The age of adventure, the era of explorers – it all seems a thing of the past.
Now, the best you can do is action sports and extreme travel – but there’s a big difference: The earlier explorers didn’t quite know what they were getting themselves into, and went to the white spots on the maps not just for the heck of it, but also to increase knowledge.
Or at least, that’s what also happened and was the reason given to their supporters…
These times seem far gone. Use satellite maps and Street View, and you can have a look around another place without ever having gone there.
Get a plane ticket, and you can go just about anywhere you get permission or have the money to go – and you can be pretty sure that more than a few others have been there before, and probably even wrote about their experiences.
The next internet café? Right around the corner.
The complacency that comes from the feeling of having seen it all (and then even more, given all the further images we get from fiction and film) really hides the truth, though: You could go somewhere no one else has ever been before, and still not get much from the experience; and you can “stay at home,” set out on a path that’s new for you, and end up learning more than you ever thought possible.
We’ve become conditioned to thinking of adventure and exploration to be a sudden event.
Suddenly, the treasure is found. Finally, she discovers the remains of the city everyone said didn’t exist. In a flash, the clouds disappear, and … what?
Sure, extraordinary experiences leave their mark. They mainly do so because they punctuate what is the hard drudgery of a long journey of discovery, though. When we mistake adventure for the endorphin rush of action sport, we forget that there is a process to it. An exploration is a journey, with ups and downs. Typically, with many more and longer “downs” than ups.
Another misunderstanding, also hidden in the very descriptions just used, is that of exploration as an actual journey. All too much traveling is not an adventure anymore.
Something becomes an adventure when it is engaged in with a sense of adventure and with a mind open to new experiences, not undertaken full of preconceived notions of all that must make it great, all the while trying to have total security and comfort.
Going out with an open mind, with a sense of discovery, it can be enough to literally go out for a walk or a run, take another path than the usual, and see new things.
Learn about edible plants, go out with your eyes on the ground, and you’ll discover new things again. Or even stay in, buy new veggies, and cook more wildly
Go out again at other times during a year, get into the groove of the seasons, and there’ll always be something new to discover in nature’s changes.
There, modern technology can contribute to making even the seemingly mundane a bit more adventurous. Record how your body performed with a heart rate monitor, and you have something more to note and learn about. Track your speed and distance, or better still your actual (GPS) track, and you have yet another thing to consider.
Blog about your discoveries, and you’ll probably find out that there are others doing the same, but in other places and not knowing the surroundings you may be intimately familiar with. Find someone else who’s in the same area, compare notes, and you may find out that another person sees those familiar surroundings in a different light…
“Lifestyle design” has a point in that:
Experimenting with different parts of your life brings what has often come to function on autopilot to conscious attention, and can help make it better. In calling for trying out new things, it adds some spice to a “normal” life that may not feel very exciting anymore when the drudgery of work and family obligations have kicked in.
I disagree, though, with the focus on uprooting oneself and imagining a dream life. There is something to be said for (and certainly learnt from) ideas of location independence (the bit about “live anywhere,” work on your passion, maybe just from your laptop).
It forgets something essential about life itself when it wants to find the excitement in a change of scenery, and the purpose in living without roots, consuming ever more “fabulous” experiences, though.
In all likelihood, all the great experiences you can dream of will really be very conventional ideas of world travel, great wines, luxury – when the more meaningful adventure would be in living a “normal” life, but still learning more, deepening your partnership, understanding and acting on your connections with the world, and contributing sensibly to it…
Still, the right balance itself is something for you to explore…
Knowing yourself by thinking it through is likely impossible, but that makes learning yourself by doing all the more important. So, as Jon Krakauer says in “Into the Wild:”
“Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.”
If you do that as experiments with the support of your family, as runs right where you are (supposedly) at home, it’s none the worse. Just do something. For better.