What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?

Adventures

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!

Yosemite Half Dome Visor

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 —

Living abroad

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)

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How far would you go to escape the rat race?

somewhere_in_between_Dingli_Cliffs_Malta (bass_nroll, Flickr)

It’s easy to get sucked into the rat race. There are so many external forces telling us that we should go to college, study hard, go to grad school, get a corporate job, work our way up the ladder, get promoted, make lots of money, get married, buy a house, have kids.

Where does it end? When do we get to stop and enjoy what we’ve created for ourselves?

I know I’ve felt like I’m on a train and it’s heading in the wrong direction. In my case, I switched directions in grad school, moving from a lucrative major that totally bored me to a less lucrative field that I love. It was a hard choice at the time — I had committed so much to building a life in that direction — but in the scheme of things it was not so drastic.

I’m always intrigued by people who truly and completely abandon the standard path. People who check out of the rat race and do whatever pleases them that day, that month, that year.

Would you live off the grid to get out of the rat race?

I recently watched a House Hunters episode about a family who moved off the grid to a remote island in Fiji. They had two young children including a 1 year old, and they chose to live on an island that had no electrical grid, no restaurants, no anything. On the 6 days a week that a plane didn’t fly there, it was a 24-hour boat ride to reach an island with modern conveniences like hospitals.

Their reasoning was that they were tired of the rat race. They wanted to feed their family with fish they caught themselves, to focus their energies on basic needs, and leave the rest of their time for simple pleasures.

Their choices are obviously extreme compared to what most of us have chosen. They are also missing an important facet of happiness – increasing meaning in our lives by creating something to work toward in the future. And yet their choice is so beguiling to me.

We create such busy lives for ourselves that we don’t always have time to stop and appreciate what we’re spending all of our time working so hard for. It’s hard for many of us to see, in a tangible way, how all of the time we spend working, from sitting in meetings to writing reports, is improving the world.

Happiness is our ultimate end goal. Money, attained by participating in the rat race, is simply one way to try to get at happiness. It is not useful except in its potential to help us be happier.

There are other ways.

How far would you go to escape the rat race? Would you go off the grid? Have you ever made a drastic change to get out of the rat race? Or do you participate because you think it’s more important to plan for a secure future? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

(Photo credit: bass_nroll, Flickr)

Is it bad to want to be likable?

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I recently came across a quote about our desire to be likable, and it got me thinking. Writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie urged young girls to forget about being likable:

So what I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that’s going to ruin your story, so forget about likability.

Wanting to be likable, and not knowing how to stop wanting that, is something I’ve struggled with ever since I was young. How — exactly — does one stop wanting to be likable?

I think it’s an innate human desire, one that I haven’t been able to turn off. I’ve always envied those who seem to be able to just be, without concern with what others think. But I think I feel the pull of this desire for a few reasons:

  • I am human, and we are social creatures.
  • I grew up in the south, where manners and perception are a big deal.
  • I married an extremely nice guy. It absolutely makes me feel pressure to be nice, too.
  • I am averse to conflict.
  • I know that people are not always feeling on the inside what they are saying on the outside, and it causes doubt to creep in.
  • I have an older sister who is good at everything she does — and well liked! She sets a very high bar.

But now that I’m close to bringing a little one into this world, I’ve been thinking about what kind of role model I want to be, and what kinds of messages I want to pass down. I truly want to walk the walk on this message, and I hope that being a parent — having something larger and outward to focus on — will make my concerns fade into the background.

I heard a quote by Bill Cosby years ago that has stuck with me:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

Of course, we now know that Bill Cosby has been very effective at not pleasing everybody (to put it mildly). But his quote really resonated. It’s just not possible to please everybody. People are so different, and there are so many people. It’s just not going to happen.

My takeaway from these two thinkers is this:

Trying to be likable will make you inauthentic, and it’s a futile pursuit anyway.

So today I read about some possible solutions, like paying attention to our everyday experiences, meditating, and changing our thought patterns.

I’m also working on standing my ground. At work, I (politely) told two senior colleagues that I disagreed with them, and in both cases we had good, productive conversations about how to address our conflicting concerns. With friends, I opted to forget about makeup at a birthday party last weekend because I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. Small victories, but I’ll take ’em.

I also think that being the person you want to be — pursuing your passions, having hobbies, volunteering, reading books, running marathons, or whatever it may be — makes you innately likable. It makes you interesting and unique. And happy.

It’s still a struggle, but it’s a struggle worth having.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you struggle with wanting to be likable? Or is it easy for you to just be you and not worry about how others perceive you?

(Photo credit: Heather, Flickr)