In 2001, a group of  friends graduated from college and set out on a cross-country road trip to interview people who lived “lives centered around what was meaningful for them.”

The boys acquired an RV, and wandered around countryside filming a documentary about their trip in which they brazenly approached all sorts of people who were doing what looked like interesting things and asked them a lot of personal questions about life-issues like, “How do you know that this thing you do is right for you?” and “What was your worst mistake?” and  “What advice do you have for a lost puppy like me?”

The documentary the friends made of their journey was expanded into a series on PBS. They wrote a book about the first road trip.

This first book was followed by other books, by other projects all designed to help other people get the kind of insights the young men acquired on their own original road trip.

Eventually they and the team they assembled along the way launched a nonprofit called “Roadtrip Nation.”  The goal of this nonprofit is to help other young people who need advice for shaping their own careers into something fulfilling, for living a life doing what matters most to them.

In the following YouTube video, “Road Trip Nation:  The RT Nation Story,” the three friends, Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister, tell the story of their continuing journey.

They point out that going around the country asking people they encountered questions about how they ended up living lives that had meaning and mana helped each of them find their own truths, their own self-definitions, and their own kind of good life.

Asking questions and listening to the answers from people who had taken their own paths was profoundly useful to them.  It helped them answer that age-old question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What started as a madcap adventure-cum-vision quest has spawned a whole movement of young people who are looking for their own answers to this most important question.

Besides an assortment of books, Roadtrip Nation maintains an extensive on-line video library of the interviews they conducted on their PBS series.

If you click on the “watch” link you can browse the PBS series by season.  Within each season you can browse each episode by interview subject.  Among those interviewed are everything from CEOs of major corporations to everyday workers in all kinds of industries and working situations who love what they do.

 Besides all of this, the Nation has put together a guide-book of sorts called ROADMAP: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.  It’s a starter-kit for seekers looking for the meaning and mana in their own lives.

Check it out.  (It’s filled with exercises and ideas that  work for serious questers  of any age.)

And here’s a poem:


Understand something, please:

I do not aspire to be that tree

That falls in the woods and no one hears.

I refuse to be one of a line of trees in the forest

Blown down by a big kona wind,

Spilling across the landscape like fallen matchsticks.


I want to be heard,

To know my voice will rise up and grab at ears,

That my words will shake and stoke hearts that burn.

I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,

That roar like a raging river,

That gently sigh like a baby sleeping.


Will you hear me?

Header picture credit:  “Traffic Trails” by Barry Davis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

18 thoughts on “ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

  1. You are such a great poem writer! I’ve always loved poems ever since I was young, that’s how I started loving English too! To be honest, you deserve lots of fame, you don’t really see too many great poets. I’m glad I found one of them though! I wish you lots of luck on your journey!

    1. Hey Toccino:

      Thanks for the visit and for your kind words.

      Please do come again.

  2. This is so interesting. Thank you for sharing. I will for sure check out their website and watch the interviews they have up there.

    This honestly seems like such a great topic for me to brainstorm as it’s one that interests me and also my goal is to inspiring parents and people around the world to discover their true self, to transform their lives into what beneficial ways they want and have lasting happiness.

    Living a life of purpose, doing what you love is so meaningful.

    Thanks and take care,

    1. Hey Megan:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments.  I’m glad it has sparked ideas for you.

      Please do come again.

  3. Good ideas here. Most of us go through life just earning a living and hustling about trying to get things done without ever stopping to consider the meaning of life and what we would want to happen for us as individuals.

    Nice poem. I would love to hear more about this mission. Thanks

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Please do come again.

  4. Such an amazing poem. I commend your writing prowess. and kudos to the TR Nation for their quest and also their invaluable contribution to uplift others. I’m sure many lives would’ve been liberated by the RT Nation with this adventure they embarked on. 

    PS: I will check out the guide book and I hope it’s impart be felt.

    1. Muhiyb, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again….

  5. That’s very inspirational! From the story how a bunch of guys jumped into a van and started a non-profit to help other people like me trying to stumble their way through life to the poem you wrote!

    I’m sure there are others like me who are still struggling through that point. Maybe it’ll be enough to drive the young life people away from a miserable life that they do not want.

    For me it’s an office life to 65 and I still wonder what the heck I’m doing.

    That’s a great poem. Thanks for that. 😀

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Murasa.

      Please do come again….

  6. Dave Hayes says:

    Well, it’s certainly a very different website post.  It is well written and I found it interesting even if I am not a big poetry lover.

    You obviously enjoyed  writing the post and the story is well documented on these boys’ good experiences.  Have you made a similar trip yourself?

    I like the use of the video and it was a interesting one too.

    1. Dave, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      My major focus with this site is looking for (and finding) what adds meaning and richness (what I call ‘mana‘) to an ordinary life.  I like to share my explorations with other people who are interested in living lives that are more than daily grinding through just surviving.

      Not everybody wants to be a gazillionaire.  Not everybody wants to spend their time chasing after somebody else’s idea of what success is.  Not everybody has the same definition of what paradise is.  

      For some people, meaning and mana comes from running all fast and furious towards goals they’ve set.  For others, it involves building and living the dreams they hold important.  Still others want to savor what they already have.

      All of these things require a mindset of fostering creativity and making very human (and humane) connections as well as developing the kind of self-awareness that will help you get to the place that is “enough” for you (without running on past it).

      I think the Road Trip Nation boys are on the right track, exploring the options in the world at large.

      I guess you could say that my “trip” is pretty much like theirs.  It’s a good way of playing, I think.

      Gee…thanks for giving me a question that helps me clarify what I am doing with this thing, Dave.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again. 

  7. Road Trip School – YES, please! Road Trip Nation is awesome, what a great program and great message.

    My family and I love to take road trips. We haven’t done any cross country but we do take our kids all around California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, and Utah. 

    We have a large 10 seater luxury Mercedes passenger van that is all decked out with recliners, cup holders, tray tables, power, TV, LED lighting, and killer sound system, total luxury but it’s not at all sleepable. 

    My husband is putting it up for sale. It’s awesome and we’ve had a great time in it but we need something with lifestyle options, not just a ton of seating. I want to be able to back into a good spot on the beach and hang out, lay in the van, and soak up the sea salt air.

    I think giving kids the opportunity to learn via travel and exploring the world is the most positive enrichment you can offer a student. We believe in taking our kids, for the most part wherever we go (mom and dad need alone trips too). 

    We are teaching them to explore, go, and ask questions, get lost, ask for help, learn new cultures, meet people. I wish we can take them more places, and our list is forever growing, but we are enjoying the journey as it’s given. 

    I love the quote “We only have one shot at this life.”

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Erika, thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  Road trips and adventures certainly are a grand way to teach your children to be comfortable and gain competence in dealing with all kinds of situations.  Wonderful!

      Please do come again.

  8. These young men had a good idea on how to choose their paths in life. Too many people follow a pre-made life script without question, in which they simply follow the same path as everybody else. 

    Going across the country and meeting all sorts of people should have presented the young men with all sorts of life paths. Not only that, the trip itself was probably a memorable adventure.  

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, cpascal.  I agree that life’s a better adventure when you go looking for other answers.

      Please do come again.

  9. Wow, I had a great time reading this post and watching the video. I believe you performed an excellent job and people should definitely learn from you. I believe that if people can take a step back and ask themselves, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” they will eventually find the answer.

    By the way, I read this passage in your poem: “I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,” and I really liked it because it speaks to me.

    Thanks for sharing this article.

    1. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post, Lio.  Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Please do come again.

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