The Joy is in the Journey, not the Destination

By Cecelia Cook

The Joy is in the Journey, not the Destination

I spent so much of my teen and early adult life in unexciting locations, around people whose adventures consisted of summer Bible camps or visiting relatives in another state for a week, that all you had to do was mention the word “go” and I was in the car like a flash. It did not matter to where – it was the fact that I was “going somewhere” – one frequent treat was an invitation from an uncle to accompany him to the service station where I knew I could dip my hand in that ice cold drink box and pull out any bottle I wished. I wanted to go anywhere but where I was.

Prior to my family owning a car, we did considerable traveling by train, and that was exciting. I would sneak away from home and walk down to the train station to watch the people or just watch the steam hiss out from the huge steel wheels. It was dirty, it was noisy, the people acted excited and animated, and I loved it. Needless to say, I did get my legs switched on more than one occasion, but the punishment never dulled my desire to go to the station and watch the trains. For some reason, we had a U.S.O. in my little town (we were about 45 miles south of Birmingham) and a lot of the service men would get off at our depot and walk over to the U.S.O. to dance. My parents would go to these community dances, but they didn’t jitterbug – my mother thought that suggested questionable character. Needless to say, while my father did slow dance, my mother did neither. I learned to dance at the U.S.O. standing on top of my Daddy’s shoes as he moved.

So with the early exposure to the romance of the rails, later reinforced by Grandmother Wilson living beside the railroad tracks where I would sit on her front porch in a rocking chair and wave to the engineer and whoever else would wave back as the engine would pass our house – and count the number of cars of course. The names on the sides of the freight cars were enough to fire up my gypsy genes: Baltimore and Ohio, Chicago and North Western, Atlanta and West Point, Chicago, Southern, Rock Island and Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande and Georgia and Florida – all very exotic to a nine year old. I also recall an Atchison-Topeka-and Sante Fe line. (There was a popular song with that name too.) I began writing off to railroad companies like the Union Pacific asking for information about their trains, routes and amenities – as if I could just buy a ticket and go! I have been daydreaming for half my life about traveling, and what I would see when I did travel!

When my father died and I came into a small inheritance, I decided not to invest it in stocks and bonds but to invest it in travel experiences – an investment and education in living. My first excursion was a hiking trip to Vermont, in October. I bought a train ticket to Burlington and had my own overnight compartment. I was so excited, I could not sleep but left the blind raised about five inches so I could see the sleeping towns as they slid by. It was a dream come true. I had a list of places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do – that was the beginning of my serious wanderlust. I still have it as evidenced by my battered (held together by rubber bands) Rand-McNally Atlas. I flip through its pages and dream of sunlight flooding through windows onto a bed in which I have yet to sleep.

My beat-up Rand-McNally isn’t just a map; it’s my travel journal. I couldn’t possibly replace it with a new one. I have tracked ten years worth of routes across the country with colored markers, and I have distinct recollections of each town I’ve traveled through, the names roll off memory’s tongue like lyrical folk poetry: Cottonwood Falls, Gnaw Bone, Cimarron, Biddeford Pool, Bean Blossom, Chokoloskee, Homosassa Springs, Astoria, Trinadad and Ouray are a few of the little dots on the red and blue lines crisscrossing the maps.

I have now traveled in every state in the union. I do not regret one penny of the expense; I have made some great friends along the way – but certainly not the kind that would spend their annual vacation visiting family, for they, too, believe: “The joy is in the journey, not the destination.”

About this writer

  • Cecelia Cook Cecelia Cook worked for Southern University Press, primarily in historical research but created the copy for the book, Postcards of Birmingham and wrote travel brochures. Since retiring and moving to Pawleys Island in 2005, Cecelia has taken numerous creative writing courses, is active in many area environmental groups and loves off-the-beaten path travel as much as the budget will permit. She cooks and cleans when absolutely necessary.

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13 Responses to “The Joy is in the Journey, not the Destination”

  1. Jan Scott says:

    Loved, loved this article! Ms. Cook seems a born will-o-the-wisp who’s been fortunate enough to satisfy her longing for travel. May we all be so lucky!

  2. Laurie Boller says:

    Really enjoyed reading Ms. Cook ‘s story. I share her love of travel and her excitement thinking about the next journey.

  3. Mrogers says:

    Great story! Keep traveling if even in your dreams and memories.

  4. Yelda Miedema says:

    Wonderful reminiscence! What small town kid who grew up in the 40s and 50s can’t relate to that 9 -year old sitting on grandma’s porch. Made me feel like I was right there on that train with the writer heading for points unknown.

  5. RP Wilson says:

    Loved Ms. Cook’s take on travel. Reminded me that many Southerners once rode the rails.

  6. Margie Reynolds says:

    LOVE IT FELT LIKE HOME

  7. Candy Crenshaw says:

    Loved the story. Write more Cecelia.

  8. Fayellen Bone says:

    I enjoyed reading Cecelia’s story. It brought back many memories of my childhood.

  9. Rachel J says:

    If this does not stir the wanderlust in you, I don’t know what will. What an enjoyable read.

  10. J. Altner says:

    I picked up Sasee in Wilmington N.C. while visiting our daughter. What a joy reading Just For Fun by Maura Troy, Does Size Really Matter by Sonya Lee, and My Photo Shoot by Ferida Wolff.
    Your little paper has certainly lifted my Spirits.
    Thank-you
    So Much

  11. Jann Gordon says:

    Ceceilia really conveys the romance of travel which many of us have forgotten. Her writing is both evocative and enjoyable. More, please!

  12. Rosamond Hobart says:

    Cecelia Cook’s story reminds me of how much fun I am missing in this hurried age of traveling by air. Think I’ll look into the train next time. Thank you Ms Cook.

  13. How I wish I had done more traveling earlier in my life. I don’t think there’s any way I can make it to all the places I’d like to go, but I’m slowly but surely making my way to some of them. Just got back from Tennessee — and that’s a big deal to a girl who had never been east of the Mississippi! :)

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