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Navigating change: 3 tips from the road

I took a solo road trip recently: nearly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) along the east coast of Australia on the Pacific Highway. North to south. Brisbane to Sydney. Charting the geography from one city to another but tracing a route that would link two lives — and loop through my childhood stomping grounds just past the halfway mark.

Driving alone meant I had time to think about the change and actively mark the transition. Just as I’d cleaned out a lot of accumulated stuff from my apartment (my appreciation of minimalism wasn’t apparent during this phase!), the journey was a chance to jettison unhelpful beliefs too.

I fancied my ‘emotional flotsam’ flying out the window. Some got wiped out by trucks. Errant bits stuck to roadworks signs as I slowed for invisible workers. A little was rocketed out of my system by the I-never-do-this-but-I’m-going-to-make-an-exception-today energy drink.

Anything left after that was vapourised by George Michael , MC Hammer and The Blues Brothers .

Tip #1: Whenever things are changing — from trying new hobbies to switching jobs, establishing new habits or shifting your whole life — mark the transition phase. Relish the ‘in betweenness’. Use this state to ditch old thoughts and actions.

We can create transitions daily. No road trip required.

A few hours into the 2-day drive, I realised the journey wouldn’t be the one I’d anticipated. The Pacific Highway used to wend its way through a string of coastal towns and swung inland on occasion but the haze of salt spray was never far away.

These otherwise laid-back villages by the sea — some more colourful and inviting than others — would balloon in summertime, matching the swell of the Pacific Ocean. Surfers always buoyed by yet-to-warm salty water in the dawn air.

A clutch of locals would shake their heads at the tourists and others would welcome regular visitors who knew how to make the transition from metropolitan to regional Australia. (Chiefly achieved by taking a slower, more casual approach to almost everything.)

On this recent trip I was driving south in early spring, in unseasonably warm weather, and had been looking forward to the ribbon of ocean to my left as company.

It wasn’t to be.

Today, the nudged-inland motorway, interspersed with one-lane-each-way strips and bypasses of seemingly all major centres, makes for a rather sterile drive. There are few distractions. The smell is more eucalyptus than seaside and you have to consciously detour for any whiff of coastal life.

Tip #2: Any transition may not be as smooth as we want. Rather than getting frustrated (and possibly giving up), we can acknowledge the difference between our expectations and the truth of the situation, then see how we can bring the two closer together.

A moment of freakishly disproportional excitement enveloped me when I took a day out from the highway driving to revisit where I grew up.

I found the pie shop my teenage self would frequent was still in existence and run by the same people and still served honey chilli chicken pastry goodness! (This pie passion was news to me too.)

There were a few emotional dips too when I uncovered the differences between my memories of special childhood places and their contemporary reality.

Tensions between my pie euphoria and a little sadness in my adult self that no amount of MC Hammer could obliterate, were ones I couldn’t completely leave behind as I was new-home bound on day 3.

My impatience with the highway and my desire to just arrive began to show on the speedometer.

Tip #3: We can’t make a transition faster just by willing it so. We don’t make new friends, lives, art or love overnight. You’ve just got to put in the time.


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[Note: This is the second article in a series on change, check out the first, ‘ ‘, and keep an eye out for ‘ ‘]

Image credit and thanks to: Striking Shots

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