I believe that adventure can be a shortcut to happiness. The lure of the unknown, the excitement of the activity, and the conquering of a challenge can combine into a perfect cocktail that brings us pleasure and meaning.
I’ve always believed that doing something adventurous with someone cements a bond between you that is stronger than if you’d gone about ordinary activities. Think rock climbing on your first date or trying a cooking class specializing in a cuisine neither of you knows much about. You get to work through challenges together, experience the unknown, be there for each other, and come out of the other side closer as a result. But adventure does not have to be social; it can be just as fulfilling on our own.
So I’ve gotten to thinking, what kinds of adventurous things have I done? What other adventures would I like to take on? Here, I define an adventure as an experience that is unusual, exciting, and possibly hazardous.
First up, some adventures I’ve conquered —
Hiking Half Dome in Yosemite
Half Dome is an epic hike in Yosemite National Park in California. Starting at the valley floor, the 18-20 mile day hike climbs 4800 feet in elevation before returning that same distance down to the valley. The final 400 feet are the crux of the entire trip. This final push is a steep ascent up the granite face, in between two steel cables that are held up a foot or two off the surface by metal poles.
When I hiked it, before permits were required, the lines for this portion were long (45 minutes!), and the time we spent hanging onto the cables waiting for people ahead to pass folks coming down was long and sobering. One man dropped his water bottle, and we all stared, silently, as we watched it bounce, bounce, bounce down the side of the dome. I love hiking but am a bit uncomfortable with heights, so to conquer this hike was hugely satisfying. At the top, we enjoyed breathtaking views and took turns going out onto the Visor. An experience I will not forget!
Learning to surf and windsurf
I was lucky enough to go to grad school in Northern California, where both surfing and windsurfing are popular sports. Not having grown up in California, I was eager to try the local activities. So I rented a surfboard and a wetsuit and gave surfing a try! I have always loved water sports, and I was instantly hooked. Later, I took a windsurfing class, which I later helped teach, and loved it too (maybe even more?). I’m by no means good at either activity, but they always challenge me and put a huge smile on my face.
Moving to California
I was not at all convinced, when I graduated from college, that I wanted to move to California. I had friends and family in Texas, and I didn’t want to leave all of that behind. But I had an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, and I went for it. It makes me so happy to say that I’ve never once looked back or regretted the decision. Although there were challenging times in the beginning in particular, and I would love to have my family closer by, this life absolutely suits me. I’ve grown and changed in ways I never would have expected if I’d stayed in Texas. Change is good!
Walking 60 miles in 3 days
A few years back, I participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk. I signed up without knowing another soul participating. I can be shy in new situations and especially those in which I don’t know anyone else, but in my very first mile I made a friend — also walking alone — and we kept each other company throughout all three days. It was challenging trip socially and physically, but I am so, so glad to have done it. As an aside, I would recommend it as a particularly great way to see a new city.
Applying for a work-abroad program in Germany
After working for a couple of years, I decided to apply to a program that sends recent graduates overseas for a few months to gain experience working in another country. Although I did not get the opportunity to actually go, the process of applying was an adventure and cemented my desire to someday live and work abroad. The lure of learning a new language, having little adventures every day, and coming to understand a different culture all call to me.
Some adventures I’d love to attempt and conquer —
See above 🙂
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
I love the idea of a few months “off the grid”. I don’t think I would be happy going off the grid indefinitely, but a few months would be a good challenge and a great break from the fast-paced lives we all lead. The Appalachian Trail has appealed to me ever since reading A Walk in the Woods, which I highly recommend. Escaping the rat race for a bit, seeing gorgeous vistas, immersing myself in a most basic challenge, and challenging myself in a completely different way, at a much higher level than the comparatively short backpacking trips I’ve done so far — what’s not to love?
Having a child
This one is just on the horizon for me, at 8 months pregnant. I know there will be plenty of challenges, and that they will evolve as the baby grows into a child, a tween, a teenager, and finally an adult. I look forward to meeting these head on with my incredible husband, getting to know our baby, and watching as the baby develops a personality and unique features. I look forward to understanding this most basic of experiences firsthand. I also want to help my child(ten) experience adventure, and to see life in new ways through their unspoiled eyes.
Reflecting on my adventures, past and future, I am struck by the notion that my adventures may seem small in relation to what some people undertake. But I think a great way to increase our happiness is to change our perception, to view more experiences as adventures, and to seek out small adventures in everyday life. Looking forward, I know there are so many more adventures I could undertake. These three stand out for me, for now, but I will be curious to see how I define my future adventures!
I’d love to hear — what is the most adventurous thing you’ve done? What adventures are you hoping to embark on in the future? How do you look for adventure in everyday life?
(Photo credits — 1st photo: Janet Ramsden, Flickr; 2nd photo: me)