In four days, I'm going to get in a car with my friend Jason for two weeks, and we're going to drive all across the country en route to the west coast. I'm excited. People are excited for me. Lots of people have said something like, "So jealous of your big adventure!" to me. Lately, I've become nervous using the word "adventure."
I'm afraid of overusing it.
I'm afraid of being the tool who seems like he's trying to make his life seem super cool.
I'm afraid that people will think that they need to crazy, crazy things to have an adventure.
I'm afraid that people will fatigue of the term and miss the whole point.
I think adventure can be a lot of things, and it's not necessarily big or flashy or epic. Take last night, for example:
It was one of those nights in which my brain felt cluttered, frenzied. Grading a bazillion papers will do that to a person. To calm the waters, I decided to grab some takeout and drive somewhere, anywhere, and eat my food outside. Enjoy the fresh air and sunset. Takeout turned into Wendy's (not quite the food of dreamers...but actually, maybe yes.). After I double-checked that the Wendy's folks put a spoon in my bag and not a fork--this is a thing you have to check--I started driving.
I turned onto a road that I've passed a thousand times before but have never actually driven on before. Sure, I already knew some quiet spots that would be great for a little sunset dinner. Sometimes, though, you need to change it up. Allow for something new to happen.
About half a mile down the road, not seeing anything particularly interesting, I thought to myself, This is a waste of time. I know some spots--they're money in the bank. I'm turning around and going to one of them. I turned left at the next stop light and swung wide to pull a U-turn. Mid-turn, I looked down one of the streets of the intersection, and it seemed to widen before my eyes, like a gate rolling open and telling me to pass through. Mid-turn, I turned again and went through that gate.
I didn't find a hidden oasis or a secret waterfall tucked away in the middle of the suburbs. I found a fire hall with a big parking lot that sat above a bunch of baseball fields and a good enough view of the final sliver of the sun's face before it sunk below the tree line. This is perfect, I thought.
And I ate my spicy chicken sandwich and listened to music. I froze a few times as other cars occasionally pulled into the parking lot. I would stop chewing and look out of the corner of my eye. The car would hum quietly, its headlights shooting straight ahead, unblinking. I would think, "What are you doing here, you freaks?" and the mysterious figures inside the car were probably thinking, "What are you doing here, freak?" They always moved on quickly. Maybe this is where people deal drugs in the suburbs, behind the clothing donation box.
Other than feeling awkward when those cars rolled in, this "adventure" felt pretty uneventful. The sandwich was good. I sang along to some songs. I talked to myself a little bit. I made myself laugh because I have the same sense of humor as me. And just as I was throwing away my trash and ready to come back home, roll my sleeves up, and get down to work again, something in the field caught my eye.
At first I thought I had caught the headlights of another car full of tame suburban drug dealers or hormone-drunk teenagers. I refocused my eyes in the growing darkness. I saw it again:
A tiny light popping up for a second and gone again.
The first fireflies of the season. That I've seen anyway.
I smiled. Leaned forward and rested my chin on my knees. Took a deep breath. Then I got up and left.
I think adventure can be as simple as thirty seconds of unexpected fireflies. More than that, I think it's about putting ourselves in a position to experience something unexpected in the first place.
To do that, I need to walk outside my door when it would be more convenient to stay inside. I have to go down a road I've never gone down before. And I have to be okay with coming up empty-handed from time to time because trust me--I've gone on plenty of little adventures that ended up feeling like a giant waste of time.
But every once in a while, because I put myself in a good position, I stumble onto something surprising: the first fireflies of the season, a meteor shower, a scenic view, a new favorite dive, a new friend. I feel like life is about that--being in the best position to experience something good.
Please don't think of adventure as a weight only certain people have the strength to lift. Think of it as tiny steps where you put yourself in a spot to run into something new.
All that being said, I am going on a pretty intense trip soon.
My current plan right now is to try my hand at travel blogging while I'm on the road. My hope is to put out a post at least every couple of days with random thoughts, observations, and plenty of pictures.
Keep your eyes peeled! Can't wait to share with you.