When I was six years old my family built a home that backed up to the woods. For all I knew, it was endless, and it was the perfect playground.
Along with other neighborhood kids, we would spend hours exploring game trails, ruins that had been long abandoned, creeks and ravines became our pathways. About 200 yards through the thick brush there was a lake. Not one you would want to swim in, but all the same, it added an element of wilderness to the whole thing.
Summer days spent building forts, cutting in trails, climbing trees, playing war; we did it all. This was my escape, it was my happy place. And it came right natural.
Little did I know, “adulting” would leave behind endless hours of exploration.
Adulthood comes much more structured; We make appointments, reply to emails, make bill payments, submit paperwork for health insurance. It can be a drag.
Though the desire to explore never went away, I sort of just stopped answering its call. Not for lack of desire but over time it slowly got pushed to the back burner. Amidst a full life, spending hours in aimless play is hard to come by. Some would say extravagant or even irresponsible.
But why is it that joy is one of the first things to get cut out of our lives? The truth is, I need those endless hours of exploring and adventuring. My soul awakens in those empty spaces of wonder. Between smartphone notifications and an overflowing inbox, it should be one of the first places I turn to find solace.
Not long ago I had a realization. I would find myself wandering through the outdoor section of sporting goods store drooling over the latest gear. It would pull on my desires to be out there, in the wild. As I perused the sterile retail space I would feel my heart rising in my chest as if purchasing fancy new gear was the same thing as being out there.
Those marketing schemes are sneaky. “If you buy this overly expensive cooler, bear-proof and sure to keep ice for a week in the desert, you’ll be rugged and wild.”
“Yeah, that’d be cool!” My heart responds.
Having an expensive cooler doesn’t make me anymore an explorer than owning a pair of running shoes makes me a runner.
This sort of allure is everywhere. The other day flipping through a magazine I came across a rugged looking man out on a ranch sporting a $5,000 Louis Vuitton knitted overcoat. Really? That’s what ranchers wear?
Any poser can purchase the look of an explorer, but the real explorer is the one who actually ventures into the wild. And I would argue, the heart of adventure is an inward reality.
Adventure isn’t snapping an epic Instagram picture, or a highlight reel from your GoPro camera descending some crazy mountain line. I could travel to some of the most remote and spectacular landscapes on earth and be just as disconnected from adventure as the Louis Vuitton rancher.
So if the heart of adventure can’t be bought, and it’s not dependent on extreme sports, what is the stuff adventure is made of?
Adventure is that childlike wonder of getting lost in play, exploration, and not fully knowing where the road may lead. Adventure is planned and spontaneous. To be fully present, in the moment, living from your heart and senses.
It’s responding to that invitation you can’t bear to ignore any longer. Adventure can be found in cooking, writing, or an afternoon with the family. Maybe for you, it’s starting a business. Adventure is not reserved to the outdoors or the adrenaline junkies. You can experience a full dose of adventure right in your backyard.
Adventure is acting on core desires of your heart.
Therefore, adventure involves risk.
Embracing a core desire is a delicate endeavor. It can feel foolish, wasteful, or indulgent.
Why is it the things we most enjoy we also face the most resistance to experience?
Getting into the wild isn’t something I’ve been all that good about maintaining. But it is something absolutely makes my soul come alive. It’s much easier to spend money on gear than to take the time to plan an afternoon outing or overnight campout.
I want the experience of adventure without the risk. That’ll preach.
I imagine artists face a similar fear every time they set out to create. “What if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped?” Hope deferred is a lethal enemy.
Putting ourselves in a position to experience disappointment is risky. But to never risk disappointment in hopes of experiencing the bliss of doing what makes our heart come alive is a final death.
A couple of weeks ago, on my way to an early morning swim, my car started making a funny noise. “Oh crap,” I thought. “That doesn’t sound good.” After having a mechanic take a look, it turns out I would new wheel bearings that would cost me $900 for a car that’s not worth $1,000.
The noise is bad enough that I don’t really want to keep driving it for fear of a wheel flying off while driving down the highway.
So I’ve been riding my bike to work here and there to get by with one vehicle. Temperatures dipping down into the 30s the last few weeks, which has made for some chilly riding. It’s not exactly convenient. But you know what? It sure is an invigorating way to get to work on a Tuesday morning. The cold whipping me in the face, cars flying past, breathing hard as I work to crest the last hill.
Driving to work takes me 12 minutes. Riding my bike, 17. A five-minute difference that has an untold number of benefits. The inconvenience of car trouble has given me one more excuse to ride my bike. And I have 30 minutes of exercise built into my commute. No radio, no music, no podcasts, no phone calls, time for thinking and white space. And if I so choose it adds a little adventure to my day. If I choose to find it.
Experiencing adventure is a choice. And it usually feels like an inconvenience. But, there is an opportunity to touch something deeper if we choose to engage our heart. My car trouble is a drag, but it’s actually creating more than one adventure storyline in my life at the moment.
Where might life be initiating adventure for you?
And when you think about your ideal adventure, is there a scaled down version?
Like a 1/10th or even a 1/20th? Instead of a 4-day backpack trip to Colorado, what about an hour or two hike? Instead of writing your cookbook by the end of the year, what about just writing one new recipe this week? The opportunity to experience adventure is everywhere, I think I’ll start answering it’s beckon call again.