Exploration is the key to self-discovery. I've read those words a number of times in various places, and they always seemed like an oxymoron because I thought exploration and self-discovery were practically the same thing.
But that piece of advice somewhat suggests that we are to reach a destination of realization, where we might finally get into a groove and ride out the remaining years of our lives in fulfillment. But, I'm not sure I've met anyone who has fully discovered themselves.
In fact, in the past few years of riding across the country, I've come to meet many people who went through divorces, or are contemplating divorce, because things are different now. They've changed. Their kids moved out. They lost their job. Self-discovery is an on-going process as opposed to something we arrive at and conclude.
Yesterday, I left Chandler, AZ for Las Cruces, NM, believing I would continue taking Interstate 10 eastbound through more flat, straight, expanse of desert. As boring it might sound, the Interstate has been the tried-and-true way to get through that heat quickly with plenty of amenities and rest stops in between. But after looking at the map one more time, I realized I could actually take US-60 and US-70 through Globe, Safford, and Duncan before reconnecting with the I-10 at Lordsburg. The route was technically a little shorter in miles, but longer in time.
Moreover, there was a stretch of the US-70 between Safford and Lordsburg that I had never ridden before.
I'm glad I made that choice.
Temperatures dropped from the upper 90s into the low 80s as the US-60 wound its way up the Superstition Mountains. I was treated to gorgeous views of boulder-laden grades interspersed with oaks and creosote bush. I was able to lean into sweeping curves one after another, feeling the centripetal force pulling my body and motorcycle down into my tires as I increased throttle and slingshotted from each apex. It was some fun riding.
Just the cooler air alone, made it worth the while.
But as I got to the other side, dropping down into the Apache Indian Reservation, that respite was soon gone. I was back into hotter air, though still enjoying pretty scenery and a highway largely free of traffic.
And that stretch of US-70 between Safford and Lordsburg that I had never ridden before? Well, it was actually rather straight and unremarkable. Yet, it was still satisfying because my mind had shifted to that of exploration. What I had ended up discovering was just another piece of Arizona and New Mexico that I had never seen before. And now that I've seen it, I like to think that I know these two states just a little bit better.
Perhaps that's what self-discovery is too. Getting ourselves off the familiar routine and trying something new is like stirring up the pot to see what else is in there. Even if on paper, the familiar routine is the tried-and-true way to get through the day, we're never going to grow as people if we don't face challenges and explore the unknown.
Even if you were to discover that there isn't anything new, at least you discovered that.