We were about 30 miles north of our vacation rental, on our way to the Grand Canyon, when I frantically started searching the bag at my feet. With his eyes on the road, my husband asked what I was looking for.
“My phone!” I spat out in frustration. “I think I left my phone at the house!” I continued to dig, pulling everything out of my backpack. Sure enough, the device that usually feels attached to my body was nowhere to be found. The fact that we had even made it that distance without my realizing it was missing was a shock in its own right.
“Should we turn around?” he inquired. “We’re not that far away.” For a moment, I considered answering yes. Then I realized that forgetting my phone was probably a blessing in disguise.
A day disconnected from email, social media, and online shopping was just what I needed after months of being constantly “on” — for personal and professional reasons, but also out of boredom and as a means of distraction. (For insights on why so many of us turn to our devices for these reasons, see “Choose Your Own Reactions“.)
So, I decided in that moment to make the most of an unexpectedly device-free day. “No, let’s keep going,” I replied, taking a deep breath. “It will be OK.”
And it was. In fact, it was better than OK. Instead of staring down at my device on that beautiful drive from Phoenix to Grand Canyon National Park by way of Flagstaff, I looked up. I noticed as the elevation increased and the landscape changed from desert and red rocks to mountains, forests, and snow.
I actually listened along to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the audiobook our family had been waiting for months to start. Rather than distractedly offering one-word responses to the requests and inquiries from my husband and our kids as I skimmed the latest headlines, I engaged in real conversations with them — about the puppy we’re hoping to get in the coming year, about our favorite parts of our getaway so far, and so on.
And when that road trip finally culminated with a muddy hike out to Shoshone Point, where the vast expanse and beauty of the canyon was revealed to us for the first time, I wasn’t focused on capturing the just-right picture for posterity: I was simply there with my family to take it all in.
I got to see the wide-eyed looks of awe on our daughters’ faces as they gazed out at the overwhelming view that stretched before us. I sat and really saw this natural wonder that I’d previously viewed only in textbooks — and it quite literally took my breath away (not to mention my sense of balance!).
I can still feel those sensations in my body — the thrill, the sense of wonder, the connection to a world that’s so much bigger than what I experience in ordinary day-to-day life.
And once again, I’ve realized something: I want more of that — more time to explore nature, more space to step away, more opportunities to disconnect and truly be wherever I am, even if it’s simply my own backyard. (For adventurer and outdoor advocate Katie Boué’s take on this, see “Wild Heart: Katie Boué“.)
On the surface, the theme of this issue — Reach New Heights — implies stretching our abilities and stepping out of our comfort zones. But perhaps it’s also about settling into them, appreciating what’s right in front of us, and embracing the moment. That day’s adventure was a good reminder of all the possibilities.