March 3rd, 2017
Hello dear reader! My name is Christine Buching, and I am a freshman here at Concordia College pursuing a Spanish and Psychology major. I am also involved in SEA (Student Environmental Alliance), and my Inquiry class last semester was on North Dakota’s Bakken oil boom. Therefore, I have been exposed to quite a few environmental issues within my first few months here at Concordia, which sparked my interest in the HILT (high-impact leadership trip) to Detroit and Chicago. Aside from that, I have never been to Michigan or Illinois, so since I love traveling to new places, why not do it for a good purpose?
Since its already Friday, and our time in both Detroit and Chicago has passed, the last few stops ahead of us are the twin cities, Gustavus Adolphus College, and lastly, Moorhead. Currently we are headed to the Net Zero House in the cities, which can produce more energy than it uses through solar panels, geothermal energy, a heat pump, insulation, LED lighting and more. It was built by a former Concordia professor built. But so far most of the day has been (and will continue to be) spent in the vans. After packing up all of our things in the morning, we left the airbnb in Chicago and hit the road. I had no idea what I was going to blog about, but earlier in the trip Sam (our fearless leader) had said that she assigned bloggers to those days she thought we would “most vibe with.” I had joked about the fact that I got the day with the 6+ hour car drive, but eventually I realized she wasn’t that far off.
For most of us, the ride consisted of sleeping, chatting, reading, (doing homework???), or social media, and my friend Molly and I even watched some Supernatural (I am now hooked). After the second episode, I took out my headphones and looked out the window, noticing the snow on the ground had returned. We were somewhere in Wisconsin about 40 minutes from our next stop, and as I looked back outside, I noticed how bright the sun was actually shining. I saw the blue sky filled with streaks of clouds. The river flowing beside us. Trees just starting to bloom and others which were past their best days. Birch trees, oak trees, pine trees. The surroundings we were driving through were very pretty if we only looked at them, but in our daily lives we usually rush past everything we encounter to get wherever we need to go. For this reason, I enjoy the ‘dull’ part of traveling- sitting in the backseat of a car, van, train, or even in an airplane for a longer period of time. I am not required to be doing anything or going anywhere. Sure, I can choose to use the time, work on something, and quietly complain about the seat that inevitably gets uncomfortable at one point or another (I definitely do that too…), but I can also chose to embrace the calm of just being in one place for a while, and enjoy the changing landscapes passing by instead of the passing of time in the van. We travel from cities and towns to natural landscapes to man-made ones. We cross a bridge with a river maybe fifty feet below us, surrounded by immense pine trees beautifully decorated in snow. That view lasted all of five seconds in real time, but it has stayed in my mind for much longer. If I had been trying to distract myself from the ‘boredom’ of driving, I would never have even seen it.
(This image is from the 94th floor of the 360Chicago/ John Hancock Tower, but it serves the same purpose of giving you a beautiful view, since I didn’t have one from the drive.)
Our next stop was Dells, Wisconsin, which is basically one huge amusement park. As we pull into the town, there is a mostly frozen over lake with the same large pine trees mentioned before, but soon we come to the water parks with the wave pools, rollercoasters, huge playgrounds, go carts, mini golf courses, and even the White House tipped upside down with a dinosaur looking out of a huge whole in one wall on the side of the building… I still wonder what exactly that was… We park and go to belgiis waffle bar to get lunch, and the strawberry-ice cream waffle is amazing! The image below is clearly banana though because, once again, I didn’t have the right picture.
Photo credit: Amber Rose Kavie
After a short break and stretch, we hop back into the vans, and as we leave the town, trees are now towering over us from beside the road. The landscape changes to farms, fields and some railroad tracks, and to large rock formations all around us. Every now and then a flock of crows emerges and disappears, just as the airplanes do in the sky. The difference is that the planes appeared every three to four minutes. They were on a time schedule; the birds weren’t. The point, even if it’s a cliché, is that when life gets busy, it is important to stop every now and then to actually take in what is happening all around us instead of constantly rushing past what is truly important. So as we have all heard before, it is not as much the destination, but the journey that matters.