What inspires you?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Rayner
  • 921st Contingency Response Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - My family and I recently completed a cross-country permanent change of station – Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to Travis Air Force Base, California. 

We took the long route, visiting friends, family and several national parks along the way. There were two cars, two kids with two iPads, 3,700 miles, four national parks, 21 days, a few meltdowns (kids mostly), and countless family memories (good and bad). 

Embarking on a trip of this size takes planning, flexibility and a little courage. The drive alone is difficult.  My wife ran over a runaway 5-gallon bucket in middle-of-nowhere New Mexico, and we nearly ran out of gas just outside Bakersfield, California. 

So, why take an already long trip and make it even longer?  Two reasons:  First, the trip provided my family and I the opportunity to disconnect from the world and re-connect as a family. We never understood how dependent we were on our iPhones until they read “no service” for three straight days at Yosemite National Park. Second, unlike typical vacations, on this trip, we deliberately sought out places to be inspired in preparation for the next duty assignment.  What does that mean?  What is inspiration? 

In military service, we are often asked to tackle a problem, lead a team or fly a mission that at first glance seems outside of our capability. To reach the goal, an inspirational effort is required.

When you are inspired, you unconsciously attain a desire to do something similar in scope.  You experience something monumental, whether it’s an individual’s story, an event, or a vista and while you are awed and humbled by its magnificence, you are simultaneously compelled by its greatness to reach for new heights yourself.

Hiking down into the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail, walking through the Yosemite Valley meadow in between gigantic granite cliffs, and having the lights turned out and encountering complete darkness during a ranger-led tour of Carlsbad Caverns, opened our eyes to the incomparable treasures and beauty of the country we serve and evoked moments of inspiration. The beauty of our country inspired us, which provoked a response to do something on the same level.

However, inspiration is not something you can simply engineer on your own. 

Try as you may, you cannot make yourself become inspired.  When it happens, it is out of your control and often takes you by surprise.  While we cannot create inspiration out of thin air, we can take the time to seek out places where inspiration is more likely to occur.  It may be a national park, but it could also be a museum, a ballpark, a historic landmark, a studio or, simply, your back patio reading about our country’s incredible innovators, explorers and leaders. Taking the time to visit these places or pages provides a chance to be inspired. 

Just as we are mindful and diligent about our daily work calendar, we must also be deliberate about our down time.  I encourage you to find open space to not only rest but also be inspired by our country’s amazing beauty and history.