When you embark on a journey, generally it’s with a destination in sight. For us, this was Argentina.
For months we stared at a world map pinned to the wall of our bedroom in London. A blue pin marked our home in the UK, a red pin our starting point in Alaska and a yellow pin our southernmost point in Argentina.
An audacious idea we developed over the course of a year – we planned to spend nine months travelling across the Americas to uncover and share the stories of entrepreneurs using business as a force for good – we called this project MacroAdventure.
Such was our belief in the power of business as a positive social force that we committed our life savings to make the journey a reality. We dreamt about what experiences, people and places lay between those distant points on our vast map. We wondered what challenges would face us. We hoped we would both have the mettle to withstand them.
It’s been nine weeks now since we left that blue pin of London. Our journey has taken us through the untamed beauty of Alaska, soaring mountains of Canada, the wild coast of Washington and Oregon and the glossy, sun-drenched Californian coast. We’ve spent hundreds of hours with remarkable social entrepreneurs who are tackling challenges as varied as nurturing early-stage social enterprises (such as Hatch), and supporting individual expression for the LGBT+ community through apparel (read more about Two Tongues’ story here).
What if we start to see every day as a departure, journey and arrival in itself?
That is one aspect of our journey. It is this part of our journey that we share most often. It is this part – the “official” part of our trip which we speak about online: the interviews we’ve done, the people we’ve met, the places we’ve been. But this is only one half of the story.
There is, of course, a second journey. It has taken place largely in private. This is the story of what our travels are teaching us about our own internal terrain.
This journey has challenged Dom and me at every level. It has pushed us physically, emotionally and financially. It has repeatedly tested our relationship. It has filled us with fear at times – we constantly speak about our fears about returning home, and what impact the decision to do this will have on the rest of our lives. It has taken us away from our family and friends, from structure and routine and comfort – all the things which bring stability and safety.
It has thrown us open to the world. We have had to become each other’s family, friends, business partners, travelling companions, lovers, cheerleaders, counsellors. At the same time, we have had to learn to give each other the space we need to experience and learn from this as individuals in our own right.
One of the hardest aspects thus far has been recognising, and trying to change, the patterns of behaviour from our old lives which we have brought with us. Dom and I both had busy, stressful professional lives in London. We learnt to put important things – taking care of our bodies and minds – to one side in the pursuit of success. Our days were spent chasing goals which sat far in the distance – a promotion, a house, a comfortable retirement. Our journey was about the destination.
When we started planning our journey across the Americas, we approached this project in the same way. We planned and strategized. We compiled endless spreadsheets. All of this was intended to ensure we arrived in Argentina in nine months time. It was supposed to inoculate us against failure. But it left little room for considering what would happen between our start and end points.
Applying old thinking to a new venture would bring about little change in our lives. It would result in very little growth at all.
The longer we spend on the road and the more distance we have from our old lives and old ways of thinking, the more a significant realisation has become clear: What if the way we originally approached this journey missed the point entirely? Applying old thinking to a new venture would bring about little change in our lives. It would result in very little growth at all.
What if our challenge was to approach our nine months on the road with an entirely new mind set? What if our challenge was not to reach Argentina, but to accept that the destination is the entire experience? What if our challenge was to accept that by merely starting we have in some ways already arrived – but that in others even when we finish we will still have far to go? What if we start to see every day as a departure, journey and arrival in itself?
We hope we will make it to Argentina. It’s absolutely our intention. But that isn’t our destination. Many things could happen over the next six months which may thwart that plan. We could run out of money. We could fall ill. We could reach a point where the stress this experience places on our relationship is no longer worth the sacrifice. Or we might decide to carry on somewhere else. Would that mean that our journey wasn’t complete? Would we have failed? We’d like to think not.
How sad to have spent nine months chasing that end goal, rushing across continents, running for planes, cutting conversations short, just to say we had reached that yellow pin in our map. A world in which reaching the destination is our driving force leaves little room for exploration. Society seems to view exploration with suspicion. It tends to see it as indulgent, or time-wasting.
Which is ironic, seeing as it is exploration which enables us to uncover riches, dive to new, greater depths and nurture ideas. By focusing solely on the end goal, we deny ourselves the very ingredient which promises to deliver us the greatest success. Allowing ourselves the time and freedom to explore is something we have to remind ourselves of on a regular basis.
Old habits die hard. We know it will be even more difficult to retain this mind set when we return to London, and the well-learned patterns of our old lives kick back in. In the meantime, we will carry on journeying south – focused less on Argentina’s yellow pin, and more on the thousands of miles of people, places and experiences which lay ahead of us.
- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.