• Scott Stahlecker

Traveling to Destinations Unknown

Updated: Jul 9

(Latest article featured on Patheos)

On the west coast they weave along the seashore and bridge tributaries. In the southwest, they run to and away from the setting sun. In the Texas hill country, they slither like rattlesnakes and disappear under the canopy of massive oak trees abuzz with cicadas. And you can even spot them while driving along the freeway, their backs being ridden by mile-long, graffiti-infected railcars shunting and slapping iron feet.

More often than not, however, train tracks catch us unawares at familiar junctures in our lives. They give us pause to wonder if we have the courage to deviate from our comforts and tiptoe down their spines to discover where they go.

We are all on a track going somewhere—or worse, nowhere—like the toy model trains we see at county fairs which chug through familiar scenery and run circular paths that end at the same point where they began. Yet, the regularity to which these toy trains travel, (much like the monotony of our lives) can be comforting. Such is the familiarity of family, the solidarity of friendship’s forged, and the security we feel resting under the tapestry of life we’ve woven for ourselves—and that’s okay.

But the adventurer in us will quickly concede that what this monotony lacks is spirit: that spark of inspiration that has the potential to ignite our greatest exploits.

Interestingly, our minds function very much like an inner-city railway junction; it’s a network of sorts, where all our thoughts converge and the potential for changing the direction of our lives is at its zenith. Sadly, though, we usually remain on the same familiar train of thoughts throughout our lives, rarely deviating towards destinations unknown.

We may thank the ever vigilant “watcher” who rides the caboose of our consciousness. It is he or she that is the instigator of our guilt trips, urging us to follow the course we’ve set for ourselves or the path others have laid out for us. It billows on the intercom, “Stay the course. There are rules to follow, traditions that can’t be desecrated, and beliefs that cannot be un-believed….”

We would do well to pay him or her less homage. (Although the watcher has your best interest at heart, its only concern is satisfying your ego.)

One thing’s certain, everyone in the world is traveling on different trains of thought and arriving at their own conclusions about life. Some are flying through life like Japan’s Maglev bullet train at 603 km/h. Others are opting to cruise on the Nilgiri Express at 10 km/h. All things considered, everyone in the world lives entirely different lives eating, thinking, believing, hoping, learning, working, and experiencing different things. With few exceptions, everyone’s doing just fine.

But, here’s the ticket…

There is no perfect track through life that everyone must follow. So, when we cross those familiar junctions in our lives leading towards wonders others have experienced, we should feel free to explore the change in scenery, lest we keep winding up in the same spot where we began.


© 2020 by Scott Stahlecker