To me, the most valuable thing in life is experiences. And over the past few years I’ve started to notice something about experiences; the experience itself isn’t the whole thing. First there is the anticipation, the preparation, the mental and physical readying yourself for what is ahead. Then there is the experience itself, for which, I have learned, it is helpful to be fully present. And after, there is the remembering; the reflection, the solidifying of certain elements of the experience in your mind.
This is one of the reasons I actually prefer long journeys to get from A to B – you can use the transportation time to mentally prep for and reflect on the experience. I remember sitting on the plane to Kenya, pen in hand, listening to Trent Dabbs, grateful that I had 16 hours in airports to square away memories from home before befriending the new students, new teachers, and the new family that was waiting for me in Nairobi. I remember staying up far too late the night before to post this before I left, knowing I wouldn’t be able to write from the same mindset after I left.
The more I recognize the importance of this process, the more I realize how easy it is to pass over. Its hard to not schedule things back to back, to come home and tell your family and friends “I’m so happy to see you… my trip was great… give me some time and I’ll tell you about it.” I tend to process things introspectively and typically find myself needing some time and space before and after any major life changes.
There are of course many different ways to prepare for and reflect on an experience, but by not utilizing any of them we are robbing ourselves of some of the richest parts of our experiences. Conversation, journaling, packing, unpacking, looking back at pictures, reading relevant books or blogs, any of it – all of it – seems to help me make the most of the amazing experiences I’ve been privy to. To experience the experience well we must proceed through the whole process of experiencing: the before, the during, and the after.