• Curt Mercadante

Don't be afraid to go "off the map"

A Prada "store" in the middle of the Texas desert?

An old dorm room desk on top of a mountain?

Sometimes you have to go off the map a bit to find some cool stuff, and that's part of what we're doing on our freedom travel adventure.

Prada, Marfa, TX

For example, last night, we drove 30 minutes out of our way (just outside the town of Marfa, TX) to visit a replica of a Prada store, complete with shelves full of the 2005 Prada collection.

It's actually just a permanent art exhibit, but cool, nonetheless. And believe me when I tell you, it's in the middle of nowhere (and these days, I happen to love "nowhere" :)

This morning, my sons and I hiked up to about 4,800 feet, and went off the map to find the "hidden" dorm-room desk on the top of Hancock Hill, on the campus of Sul Ross State University here in Alpine, TX.

The desk was put there by a 1979 student, and has become iconic in "these parts." There are a bunch of notebooks in the desk, where visitors have written poetry and other messages (deep and profane) over the years. My sons had a blast finding the desk (which you have to go "off map" to locate) and writing their messages.

Part of the process on which I work with my clients is to define their long-term vision and reverse-engineer it. This is what we used to do in the "olden days" with maps. We didn't have GPS and Google/Apple Maps, so we had to put a pin in our end destination and reverse engineer it all the way to our starting point.

When you stay focused on your destination, yet remain adaptable, you're able to deal with the detours and challenges that come your way.

But, here are a few lessons we taught our kids as we saw our "tourist trap" destinations during the past 24 hours.

1. Don't be afraid to go off the map if situations change.

Last night, we drove into Marfa looking for ice cream, and to see the "Prada" store. It was only then that we discovered it was 30 miles outside of town. We thought about it, and took the drive, anyway. We went off course and, while it wasn't a life-or-death situation, it was pretty damn cool to see.

Today, the map didn't include the little, hidden, mountain path to find the dorm-room desk. But we went off the trail and found our way to the desk. The kids had smiles.

If you remain focused on your end destination, it's easy to go "off map" and then find your way back on the trail. Adapt and have fun, damn it!

2. The power of simplicity.

In the age of over-stimulation, multi-screen living, social media addiction, and overall noise, sometimes it's great to discover the fun and fulfillment in simple things. You know, like an old desk on the top of a mountain or a fake store in the desert.

We were driving on a desert highway yesterday and saw a home on top of a mountain. Yes, "in the middle of nowhere." When I remarked that I would love to live there, my 10-year-old son asked, "but what is there to do?"

That's the point, right?

There's always something to do, and if you link your "meaning" in life to distractions and entertainment, you're setting yourself up for disappoint when that stuff can be taken away (by, oh, I don't know, a government "COVID" lockdown).

So, these tourist traps were a teaching moment for our family.

Set your desired destination, reverse engineer it, and follow your map. But don't be afraid to go off course to find fun, freedom, and fulfillment (keeping your eye on the end destination as you detour).

And in a world of distraction, see how much fun, freedom and fulfillment you can find in simplicity.

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