Life On The Road: Thoughts On Adventure

A lot of people I talk to do not believe there is adventure left in this world. The world has been explored, one cannot leave the edge of the map. With the internet the world has become known. Google images allows us to see any place in the world. Wikipedia allows us to learn about any subject that can be imagined. With all that available from the safety of our own home, what is left to explore? Where can one find adventure?

What does not qualify as adventure? Adventure is not doled out two weeks a year, no matter how exotic the location. Adventure is not found in the thrill seeking of extreme sports. Adventure is not experienced in guided tours and carefully planned trips. There may be a shadow of adventure in all of these, but they miss out on the true nature of the experience.

The obvious answer to finding adventure is that there is a big difference between reading about something and living it. No matter how many descriptions one reads and how many pictures one looks at, the wonder of the Grand Canyon (USA, Arizona) can only be experienced in person. Yet this is only a superficial answer which misses the true sense of adventure.

A more subtle answer is that adventure is in how one approaches a situation. In Mompós, Colombia, I sat in the town square by a street vendor and watched a potato being peeled, cut into french fries, deep fried, and served to me fresh from the vat of hot oil. They were probably the best fries I have ever eaten. You may shrug in confusion thinking “so what, you ate a french fry?” Yet to me it was one of the defining adventures of the trip.

Yet that alone is not adventure. I could do that back home and merely call it a fun night. What makes it adventure is the string of similar events over the past weeks and months. It is also in the perspective. That street vendor may have served his french fries to hundreds of people, yet to me it was an fascinating and awesome new experience. Yet still this misses something of the true nature of adventure.

What ties all these amazing experiences into a true adventure is the journey. The journey is an experience both physical and psychological that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. It is an exploration of the world simultaneously without and within.

The internet does change the nature of the journey. I know what to expect in a way explorers headed into the unknown never could. That knowledge does not kill the adventure quite as you would expect. Even as it lessens the wonder of finding some places, it allows me to track down and experience other locations which I would otherwise never know about. I can keep in touch with friends I have made along the way, when in the past I might never have seen them again. The availability of information only kills the adventure if you let it.

I will probably never know what it is like to wander off the edge of the map into the unknown. Perhaps I am missing something still compared to those explorers. Yet I have a hard time believing the essential nature of adventure has changed, even with knowledge of the world being so easily accessible.

6 comments to Life On The Road: Thoughts On Adventure

  • Mom

    Adventure: plumbing the depth, height, and breadth of oneself.

    • othalan

      Well Said!

    • Elizabeth

      Wow!! Great definition!! And one that is very applicable to my dear brother at this point!! 🙂

      I think that there are still adventures off the edge of the map left in the world. Underneath in the oceans, in remote places in the jungles of South America, Possibly even places in Asia as well. Yes, they may have satellite images taken. However that doesn’t lessen the fact that little is known about some of those areas.

      Adventure does start from within and is all about your perspective on life!

      BTW… I bet those fries were very delicious! You are making me hungry!

    • Grant

      Bravo, great definition! I might have to quote you on that.

      For myself, I have been profoundly affected by a line from a movie that garners a lot of attention when I introduce myself to a new class of students: “The Princess Bride.” In the fire swamp, a burst of fire catches Buttercup’s dress and Wesley quickly puts it out, and calmly says, “Well, that was an adventure.” It’s a simple line in a silly romance movie, but it means so much. Adventure is wherever you chose to find it. Honestly, each day I walk into another classroom has the potential to be an adventure.

      The last thing I actually labelled as such was a night I was trying to get home in a snowstorm, driving my slippery little Neon. There are five possible routes up the south hill of Spokane, and all five of them were either barely passible or already closed. Eventually, my roommate took over the car and bullied our way up one of the steeper (but less icy) roads. It took us three hours to make a trip that normally takes fifteen minutes, over a distance of about seven miles. I don’t know how many miles the car logged, spinning the tires uselessly. Yet when we got home, tired, cold, and exhausted, I stepped out of the car and said, “Well, that was an adventure.” It changed the whole perspective of the evening.

      • othalan

        I think you actually just nailed a better definition yet: “Adventure is wherever you choose to find it”. I’ve encountered travelers on the road for a long time who are burnt out. They go through amazing things but no longer see any adventure in it because they are so tired of travel.

  • Leo

    “The obvious answer to finding adventure is that there is a big difference between reading about something and living it. No matter how many descriptions one reads and how many pictures one looks at, the wonder of the Grand Canyon (USA, Arizona) can only be experienced in person. Yet this is only a superficial answer which misses the true sense of adventure.”

    David, you have a way with words! You have been accumulating wonderful memories that will be retained for the remainder of your life. “Memories are forever” and can never be taken from you. Enjoy yourself!

    Leo

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