Choose your own adventure

“When everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” – Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

I walk to live. If there is one thread that holds my life story together, it would most likely be my love of walking. Walking, hiking, backpacking, or strolling are all different methods of bipedal movement through the world and I love them all. What really matters is that one foot is put in front of another foot.

The simple act of moving over the earth helps everything in life become better. It ties us to our ancestors going back to the Paleolithic period when we hunted and gathered in nature in order to stay alive. We only survived because of our movement. In first world countries we are so sedentary that we end up contracting disease and dying because of it. The irony is lost on people who know of no other way of living.

These days children go without outdoor play for hours and days and seasons on end and turn into screen zombies. Adults are not much better. Hiking or walking integrates our individual lives within the context of our surroundings, and daily movement through our landscape gives us insight into the patterns of our world.

There is no better knowledge to obtain then that of the patterns of our world and all of its inhabitants. Our minds try to convince us of our special position as humans on the top of evolution, and that we are separate from nature and more special because of it, but every cell in our body thirsts for the connection to the elements that make up our universe.

We’re a people used to total comfort. For 10 seconds attempt to stand outside in a snowstorm. We don’t want to do that. We want to stay inside our highly safe human-created bubble worlds. And that will kill us all eventually. Another irony.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my extreme penchant for walking down the road or hiking through the forest. I always take the time to take a ramble, and if I don’t take at least one a day I feel disconnected, unhealthy, and unfulfilled. It is hard to take a step when we feel sick and disconnected. That first step is the most important. Breaking out of cycles is difficult because of Newton’s first law of motion, that an object at rest stays at rest.

I was thinking about love the other day. What makes some relationships work well for decades and others crash and burn after a couple years? Communication is key, but I’ve also noticed that a sense of adventure fills the lives of couples that are thriving.

In general those couple are both mentally and physically happy and healthy. There is a joy to their partnership that is palpable. Life isn’t some drudgery to get through but an active evolving adventure that stirs them up with passion and enjoyment of life, the joi de vivre that we all should be striving for daily. I unexpectedly found an amazing partner in my grand life adventure, and every day is alive with possibility.  What’s around the corner? We don’t know but we’re excited to go there.

When comfort shows up we seem to attach ourselves to it like a sea lamprey on the hull of a ship. I see that pattern of behavior in me as I use a dishwasher for the first time in my life. I used to use my hand dishwashing time as time for meditation, but now I am happy enough to plop the dishes into the dishwasher and go on with other activities in my life. It seems the more time saving devices we have the less time we take to putter. And I think puttering around is key to an enjoyable life.

When we ramble over the landscape we aren’t “doing something productive” but in fact we are doing a multitude of very important things. We are learning about our surrounding world and all the thousands of things that are happening right now, all around us. We are not alone on this planet by any stretch of the imagination, and we are definitely not the most important creature on the planet. A sense of perspective is necessary for a healthy mind to process its own life and come up with solutions to problems.

We’re a society that installs rails on every waterfall so nobody gets hurt. Adventures are for the rich or famous, and we are content to watch them on the TV. Oddly we can have adventures almost any time, in any place, but we forego the adventure to do the same old, same old thing. Repetition is comfort, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But adventure feeds the soul, and in the end that is far more important then the safety of repetition.

I’m not talking about adventures that cost thousand of dollars after flying across the ocean with special gear, I’m talking about taking a walk in a new park, trying out a new sport,  going a on midnight ski, or even something like starting a new hobby. Running a business can be an adventure. Physical fitness can be an adventure, and of course dining out can be fraught with the new and unexpected.

After thinking awhile about the thousands of walks I have been on, all the problems and solutions that have passed through my mind, all the grief and joy I have felt on each of those walks, noting tree leaves changing color or birds taking nest, I see that there is a fundamental choice that we all make every day. That choice is this: Are we going to put one foot in front of the other and see what’s around the bend, or are we going to park our butt in a sofa and be safe? Choosing your own adventure may sound like a cliche, but even so our lives are brief and if we don’t seize the day they may end up empty. Fill up your life with adventure and you’ll fill up your soul with love.

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