If you’re anything like me, there is nothing as inviting as the wide-open road, brimming with promise and the suspense of the unknown around every corner. Stunning vistas delight the senses as much as small-town diners beckon to me with home-cooked meals. Sometimes the lure of a winding path or a playful river entices me to explore, justifying a detour and a late arrival at that night’s destination.

In 2016, as I made my way across the country parallel to the old Route 66, I didn’t even want to make lodging reservations so I wouldn’t be committed to anything but my #wanderlust

As with other things in life, we often don’t know what we are missing until we experience it. From 2001-2013 I drove 45 miles on US 23 to work at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and back. This freeway has always been known for its unpredictable nature, associated with the 2-lane traffic (prior to the fast lane addition) and the curves that would jerk drivers in rush hour traffic from full speed to a dead stop. Since I expected accidents and delays, I planned for them and considered myself to be exceptionally laid back despite the uncertainty. Several months after I left this job, I went back to Ann Arbor for a doctor’s appointment. On the way home, when I hit that same stop-and-go traffic, I was able to witness the effect the driving conditions were having on me as well as to experience a memory of that effect that I wasn’t previously aware of because I had become so accustomed to it.

Maybe you are old enough to remember when researching a topic meant flipping through pages of an encyclopedia and making a phone call from the road required finding a payphone and having a dime. Today, we cannot imagine how we got by without our smartphones. The curious thing is that whenever I have lost my smartphone, or it is in for repair, at first I feel frantic, then after a short time, I feel at ease. I know I am not the only person who experiences smartphones as both sail and anchor.

As Independence Day draws near in the States, I am drawn to that sense of #freedom that being out on the open road brings me. As I review this past year, however, from helping my daughter write a paper for her U.S. history class, to hearing about the ever-unfolding events that steal our liberties in the U.S. of A., I cannot help but think that the only true freedom we ever have is that which we find within ourselves.

More often, lately, I realize that even when I think I am calm, it’s just that my body has become accustomed to the chaos, and when I get still to meditate, disassociating from my body, my environment, and time, then and only then can I feel the anxious energy within me and give it the time it needs to quiet. Prior to having a #meditationpractice, I wasn’t even aware that my internal experience resembled a scared rabbit shaking from fear. And if I were to have become aware of it, I would have felt too uncomfortable to sit with it as I didn’t know at that time that it takes 8-10 minutes for the body to transition from a state of stress to the beginning edge of calm.

They say you don’t know what you don’t know. So, whether it is the open road, time away from your smartphone, or meditation, give yourself a chance this summer to find your own freedom. And get to know it.