulous quilt shop that really is a must if you enjoy sewing and are passing through.01d97c98f7c0aeffc062de87216b99478f49dbfbccThen there were mountains – those beautiful, beautiful mountains. Each mountain range seems more stunning than the previous one. The Rockies, Monashee, Columbia, Central Plateau and Coast Mountains. The trees, the wild flowers, the lakes, the brown bear at the side of the road. I breathe it in. The lush rainforest and the dry desert hills. The fruit trees and vineyards. The sun, the rain, the lightning, the warm breeze. I became a mountain girl and the wildness of the B.C. mountains wraps me like a comforting blanket. And to see them with grass and leaves and flowers for the first time in nearly 10 years! Well, that is something else entirely. 011c61d8f8a5ab5131db5893be898efed263b27b0f Tomorrow I begin the journey back to Alberta again. This road trip hasn’t been just for the sake of the beauty and adventure. It has been to connect in with the people along the way. There are family and friends scattered across the globe who give sacrificially so that I am able to do the things that God has called me to do. They pray and they give. It has been such a privilege to spend lengths of time in conversation around a table or walking together. From morning to night I have been blessed with encouraging conversations. The road and kilometers between are merely what has connected each one.