The best word to describe that summer was adventure. And I feel like, ever since then, I have been chasing that same idea of adventure, aching to seek it out and make it a part of my daily life.
But maybe my original concept of adventure is wrong.
The summer after my junior year of college, I took a road trip (and a ferry ride) to Juneau, Alaska with a group of college students from Fayetteville and other campuses around the US. After spending 5.5 days on the road together, we obviously became very close friends. I then spent 11 weeks with these friends in Juneau on a Cru Summer Mission trip, learning how to start spiritual conversations and share my faith within a work environment, volunteering within the local community, being developed individually and with the community of women, and of course hiking and camping and fishing and crabbing and kayaking and every other thing you would dream about doing while in Alaska. Every week, we were exploring different trails and learning new things and growing in our friendships. I grew personally and spiritually that summer more than any other period in my life up to that point, so this adventure showed me quick progress and a steep but short climb to a place where I could see the view from above of where I had once been.
The very first trail our group hiked in Alaska led up to a rustic cabin and fire pit. By rustic, I mean it was four walls and a roof… and that’s it. We rolled out our sleeping bags on the unfinished wood floor and used a portapotty about 100 yards away. Honestly, I preferred nature itself to that portapotty.
The hike leading up to the cabin was unlike any other hike I had previously been on. As we started the hike, I noticed that the “trail” was made up of flat boards which had been secured just slightly above the ground. I kept expecting them to end, leading us to an actual dirt trail, but the boards went on for a significant portion of the hike. Juneau has a very moist climate, and it rained probably 75% of the summer we were there, so these boards allowed us to hike on the trail without getting stuck in mud. As we got closer to the top, the ground dried out more and the trail continued on solid ground. The view changed from soggy woods to a sunny meadow, and I remember feeling like we were finally making progress.
Not that we weren’t making progress on the boards. It just felt discouraging after awhile, maybe less exciting since we were walking on man-made planks instead of a rural path. Mud and damp is rarely as fun on a hike as sun and grass and wildflowers and space to see the view.
But it made a difference that we knew where we were going and had confidence that the trail would bring us to a place where we could take off our packs, build a fire, and start roasting our hobo dinner packets.
I think I am now seeing that adventure in life often looks more like the time I spent board trail rather than the more daring sections of our other experiences. There have definitely been times when, calves burning and lungs heaving, I find myself crawling uphill, hoping for relief and a chance to take in the view. There are also moments of descent and moments of sliding down on my rear end. Right now, though, I feel like I am walking through the boggy section of a trail. The planks help me stay out of the muck, but the view isn’t too exciting. The destination seems a little uncertain, and I am not sure how adventurous it feels to be walking along boards over mud. I can see glimmers of sunshine and green growing things here and there, but overall this part of the trail is shaded and monotonous.
My friend Kaitlin recently wrote about a journal she received which boasted “Adventure is Right Here” on the cover, and she described how she is trying to live with that in mind. Her words prompted for me the realization that adventure isn’t ahead of us, like the hope of change in scenery or getting off the boards and onto the dirt. It’s not only found in something new happening or in taking a step of faith. Each day is part of the adventure. Instead of living by the phrase “Adventure is out there!” (via Disney’s “Up”), I want to daily soak in that adventure is right here. I want to change my approach to the boggy seasons of life, which to me are a necessary evil to take me to the adventure. I want to see this section as its own great journey.
I am not someone who enjoys consistency and predictability. I have told Eric that I am willing to move if he gets a job elsewhere simply because something new sounds more exciting than a season of monotony. I am finding myself chasing change. But if I live like adventure is right here, right now, then my mindset will be focused on each step of the journey instead of always waiting for the next big thing because each day is the next big thing. Each day, even if it feels very much like the day before, holds its own new discoveries and challenges and details. Maybe it’s only something seemingly small, like a different species of trees shading the path, but there is something new to explore and something else to be grateful for.
Because the journey itself is what makes reaching the destination so much sweeter.