I caught the travel bug early. Looking back, there are a number of circumstances that helped shape my love of travel.

The first, and probably most important were my parents. Both teachers, they had the summers off with plenty of time to explore. Add in their interest in historical sites with a lot of relatives living in various parts of the country, and we had a myriad of options for places to go.

grounding1Living on teachers’ salaries, road trips were our chosen mode of transportation. I still remember my sister and I exploring our brand new Dodge station wagon the summer we set out for California (from Maryland). It had secret compartments in the very back and we spent hours playing back there as the miles swept under us. (This was, of course, in the era when laying down in the very backs of station wagons was acceptable.)

We’d come home from our summer trips tanned, salty and happily tired, ready for the school year to begin. I loved sharing our stories with my friends those first days back, showing off the rocks I’d collected or the scars I’d acquired. But I didn’t think too far beyond the tangibles as I quickly got caught up in the current assignments and experiences of the new school year.

Each school year seemed to serve as an anchor for us, allowing us to set aside daily worries and responsibilities a few weeks each summer and let go and surrender ourselves to the experience.
As I got older, graduated from college, and set out in the world, summer road trips faded into memories, yet the urge to travel and explore was never far from my consciousness.

Two years ago, my husband and I set out on a year-long road trip. We dubbed it “the adVANture.”grounding3

We converted a 2003 cargo van and hit the road, keeping up with our online businesses part time and setting aside the long weekends for playing (à la trail running, climbing, mountain biking) and life maintenance (laundry, showers, etc.).

While I expected that there would be some kind of adjustment to life on the road, I hadn’t anticipated how significant that transition would be. All sense of structure I’d had disappeared (a home, work hours, social events with friends) and in its place were lots of decisions to be made: where would we sleep that night? What trail were we going to run? Which coffee shop had the magic combination of fast wi-fi, accessible outlets, and good coffee? What were we going to eat for dinner?

The road was no longer a sanctuary for surrender. Suddenly I was inundated with more questions, responsibilities and decisions that had to be made.

A few months into the trip, I felt something start to shift. Perhaps it was simply the amount of time I needed to adjust to the new lifestyle, or perhaps it was because we came out of a particularly cold southeastern winter into the warmth and wide-open vistas of Texas—but I began to notice long-dormant memories coming back. The Grand Canyon in the rain. The vibrant colors of the sand in the Painted Desert. Smooth stone tree stumps thousands of years old strewn through the Petrified Forest. Miles and miles of fence-lined road ahead and behind.

There was a quiet meditation that began to take over as we traveled ahead.

As my husband and I climbed and explored across the country, experiencing the variations of granite and sandstoneRed Rock Canyon, Owen’s River Gorge, Joshua Tree; Enchanted Rock State Park, Malibu Creek, Smith Rock, Squamish; Acadia, a tiny out-of-the-way crag on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and finally back home in Boulder Canyon—there were moments I felt as though I was traveling through the layers of my life.

With each destination, the unique textures, colors and personalities of the rocks around the country represented so much of what I learned in those early years: while different in a lot of obvious ways, they have a lot more in common when we get close and begin to interact with the rocks. They are as varied as our own character and personality, yet connected to each other in a very deep and personal way.

I began to understand that being grounded didn’t mean having just one place to call home. As I became more familiar with the undulating terrain and varieties of rocks across the country, I found a sense of connection and grounding that I’d never noticed before.

It came from deep inside me, having been planted in those early years and allowed to grow and bloom during this trip. There was a growing sense of place and purpose: a distinct understanding that my center of calm and groundedness was within myself. And I had direct access to it.


I don’t know who said it originally, but it reminds me of the quote: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”


Those of us who love the outdoors are not surprised to find comfort and connection when we’re out in the wilderness. It was no different for me on this trip (although it took some time to really sink in). The earth—the rocks, trails, and trees; the wind and air—settled me, creating a space of comfort and grounding that I knew I would be able to take with me where ever I went, even if I went nowhere.


What about you? I’m curious to hear: what helps you stay grounded and centered during transitions?



Amy Christensen is a certified life coach with a passion for adventure and helping women discover and tap into their own adventurous spirits. Based in Boulder, CO, her company, Expand Outdoors, focuses on helping women get outside literally and metaphorically: to step outside their comfort zones, take more risks (the healthy kind) and live a richer, more fulfilling, adventurous life. Join Amy this fall for her brand new series of FREE video courses. Learn more and register today.