A Fill Up On The South Dakota Highway

Those of you who are motivational speakers, know what an interesting job it is – one minute we are surrounded by hundreds of people, all wanting to share and talk and hug and cry and get to know us – and the next minute we are in a quiet car driving two hours to an airport, in the middle of nowhere, unable to get one radio station, and so bored that you’re actually listening to the spanish channel for company despite the fact you don’t understand a word.

I love people and I expend a LOT of energy when I attend an event. I’m there before the first person gets there, standing in the parking lot waving to the last group leaving, and every moment in between. I do it because I love it, and because I feel it’s what they paid for – encouragement and humor that goes beyond the stage. But it is exhausting and physically draining. And the challenge for me, in the midst of a busy career, is finding the time to fill back up.

This is me at the pajama party. Yes, those are pink rabbit pj's.

I was just in Oacoma, South Dakota, speaking at a ladies retreat. This wasn’t an in and out event – but a come in the night before, attend the pajama party, ride the bull, do Zumba, shop, spend the night, laugh, shop some more, eat, watch a fashion show, speak, sell books, sign books, shop some more, say good-bye to hundreds of women who have become my friends – kind of event. To say I was tired was an understatement. But it was such a good tired. And then I had a two hour drive to the airport – a two hour drive in the middle of nothing but farms and fields and water towers and birds. YUCK, I said. What a gross way to end such an exciting adventure.

Turns out that two hour drive was a beautiful gift – and a magical cap to an already wonderful weekend. Because in those quiet two hours, driving through the farm land of South Dakota – wrapped in stillness – I filled back up. I thought of all the beautiful moments I had been given that weekend. I thought of my new friends that promised to stay in touch. I remembered the smiles on their faces as they danced like nobody was watching – so free. I told the cows about the lady and her cool duct tape flip flops and they moo’ed in approval. I shared with the birds, the little handmade instrument I had in my suitcase for my son as a gift. And I whispered to the grass as it waved – how it reminded me of the clapping ladies who returned their gratitude for my gift. That two hour drive was South Dakota’s way of saying good-bye. And I thanked God for giving me a path to do what I love. And my heart filled up with gratitude for placing me here in this moment. And I got in touch with my creator and the true purpose of what I do. My vision.

This was my view out the window of my car. Caution: Do not take pictures and drive. There are consequences.

It is in those quiet moments – sometimes thrust upon me because he knows I will not take it for myself – that I am centered again. And so if you are reading this, perhaps you might want to grab your keys – and just drive. Is it time for a fill up? You deserve it.


Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. How beautiful, Kelly. And thank you for doing what motivational speakers (I think) are SUPPOSED to do – remind us of what we already know on some level, but maybe have forgotten.  Or gotten too busy, or jaded, or stressed out to remember.  And ALL of us need this reminder!  That there is joy and beauty and something to be grateful for – everywhere we turn!  You are the best. 

  2. Wow! Not only are you an awesome motivational speaker, Kelly, but your writing is so beautiful in its descriptions and its message.  Sitting on my back porch on this delicious morning with my cats hanging out beside me and reading your beautiful post is serving as my fill up for today.  Thank you for that.

  3. You’re welcome, Polly. And there’s nothing that beats sitting on a porch, staring out at the mountains (I’m thinking of the porch at my parent’s mountain house), drinking a warm cup of coffee  and reading a book while your cat gives you that look that says, “You don’t think I’m actually going to let you read that, do you?”  I’ve never owned a cat (if we in fact own cats – sometimes I think they own us) that would allow me to read uninterrupted. They always take their heads and push them up through the pages of the book and roll around the chapter purring until I put the book down – at which point they would walk away.

  4. Kelly, those ladies up north were blessed by you AND those pink pajamas! I can remember making fun of my own mother as she chose “quiet” rather than a radio station when driving. In my judgmental teen years I thought she was a looney-tune as I ate, lived and breathed music. The apple didn’t fall far, as now I find the quiet drives home from a presentation to be filled with beautiful mind memories as you so incredibly described.

  5. I can so relate to this post Kelly!  When I was a road-warrior for a seminar company, I would do a 6-hour seminar, pack my gear and take my rental car to the next city sometimes hours away.  The ultimate high of being with the audience followed by the droning sound of the car all by myself was bizarre.  Sometimes, I would come down from the high so hard I would fall asleep.  I used to pull over on the side of the road and snooze – until Michael Jordan’s dad was attacked while he slept on the side of the road.  One time, a cop pulled over to investigate and I was sound asleep on the side of the road and as he peeked through my window, I woke up.  I don’t know who jumped more!  Anyway, thanks for the memories and the reminder to use silence to really soak up the blessings of our work as motivational speakers.  

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