Explore…

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After a devastating breakup, in my early 20’s, I learned to explore for the first time. Withdrawing the $800 in my bank account and grabbing my $1500 student credit card, I headed south.

At the time I owned a cargo mini-van, since I ran a small vending business in London, to help me through university. The van had a black rubber floor, only 2 bucket seats in the front, no air conditioning and no radio. It would have to do, as I wanted out of town as quickly as possible.

I packed a few bags of my things, a pillow, a comforter and promised my Mom that I would check in with her every night, no matter where I was.

I cried all the way to Knoxville, Tennessee, where I made my first stop, 12 hours after leaving. I spent the night in a Red Roof Inn and then proceeded all the way to my destination in Florida, with only two stops for gas. I wanted as far away from home as I could possibly get.

My adventure involved a dive motel in Florida where I cried, slept, swam, watched hours of television, walked and even ventured into a Karaoke bar, meeting a fireman who invited me for a day trip to the Florida coast.

Although I declined the offer, it was exciting to realize that there could be life after a breakup.

In Nashville, I recorded dozens of songs at a tourist Karaoke recording studio, met an aspiring actor who played in the movie, ‘Young Guns’, who convinced me to enter a singing contest. I landed second place, winning a hundred whole American bucks, which afforded me one more night at the hotel.

I met the country music singer, Mel Tillis, in the elevator of that hotel and had drinks next to some son of another country music star, who pulled up in a white limo and white suit.

During that same week, I had an official meeting with a record producer at a high rise downtown Nashville building, was offered $1000 to go rent an apartment and received a half-hearted marriage proposal. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure.

It was all; however, way too much, way too soon for a small town girl. There were so many opportunities, but I just wasn’t ready to move on. After three weeks away, I retreated to the comfort of home.

This adventure is something that I think of every once in a while because it shows the possibilities when we get out and explore. It also shows what we might miss out on, when we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone.

My reason to explore was initially to escape, to get away from the stress of my life and to ‘find myself’. Now I explore to get back to myself, clear my head and take in the good stuff all around us.

I first got my motorcycle licence while doing an eight month real estate development project in a place called Picton, in South Eastern Ontario. I was hired to transition a neighbourhood of 48 rental houses and 42 building lots from one owner to the new owner.

I was also on a mission to get away, at the time, and decided to find myself once again. I took as many courses as I could, including the motorcycle course, bought my first bike for $650, got it fixed and tuned up by the local, elderly mechanic, purchased a Provincial Park pass and ventured to as many parks as possible, on my journey.

I had been given a house stay in, renovate and make into an office. After I closed up my office every evening and weekends, I would get out on my bike and ride until sunset.

There is something glorious about taking in the fresh air, the open farm fields, country roads and new places. Prince Edward County is a beautiful area to visit, if you ever have the chance.

I have explored many places locally and around different parts of the world, in my lifetime, so far. Just the other day, my husband and I ventured into Michigan on our bikes, to celebrate his birthday.

It was remarkable to drive across the International Bridge on a bike, for the first time. I felt the wind, the warm air, the sun on my face and the breeze from the water. The officer on the U.S. side even asked me if I was the Mayor, because he recognized my name, as I took off my helmet. That was a cool moment.

We take photos along our journey, eat wherever we land, and enjoy even a few hours at a time, to appreciate what is at our doorstep and all around us.

This week, while filling up, we met a guy at the gas station who has driven 120,000 kms on his motorcycle, in the last year, with a goal of taking a photo in front of every state, province and territory sign in North America. Look for a link to photos of Doug Terry from Sarnia, coming soon…

You may not have to run away as far as I have, in order to find yourself or reflect on your life. You may be able to strap on a pair of running shoes and walk out your door to a nearby park.

You can jump on your bicycle and find the closest entrance to the hub trail. You can pack a lunch and take a day trip to Lake Superior, Hiawatha, Searchmont, St. Joseph Island or Pointe Des Chene, to trails or beaches.

You see, even when life is stressful, you can find pockets of time to take in as much beauty, fresh air or adventures that you can imagine. If you can’t escape, you can read a book or research a place that you would like to visit. If all else fails, you can visit my Facebook page where I have included thousands of photos of some of my excursions.

Life is full of many things that bring us down. It is also full of adventures and places waiting to be explored. It just depends on what you decide to focus on…

‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ ~ Mark Twain