The truth about adventure
The solo canoe trip is brimming over with sheeting rain, cold days and nights, wind-swept lakes and soggy, limp food. My sleeping bag is damp, my tarpaulin leaks, my stove sputters and I lost my watch on day one.
Clearly this trip is an adventure gone wrong.
Yet it’s proving to be one of my best canoe trips ever!
So just what is “adventure”?
Here are the unadorned facts: adventure is often uncomfortable, wet, lonely, cold, sleepless and chock full of uncertainty. Usually it isn’t much fun, and certainly not easy. Those who find themselves in an adventure often ask themselves, “So why am I doing this?”
Hobbits have a much better understanding of adventure than do humans. “It’s a dangerous business going out your door,” Bilbo told his nephew Frodo. “There’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Adventure looks better from a comfortable distance.
Why don’t humans understand this?
Most times when reading adventure stories we’re viewing events through rose-coloured glasses. We’re reliving the trek while propped up on several pillows in front of a cosy, warm fireplace. We can predict how the adventure turns out. We know that the hero survives the rapids, lives for days in the forest without food, struggles against the odds and finally stumbles back to civilization a hero.
But the person living the adventure doesn’t know how it’s going to turn out. Adventure doesn’t always look so deliciously appealing when you’re huddled wet and shivering on a desolate shore under an overturned canoe in mud up to your elbows with hail pounding the ground. Been there. Done it. And it was…well…fun, sort of.
My wife understands this wisdom. Days after finishing a gruelling, bug-infested, three-week wilderness canoe trip with me in the North, she responded to the question: was it fun? “Not really,” she said honestly. “But it was a great life adventure. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”
It’s not always easy to recognize adventure, even when it hits you with a thousand mosquito bites!
Adventure can either defeat us or make us fully alive to life’s possibilities. It can make us brim over with complaints and bitterness. Or it can transform us into a puppy sitting on the back seat of a car, its head stuck out the window and its tongue flapping in the wind — absolutely delighted with life.
So when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, ask yourself, “Is this an adventure?” Sometimes we just have to seize the day — carpe diem!
Remember… your hiking boots are only 48 hours away from being anywhere, ANYWHERE in the world! But you have to take that first step. Choose your adventure wisely, then go for it!
Allen Macartney is in the midst of an adventurous 1,500-kilometre solo canoe trip. It will end above the Arctic Circle. Read more about his expedition on the Royal Canadian Geographical Society website.