The Map is not the Territory

I’ve done 5 and 10 and 20 mile hikes (for fun).  I used to be a lot more active than I am now.  I rode my bike as well, for similar and longer distances.  For my Boy Scout bicycling merit badge I had to do a 50 mile bike ride. The Map is not the Territory It was a blast — but it was also exhausting (perhaps it was partly because I was still only 13 years old!)  One thing you learn quickly when you step out of the house with your map in hand is that the map is NOT the territory.

Maps don’t tell you about potholes in the road. Maps don’t tell you about steep grades.  You’ll look in vain on that map to see the fields of sunflowers or to hear the call of migrating geese.  The map is not the territory.

The Bridge At Millau

The Viaduct of Millau / 2005

The map will not leave you feeling dizzy as you drive across the Viaduct of Millau as I did in 2005 when I traveled through France.  The best part of traveling is never found on the map. It’s found in the journey

For the time being Peg and I are “stuck” here in Franklin.  Please don’t get me wrong.  We aren’t unhappy being “stuck” — we are “stuck” by our own choice.  But after years of being perpetually on the go it’s a tangible feeling to be “stuck.”  Something of the rhythmn of life seems missing when the wheels aren’t turning.

“The map is not the territory.”
– Alfred Korzybski

Yesterday I read in a good friend’s blog that they are looking for a mobile home to put on a lot in the same RV park where we visited and had bought that short lived experiment of our own mobile home. They had been full time RV’ers for a year or two less than ourselves.  They haven’t said whether they are looking to buy in order to stop RV’ing or wheher they intend to continue traveling for part of the year and then return to that place in South Texas every winter.

I mention it because changes are part of the fabric of life and while we all have our roadmaps for where we think our life is taking us, those roadmaps never contain all the relevant details we need to make the best travel decisions.

I have made travel plans that ignored the changes in elevation.  Four years ago while sick with what probably was walking pneumonia we did a route in the RV that took us up and over some of the highest mountains in the Continental US — and I ended up sicker than a dog.  I wasn’t listening to my body.  What’s worse — I was ignoring the messages my body frantically telegraphed through every bodily system.  It wasn’t the fun-est experience of my life.

I hope our friends find what they are looking for in South Texas.  After they heard that we were selling our home there they expressed regret that they might have been interested “if only they had known.”  So, we had an inkling that changes might be afoot for them.

Personally, I’m delighted that they are looking to change.  Not because I am suddenly down on RV’ing — we loved our time on the road.  But because life does change us, and because we don’t always see through the lookinglass of life clearly.  We can enter into an adventure unaware of all the pitfalls — and then fall directly into them.  We can enter into an adventure AWARE of the pitfalls AND STILL end up in the midst.  Knowledge doesn’t always determine outcome!  I’m sure there are more than a few armies that discovered that.  Just because you know where the enemy is, and that you have the resources to overcome does not mean that the enemy won’t surprise you, or the weather wont thwart you, or your soldiers wont let you down.  A map — like a plan — is not the territory. 1895254WEB421

Sometimes we walk away from our experiences feeling  that life just give us a big thumbs up!  Other times it’s the opposite.  But we don’t have time to just stand there admiring that upraised thumb because there are people behind us and in front of us and if we just stand there in the middle of the road we’ll get run over!  So, we continue on along life’s journey.


Sometimes taking care of necessities is easy… other times you look long and hard for an opportunity.

Sometimes along life’s road we have to make a stop to take care of the necessities of life.  It might be easy to find the right place, or it might be like entering 20 stores in search of a public restroom that doesn’t exist.  The map is not the territory.

Those days of being super active are no more for me.  I’m still as active as I want to be (most of the time) — but then I’m no longer inclined to climb that rock face, or to risk my neck downhill skiing.  I’ve found a happy place that works for me.  I’m delighted when I see our grand daughter actively pursuing her dreams — as I write this she is on the last day of their first married “vacation” — and she’s in Big Sky Montana skiing. I find myself thinking back 40 years or so — to a time when Peggy and I were settled in our married life and stretching out to do and try new things.  “For some reason” —  the truths of which we are really only discovering since we’ve been retired — our parents weren’t all that interested in coming along with us and doing the things we were doing.

Melanie @ Big SkyIt never dawned on us (at the time) that they might have had those experiences a long, long time before and simply didn’t need to repeat them.  But we all look at the world through the glasses we are wearing and sometimes those glasses are rose colored, or anti-reflection coated — keeping us from seeing our own reflections — so we miss some obvious signs — obvious to those who have been there before but not to the person living through the experience.

The map is not the territory.  Youth is for the young. Old age is for the old. There are times when we can bridge the gaps — indeed it’s good that we find occasions to bridge the gaps, that we create occasions to bridge the gaps between young and old and middle aged — but the reality of the matter is that we won’t understand the territory until we get there.  We can follow our maps — our life plans — our career courses — but the brutal truth is that none of us understands what the next stage in life will require of us until we arrive.  Full Stop.


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