Ask too many questions, you miss opportunities

Bill Packard: Traveling with the Trekkers

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 4:00pm

Feb. 18: Dear Diary,

Flew out of Owls Head today for Washington, D.C. Going to connect with a group of Trekkers on their “Ride Through History” trip. Sounds pretty straightforward. Take over driving so that they are Department of Transportation compliant. They tell me their accommodations are unconventional, but I’ve packed all I need on the bus.

5:25 pm. I walk out of Union Station in Washington, D.C. and step onto a bus to cheers from complete strangers. Emily, the leader, gets out of the driver’s seat, greets me and says, “We need to go buy groceries.” I am officially part of the Trekkers.

I probably should have asked more questions. We find a grocery store in Chevy Chase, Md., get some supplies and head back to the church we are staying at in Georgetown.

The questions I should have asked before I said yes are now coming out. Yes, we’re staying in a church rectory and I’m sleeping on the floor in the nursery. There will be spaghetti for supper. No, there’s no shower. After supper, the group will sit and discuss their day, especially the visit to the Holocaust Museum. High school freshmen sharing concerns and insight into how such a thing could happen, sounding more like 20-somethings. There is no turning back now.

Feb. 19: Dear Diary,

Today I take the Trekkers into D.C. for the day. I drop them off on Constitution Ave. and then park the bus at Union Station. While I would be welcome with the group, I choose to go my own way. I take in a lot of American history and then get to go to the Vietnam Wall. It’s dark and I’m alone. I take my time. It’s a very powerful time for me. Back to the church and my sleeping arrangements on the floor of the nursery. I wish I’d brought a pillow.

The rest of the trip is same stuff, different day. On up to Connecticut for one night and then on to Newton, Mass., and another church and two more nights on the floor, but this one is concrete. They spend a day in Boston where the Trekkers follow the Freedom Trail and visit Quincy Market and the USS Constitution. I spend most of my day at the Charlestown Navy Yard enjoying the history and Naval connection.

What did I get myself into? I got myself into a wonderful situation with a group of awesome young people. To paraphrase Pogo: “Two weeks ago I didn’t know what a Trekker was and now I are one.”

I believe things happen for a reason and when I got the call about driving the Trekkers around D.C. and back home, I didn’t give it much consideration. I had the time. They needed a driver. OK. It’s high school freshmen. I’ll be fine. I can block them out, do my thing and ease on back home. I’m comfortable driving in the cities and the traffic, so why not?

I had no idea what kind of impact it would have on my life. These were the most awesome group of young adults I’ve ever met. They were friendly, flexible, polite and respectful. They were a joy to be around. We were all in the adventure together and it was a blast. They looked at me at first as the “official” bus driver, but it didn’t take long before they caught on to the dry humor and then I was one of them.

This Trekkers program is an opportunity of a lifetime for young people in this area. I saw firsthand what they learned on just this trip and it wasn’t only about history. It is about being on time, respecting your peers and those you interact with. It is about being flexible and accepting what comes your way and making the most of it. It is about structure. There’s a time to get up and time to go to bed. Important stuff. The end-of-day conversations were so impressive and to hear the maturity in their voices and their passion for things they liked and things they didn’t.

Here is what I can say with a good deal of certainty: The young adults in this program are destined for greatness. That greatness will be different for each one. It might be governor or president or it might be a stay-at-home mom. Whatever they do, they will be exceptional at it. I am certain of that. The caring leadership and guidance that they receive is changing their lives. It was my pleasure to play a small part in their trip. I learned a lot from them.

If I had asked more questions, I would have been better prepared. I would have had a pillow. I would have had a pad to put under my sleeping bag. I would have figured out a way to take a shower. (I almost did.) But if I’d asked more questions, I might have passed up the opportunity. We miss a lot of opportunities in life because we ask too many questions, and then talk ourselves out of things. On these trips, the Trekkers are not allowed to ask questions about the future, except at the very end of the day they can ask about tomorrow. It keeps them grounded and in the present moment. There’s a lot to be said for that.

The shower on Sunday afternoon when I got home felt great. I appreciated that simple event more than I had for a long time. My bed and pillow that night were awesome, too.   



Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.