The mention of the word can conjure thoughts of scaling sheer cliffs, diving out of airplanes, biking between massive boulders in the desert, running after important stuff with the intensity of Tom Cruise, adrenaline coursing through the body, staring death in the face--and winning.
When I think of adventure, my heart beats a bit faster and my mouth stretches its corners into a smile. When you think of adventure, you might begin to have heart palpitations or feel the undesirable suffocation of anxiety.
Today, I want to deconstruct our notion of adventure--what it is and what it looks like to have it in our lives.
When I think about college and what I miss most about it, two big things come to mind: relationships and spontaneity. I miss how organically relationships formed and were maintained. It was so easy, especially when you go to a school with over 40,000 students on campus like I did, to meet people all the time, everywhere. And once I met them, spontaneity was always the name of the game. I could get together with them any time, all the time. Want to get lunch? I'm there. It's beautiful out today--want to skip class and play ultimate frisbee? I'm there. Want to drive to Walmart at 2 a.m., buy some Mentos and Diet Coke, and launch some rockets in the parking lot? I'm there.
Relationships, spontaneity, adventure--it was all so easy.
After college, our friends scatter to all different parts of the country (and we do, too). We get jobs that require us to be up early every day, and we can't skip out on them just because the weather is nice. The friends we do have nearby aren't down the hall or within a five-minute walk across campus--they live in Ardmore, we live in East Falls, and it's going to take at least twenty minutes to drive there and that's only if there isn't any traffic.
There's always traffic.
Adventure becomes a challenge. Eventually, it becomes nonexistent, replaced by our routines--work, gym, dinner, TV, bed time. Repeat.
For those of us crazy enough or "naive" enough to still cling to this archaic idea of adventure beyond the age of twenty-two, people sometimes think there's some magic elixir we take, like something out of a Harry Potter book, to give us the power to dare, to risk, to adventure. Or they think we suffer from mental illness.
It's a myth, a misconception, that living a life of adventure is all about random, magical bursts of passion and excitement. That you either "have it" or you don't.
The first thing I'll say is this: for me, a life of adventure boils down to planning and choice. I've found that if I really want something in my life, or if I really want my life to be a certain way, I can't count on it happening by accident. I need to make it happen.
If I opened up the calendar on my iPhone for you, you would see little dots on dozens of dates for the next three months--these dots represent trips I have planned to go camping, climbing, snowboarding, visit New York City, visit places I've never been before. I put them on my calendar in advance so I don't get sucked into all the routine or obligation of life. Those things--the meetings I don't want to go to, the people I don't really want to get together with, the chores and the errands and the to-do lists--will most certainly happen to me by accident. The life I really want? I plan it. So many of my adventures are less like mystical fits of spontaneity and a lot more like the schedule of appointments at a doctor's office.
That being said, there has to be room for spontaneity. My favorite quote about adventure comes from G.K. Chesterton:
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
Again, I can't overstate how much adventure is not magic; it's perspective shift. One of the ways I've been able to live out adventure is by allowing room in my life to be uncomfortable and having the willingness to lean into that.
Adventure looks a lot like inconvenience.
One of my favorite memories of the last year and a half was during Hurricane Sandy. At that time, one of my best friends, Will, was living with me. Sandy had just begun to bulldoze her way through the area. Will and I were looking out the window at the slanted rain, the flailing trees, and the streams of water running down the street. Someone had the thought--and I don't remember which of us it was--to go outside and see for ourselves how bad Sandy really was. Once the seed of the idea was planted, it grew like a Chia pet. We said yes, no hesitation.
We scrambled to change into shorts, grabbed our jackets, and hurled the door open to face the storm. There was a large hill near our apartment--we climbed it while the rain pelted us from every direction. Once we were on top of the hill, we felt like we were in one of those skydiving simulators, or a scene from a movie with gigantic fan. The wind was relentless, and I felt like had I worn a bigger jacket, I'd turn into a kite and fly away. I looked over at Will, and he had a big old smile on his face. We were soaked and cold, but we were happy. I think we may have even crowed.
That adventure didn't take more than ten minutes, but it's one of my favorites in recent memory. Not many people in my life would be willing to take on the inconvenience of running outside and getting body-slammed by cold rain and massive gusts of wind. Will was, and I'm grateful for that.
Adventure looks like inconvenience.
This past weekend was the perfect example of what adventure looks like to me. I had planned a trip to New York City to meet up with a couple of friends. These trips are the kind that show up in my calendar--I've made it a goal to visit NYC about once a month. Why? Because I love the city, it's close enough, and Megabus tickets are CHEAP. What excuse do I have not to? Before I caught the Megabus on Saturday morning, I parked my car in the Drexel area near 30th Street Station. This last snow storm has made parking in the city a bit of a challenge, and I found myself with my car stuck in ice (like a hundred other people did this weekend, too).
Fortunately, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise, I have the best friends in the world. I called my friend Dave and asked if he'd be willing to help me get my car unstuck when my bus came back from NYC at midnight. The man not only picked me up, helped me dig the car out, and pushed it while I tried to reverse it, he gave me his car to take home that night when we couldn't get out, got his wonderful wife Wendy to help, and helped me dig and push again the next day until we finally knockout-punched winter in the face and freed my car.
For all the crazy stuff I've done in my life--a long list that includes but is not limited to free climbing cliffs, jumping off cliffs, camping under the stars, exploring caves, jumping out of a plane, breaking into buildings, jumping out of moving vehicles, driving at night with no headlights, setting all manner of things on fire (some of these are sounding a lot more like stupidity)--I hope, more than anything, that I'm always willing to be inconvenienced like my friends Dave and Wendy for people in my life who need it.
That's adventure worth pursuing.
Friends, your adventures may not include climbing mountains or braving wilderness, and they don't have to. I don't know what your adventures may be, but I'm pretty sure opportunities present themselves more often than you'd think.
I can only speak for myself here, but I've found that the best way to live life is not to view it as a series of inconveniences that burden me but as a series of adventures I have the privilege to undertake.
All I have to do is be willing to say yes when they come knocking.