Posted by: emilyosburne | July 21, 2009

Unrestricted Exploration

Eiffell TowerWhat is it about traveling abroad or taking a year off that inspires and excites us so much? Judy Colley has been mentoring young women for over a decade, and she advises them to take time to live overseas or travel with a mission team before diving into the “American rhythm” of success-seeking.

Although we all sense something is missing from the relentless pursuit of the American Dream, many of us are uncomfortable with anything that does not directly lead us to a desired outcome.  On one of my favorite blogs, Christian Lander makes fun of the notion of taking a year off to “find yourself.” And many parents discourage their kids travel plans that might derail a nice, long career in a cubicle.

However, deep down we know that there might be something to this kind of exploration that gives deeper meaning to every life.

Although it does not seem to matter the place or the time, one key to fulfillment is this idea of exploration without strings attached. Most traveling comes with a purpose. You are on a mission to see every sight, to take every picture or to visit all the museums. Maybe you have gone to the beach with the purpose of swimming, sleeping, and playing volleyball on the beach. You go to Disney World to introduce the kiddos to Mickey and Minnie.

People who experience a higher level of fulfillment seem to give their minds more space to wonder, to think and to explore without a definite purpose. It seems paradoxical that you would set out on a purposeless journey in order to find real purpose, but I am finding that to be true.

This does not necessarily mean that every person in the world is required to travel abroad for a year. It’s just an invitation to take a walk without the goal of burning a specific number of calories. Go to a coffee shop without your laptop. Take a weekend in the woods and do nothing. What is the point of all this pointlessness? Give yourself space to be completely free; free of deadlines, free of expecations and free of your own demands. In this kind of environment, new thoughts can emerge that lead your life down a truer path.

Have you ever taken an extended period of time free from demands of the “American rhythm” of success-seeking?


  1. This is absolutely true because I have such fond memories of the time when I could be a stay-at-home mom and I had no deadlines. I had lots of time to take walks in the park with the kids with no purpose at all. We would play an impromptu game of scavenger hunt. I would name random things like pine cone and they would look for it along our walks. I go back to those days more and more lately I think, after reading the article, because I was more fulfilled and more relaxed. Dont’ get me wrong I had a lot going on and was very involved in volunteering but it was on my schedule and not someone elses. When I did go back to work I worked a schedule that gave me summer’s off. This is my first summer having to work and I now realize how much I needed that time to rejuvenate. I just need to take more time during stressful times especially to stop and daydream.

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