Once a year, my parents left east London to go on holiday.
They’d grown up in a world where people worked all their lives without holidays, so to them it was a really big deal.
We’d go camping in Devon, which to them was like going abroad.
Dad had an old car and he’d hook up a trailer he’d made, he’d pile everything in it, including an army tent he’d borrowed from the scouts.
In those days there were no motorways, just A roads and B roads.
Mum said the holidays started as soon as she closed the front door of the house.
She wasn’t in any hurry to get there, she loved the journey.
She used to say: “Let all the other silly sods rush about, this is our holiday.”
And for her it was, the first stop was usually a layby in Canning Town.
Dad would park the car and tie the dog’s lead to the back bumper, then he’d start up the paraffin stove to make a pot of tea, meanwhile Mum would be buttering the bread and peeling boiled eggs for sandwiches.
Then we’d pack up and drive a few more miles before stopping in another layby and doing it all over again.
When it got dark, we’d park in a layby and go to sleep until morning.
At least, Mum and Dad would, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t work out why we weren’t driving along fast like everyone else, I just wanted to get there.
But Mum always said: “Let the other mad buggers roar along, we’re enjoying the ride.”
The thing was, for me the holiday didn’t start until we got to the seaside.
For Mum, the holiday started the minute she left home.
For Mum, the car ride was part of the holiday: riding along looking out the window at everything she’d never normally see: farms, rivers, bridges, cows, sheep, horses.
Mum was fascinated with it all, for me it was just boring.
Eventually, we’d see the sea, finally I could start to enjoy the first day of the holiday.
But Mum had been enjoying it all the time, this was the second day of her holiday.
All year, all Mum saw was to the kitchen sink, the washing line, the hoover, the shops.
For her, the car ride was wonderful, she loved the scenery.
I now see that as two ways to live life.
For me the car ride was wasted time, it got in the way of me getting somewhere.
For Mum, the car ride was the somewhere, she loved every minute.
It occurs to me that most of us live our lives like that car ride.
We can’t wait to get where we’re going, then we can really start living.
Get past school, get a family, get married, get kids, get to retirement, then we can start to relax and really enjoy our life.
But either way, just like that car journey, we’re there and that time is going past.
As the writer Alfred D. Souza said:
“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.
But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.
Then life would begin.
At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”
In an est seminar, I once heard it put differently:
“The bad news about life is that there is no finish line, no top to the mountain, you never stop climbing, all there is in life is climbing.
The good news is, you love climbing.”
Which is what the Buddhists mean when they say: “The journey is the destination.”