The most valuable thing in the world

One year ago today I was standing in front of an old-fashioned wood burning stove in a hostel in Punta Arenas while warming up soup in my mess kit.  Brian and I had just arrived on the ferry from Tierra del Fuego after our first full day of riding after leaving Ushuaia on the brand spanking new northbound portion of our trip.

 The wind was doing its usual Patagonia thing outside, blowing a hoolie.  We planned to ride to the zones franca and buy parts so Brian could do some much-needed service work on both bikes and replace his chain before we rode further north to Torres del Paine National Park. But we weren’t going to do that the same day, having been worn out from riding in the wind to Porvenir that morning and enduring the rough crossing of the Strait of Magellan on the boat. We could relax for now and worry about parts another day.

I was over the moon, still in the post-climactic afterglow of having reached Ushuaia without breaking any more bones than the two I had broken in Canada.  Whatever else happened from then on out, I had reached Ushuaia and nothing would change that.

I remember sitting in the small boiling hot kitchen and looking out the window at the tents flapping in the wind in the yard of the hostel, wanting to remember and relish that small moment. I’d spent most of the last year and a half learning to live more in each of these moments and finding something worth experiencing in every day. The 20 months of riding and traveling I’d done up to that point had given me hundreds, if not thousands, of incredible moments and experiences. And this one moment sparked a memory for me.

A few years before I’d attended a hotel conference along with more than 4000 other people and sat in an enormous convention center to hear a keynote speaker. The speaker said something that day that struck a chord in me.  The most valuable thing you will ever have in your entire life is time. Some people get more than you. Some people get less than you. But the only thing that matters is what you choose to spend yours on.  At the time I was wrapping up a 21-year career that had absorbed most of me and my life. And I’d felt like I’d chosen to spend too much of my time working to make a small family rich and I’d missed out on time for myself and time with my family and friends.  But I had a light at the end of the tunnel, one that I had chosen to put in front of myself. I was planning to quit and to ride my motorcycle to South America. His talk made me feel like I was making good choices and moving in the direction I needed to go.

As I stood in the hostel kitchen gazing out the window, I realized I had come full circle. I had chosen to trade heels for riding boots, hairspray for a helmet, and a house full of things for an adventure of freedom on the road. I had chosen to spend my time on myself, and I’d been rewarded with beautiful experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was the best spent time I’d had in years.

A plaque I used to keep on my dressing table said something along the lines of “I hope that I remember whatever I choose to do today must be worthy of my time. After all, I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.”

Here’s to hoping each of you make good trades for your days.

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  1. I love everything about this post! I’m so glad you followed your heart and that awesome plaque. 🙂

    When I was still working, this Mark Twain quote was what motivated me, and finally, helped make the decision to retire young (ish):

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

    Cheers, Lynne

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