Life is only a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see.
New England in the Northeastern United States is filled with rich history, cultural attractions, scenic villages and fascinating cities. Traveling to New England in the autumn has always been on my bucket list, with its endless magnificent colors and breathtaking landscapes making you feel like you are in a fairy tale world. Recently I traveled to New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine), and it was totally different from any of my past adventures, because this time it was relaxing – starting with a drive in a red sports car through forests, farms and mountains, giving a brand new feeling to me.
I carried some emotional luggage to start this adventure, so as I enjoyed the views of fall foliage along the way, this trip gave me a special chance to reflect on myself deeply, into my soul and mind, like a concert.
The red sports car – a late model Ford Mustang – first stopped in Maine. I was attracted to two things deeply: buoys and lighthouses, like icons of the rich history and culture and living legacy of the fishing communities along Maine’s coast. My feet followed the directions, my eyes gazed at their lights, my ears listened to the sound of sea waves beating the rocks, my body felt the fresh and strong wind from the coast, and at that moment, those negative emotions in my mind seemed still, the light got into my heart, giving me a big hug and courage to face others’ judgement.
I loved exploring those colorful buoys in Maine,too. In the past, a lobsterman painted unique designs in his own color scheme on his buoys in order to mark his trap territory.
I am glad that I did not miss the beginning of the leaves turning colors, and I did not miss the peak either. I witnessed endless brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves all around. In Maine, I traveled to Acadia National Park, but this time I did not hike a lot, just hiked a few trails instead. I felt so relaxed.
The most beautiful view was unexpected and appeared along the way between Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. I immediately stopped and pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car and just stood there and took photos.
I saw magical lake reflections, especially on the last day I was there, on an early morning, the fog showed up on the calm and glassy lake, with the colorful leaves and the ray of sunrise on the sky far away. I stood there for a while, though it was chilly. The lake’s reflection reminded me to reflect on myself, the scene prodding me to hold a mirror to my inner self.
I carried those reflection reminders back to the road again, heading to my next destination—the state of New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire, nature continued to amaze me. I traveled from east to west, then north, from early morning to evening, enjoying many sites of incredible fall foliage without leaving the car. I gazed out the car window into the distance, magnificent mountains surrounding all the peak colors along varied terrain and layers. The fog gave it a mysterious air. I listened to the sound of the trains passed old logging railroads, delivering the history that shaped New England.
This time, the red sports car helped me to complete another adventure — a climb up Mt.Washington. Driving on the Mt. Washington auto road was a thrilling experience. The road ends at 6,286 feet above sea level, and there are no guard rails on the road, with numerous steep drops on either side, a fairly narrow road and all one way. The most impressive thing was that ever-changing weather amid the fall foliage, first bluebird skies and stunning vistas, then strong winds, and fog, and rapidly moving clouds at every turn; like our life, we never predict what will happen at the next turn, but we still go forward.
I think about my last mountaineering adventure, using my feet to climb up to the mountain, while driving is faster and easier, but a totally different experience. Like a destination or goal, we can use different ways to achieve it, the journey is worth enjoying and creating memories, every experience is unique and incomparable.
This time I got to the summit, achieved my “goal” finally. I witnessed 360 degrees of epic view from the top. I was so tiny in front of Mother Nature, I saw the world from a different perspective from this mountain, and felt a deep connection with those clouds. My soul was much calmer than before.
I sat there and wondered if judgments about me from others really matter? Do they define the real me? I kept this thought in my mind.
I then headed to my next destination – the state of Vermont. I drove more miles on backroads than on highways, interstates or main roads. While it sometimes took twice or three times longer, the country roads were warm and homey.
I lost myself in endless unknown colorful foliage forests, finding hidden secrets along the way: a beautiful old barn sitting high on a hill, a castle ruin standing in the midst of a forest. There is no cell service or road signs whatsoever, but that part of it made me feel like I was on a true vacation. I was far away from those outside voice and judgment, with only open roads, a camera, an imagination and an open mind. My inner self was very calm again.
I walked into and allowed myself to become “lost” in those deep forests, saw the reflection of lake and foliage, making me reflect again on myself in a transcendentalist moment: What are my core values? If I were you, would you fall in love with Stephy? How do I describe myself? What are my strengths and weakness? What is the best version of myself?
I answered myself honestly: I know my values and who I am, and I am very true to myself. I admitted that I am not perfect; I have my weaknesses; I have made mistakes; I don’t always know how to express myself well; my actions have hurt others, made others misunderstand, but I accepted my weaknesses calmly. Also, I reflected on myself and people I have engaged with, trying to understand if I have treated them respectfully and honestly.
On the way back to Massachusetts, I looked in the little rearview mirror, dwelling on the past, my mistakes. I looked back and reflected, and then my eyes shifted to the windshield, looking forward, the view even clearer. Those mistakes and emotional luggage I needn’t carry in the present or in my heart. I had learned from them and put them behind me.
When I am honest to myself and know myself well, I realize the labels from others are just “fact” or “not-fact”. If true, I would be concerned about others’ opinion or judgment of me, accept and improve; if it is not true, I would let it go.
I hope the reflective questions within myself from this “concert” of nature will inspire you to ask and reflect on yourself, too, my fellow adventurer, and those questions are good to revisit as our life progresses. The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. When we begin the journey of self-reflection, we begin to learn and grow in life. One way to understand yourself is to observe how others respond to you – but others do not define us completely.
When I have the ability to change my mind in the face of new facts, I refuse to let the fear of admitting I was wrong stop me from getting it right. I know I have intellect and wisdom. They are one part of growing up. We will never be too lost as long as we can see those horizons!