A look to the left, and we could see the Texas Capitol building overlooking downtown Austin. To the right was South Congress Ave, lined with golden autumn trees, bustling diners, and some of the world’s best barbecue joints.
With a belly full of brisket, I looked back to catch a glimpse of the setting sun, tucking away beyond the Colorado River’s dwindling horizon. I sliced my oar through the glassy water’s opaque pink surface.
Austin, Texas, is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. It’s an enlivening blend of the outdoors, sleek skyrises, and quirky neighborhoods, with active ways to enjoy what makes life worth living.
My brother and I felt like kids, paddleboarding down the Colorado River like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. This was our kind of paradise in the middle of a totally unique urban city.
I turned back to look upriver, and as I did, a train chugged along the bridge overhead. I looked back at my brother in disbelief. It felt surreal to be doing something so simple, so beautiful, where nature and history and the vibrant surroundings of the modern world cross paths.
I’m back home now, thinking about this experience, wondering what about it brought me such happiness and content.
Before this past weekend in Austin, I didn’t have the memories, laughs, doubts, or introspective thoughts that built one on top of the other to create the last four days of my life.
Now, I do. I’ll look back in twenty or fifty years and say that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Or, that moment when I felt lost, that made me who I am.
Experiences like this make my heart radiate with joy. It’s why I love to travel more than anything else.
There will always be highs and lows to any trip worth remembering. Well, I had some highs, and I had some lows. But through it all, I connected with my innermost being, who I truly am.
That’s what traveling does; it makes us uncomfortable; it makes our jaws drop; it makes us think and understand the world in new ways. But through it all, we have to make a choice.
How will I react to these new circumstances? That’s where our character forms. Our decisions align with who we are, or they don’t.
As I floated down the river with my older brother, the sky darkened and dramatic clouds gently enveloped the city. In this moment it became clear — we don’t need material things to be happy.
We smiled and relaxed; we looked around at the people strolling along the river banks under the blowing autumn leaves which fell from the trees and cruised beside us in the river.
People sat upon the river banks playing music, laughing, fishing, painting, drinking beer, living life.
It’s a joy to be alive, able to breathe fresh air as a human being with a heart and soul and life, coursing through our bodies. All it takes is looking around, connecting with another person floating downstream, and sharing a warm smile.
The sun sets on us all.
Austin is a reminder that it’s better to enjoy together.