How to Eat an Elephant*

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Last weekend, I drove over 1,100 kilometres (680 miles).

My girlfriend and I were driving to a family wedding in her hometown, and since it isn’t a big enough town to have regular flights, the only real way to get there was by car.

Now, I have written before about my love of driving. I really do enjoy it, and you would expect that I would relish the chance to spend so long driving on the open road.

But there was something else that made me apprehensive of the drive – I am a destination-focussed person. I like being there, not getting there.

I didn’t want to drive, because in the past, long road trips have been a stressful experience for me. I felt like I needed to go as fast so that I could to reduce the amount of time that I spent on the road, so that I could just get there. That pressure meant that I took on much more stress.

Stress about overtaking slow vehicles as soon as possible.

Stress about making it to the next town a few minutes before my GPS expected me to be there.

Stress about keeping an eye out for speed cameras and police cars, since I was padding the speed limit with an extra 15%. Or “tax”, as I called it.

Stress from not stopping for breaks, because nothing annoyed me more than being passed at a rest stop by the cars that I had passed an hour or two ago.

I took on ridiculous amounts of stress every time I did a long distance drive.

“For what?” I finally asked myself.

So I looked at the difference in arrival time if my average speed was 5 km/h slower than usual.

It amounted to 15 minutes.

I lost about 2 weeks in the lead-up to the drive, stressing about getting there. That’s why I haven’t posted in a while. I have been battling tension headaches for the past few weeks, stressing about the drive.

2 weeks of headaches, all for saving 15 minutes.

Any rational person who looks at that would quite rightly say that’s an insane situation.And it is.I just hadn’t thought about it that way before.

And so, when the day finally came to leave, I relaxed. I planned to just take each kilometre on its merits.

I haven’t enjoyed driving a several-hour road trip so much in my life. And when I arrived, I was relaxed. My nerves weren’t frayed, like they usually were after driving a long way. I noticed so much more scenery than when it had previously just whizzed by between boisterous overtaking maneuvers.

Although I admit, it was a strange experience to be overtaken by others. But it was funny how often I caught up to them again half an hour later when they got stuck behind a truck.

We also discovered a small-town cafe halfway along that served the best pizza I have ever had. It was one of those home-made-style ones with more meat and cheese than base. Honestly, it was amazing.

I’ve started applying my newfound persistence in other areas of my life too. Although it is good to know where you are going and have an ambition to get there, it isn’t a race. You can enjoy the process – enjoy the journey.

Often it is the best part.

If it wasn’t for the journey, I wouldn’t have gotten to see the beautiful NZ countryside, I wouldn’t have learned the lesson about enjoying the journey, and perhaps most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten to try that epic, artery-clogging pizza.

So slow down. You will eat that elephant eventually.

Just take one bite at a time, enjoy the flavours, and you won’t choke on the tusks.

* Don’t eat actual elephants, you monster.

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