Driving three hours through thick latte-foam-like fog back to northern Indiana after visiting Bloomington this past weekend gave me a lot of time to curse Cracker Barrel billboard signs for their cheesy slogans — Chicken and Yummplins, really? — and think about what I wanted to write for this week’s travel column.
I still have seven days before I hop on United Airlines and head to Budapest. And for the past six weeks my travel experience has been spread out between Bloomington, a visit to Boulder, Colorado and small-town Chesterton, Indiana, home of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Without a doubt, I am ready to leave the U.S., experience Budapest and write about the wild adventures I'll go on. But, as I was making my way back north, I thought a lot about the phrase “means to an end." More specifically, endings and how that sense of transition and change brings periods of existence to a close, making life feel bittersweet.
I have tried for a long time to avoid the bittersweet ending, instead focusing on the end as a means for me to move to the next rung in the ladder. However, I am learning that while my head floats in the clouds of what might be next in the future, my feet are walking on the ground of the present, and experience can only be those grounding present moments.
In the last month and a half, while I’ve been waiting in this “holding pattern” as my mom has called it, I’ve made it a point to get out of my head and celebrate the life I surround myself with, the life I can see with my eyes.
I live in an area on the southern tip of Lake Michigan that Expedia named in an article titled “Best Place To Escape To In Every State” as the best place to visit in Indiana.
The dunes have been a source of my most reflective memories and thoughts, and now in the winter, it is a humbling sight to stand on an ice-shelved beach in a still, windless silence and watch as large sprays of lake water crash into huge hills of freezing ice.
I’m not surprised the dunes were given this title. Instead I am proud to have been raised with such an awe-inspiring landscape so close to my house. This pride has begun to blot out the “I need to get the heck out of here” attitude that usually comes with going home and being there for too long.
In this pursuit of practicing being present in the moment, I traveled to Bloomington over the weekend to celebrate my friendships, purposely focusing on those who have helped color my life. I focused less on saying my “so long for nows” and more on enjoying college habits like afternoon hangover-helpers at B-Town Diner and late night trips to the neighborhood Sahara Mart to buy wine and frozen Mexican food.
If anything, I’d have to say Indiana or wherever we decide to plant our feet, can become a meaningful and inspiring place to be.
The bittersweetness of the present changing into the past is really only harmonized by the recognition that the present never actually disappears. It just becomes a nuanced transition from one moment to the next.
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