This time of year the humidity hugs you when you step outside. You can feel the air wrap itself around your whole body. It’s humidity-hugging hot. Luckily in the Piedmont region of North Carolina there is a lot of water: creeks, rivers, streams. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is float down a river. You, plus a bunch of friends, big rubber inner tubes — with a small one for the cooler of course, and the natural flow of a river.
It’s the most relaxing thing to sit on the river and know that you don’t have to do much to get to your destination because the river is doing the work for you.
When I’m on the river I’m exactly where I have chosen to be, I can be nowhere else. There is an element of surrender that brings me a lot of peace.
The flow of the river is in control of my movements; any paddling, swimming or spinning around in my inner tube won’t change much about where I’m headed for that day. Letting go of control is relaxing because for a moment it lets me be the passenger, not the driver of my own life — for an afternoon at least.
There aren’t many places where we can roam free like that; unencumbered by the responsibility of controlling hundreds of details at a time.
Our movement through this world is normally full of liabilities and concerns: driving, getting to a meeting on time, what to do with some extra free time, a to-do list. And all of this is done while everyone else is doing their own thing. We’re all trying to march to our own rhythm but everyone has a different beat. Sometimes it feels like we’re all a bunch of pinball machine balls bouncing around.
On the river, everyone has the same flow, the same direction. There is only one way to go but that’s not a limiting thing; it’s just the right amount of context for the rest of your day, or longer.
During a particularly painful and emotional breakup, I decided to paddle 125 miles of the Yadkin River trail over five days. I transferred all my backpacking experience and put it in a 10.5 foot kayak instead of a pack on my back. I didn’t see anyone for the entire trip. Each morning I woke up and climbed into the kayak to paddle downriver. It was one less thing to think about, “Where am I going today? What am I doing?”, and that allowed me to focus on my heart and heal myself.
When a major decision for your day is already made, you can let go and focus on something deeper than where you are going or how you’re going to get there.
‘To roam’ stands out from the rest (walking, running, hiking, meandering, travel) because it implies a lack of a plan, or defined destination. Roaming is giving up a bit of control to the flow of the universe — or the river, or the trail, or the new job you just started — and see what happens. When we roam freely we can let go of the specifics of movement, and travel and open our eyes and hearts to what’s happening around us and within us as we go.