What I'm learning about adventure
I'm jealous of her.
She stands between the edge of the world and the edge of reality. Between restless and reassured. Far from anxious. Far from worried. Far from me.
The wind rustles her hair and stirs my soul. I can't see her face because she doesn't waste glancing at me when she can take in the breathtaking beauty in front of her. Her possibilities, like the landscape, seem endless.
I'm not describing someone I've met. In fact, I've never even come close to this woman. But I've seen her before. Many times. I've stared at her. She's the woman that lives inside one of my favorite stock photos.
Yes, a stock photo. This one, to be exact:
I've had this unquenched thirst for adventure over the last three years that causes me to lose myself in photos like this. It's odd, because I've historically been the one that likes to play it safe. My wife is the one that lived with an indigenous tribe in Latin America and spent months in a hammock — not relaxing, but using it for a bed. She's the brave, fearless one.
But now? I want to grab her and my daughter and go. I want to explore and do things I've never done. I want to hop on my motorcycle, rent a camper, and just drive the open road. I want to get lost and intentionally never ask for directions. I want to be at a place where a right turn is whichever turn I make.
There's a vivid picture playing in my head as I type this.
I got a taste a year and a half ago. My brother-in-law and I were sitting around at our in-law's house and started talking about doing something big. He mentioned the idea of a 2,000-mile motorcycle trip.
"Yes!" I said.
We didn't even have motorcycles. But we made it happen. I bought one a few weeks later and drove it home — literally the first time I had ever driven a motorcycle was the trip from the seller's house to my apartment down one of Dallas' busiest highways. Talk about an adventure.
Three months later we were cruising down country roads on our way to one of God's hidden wonders: Big Bend National Park, right on the Mexican border. It was amazing.
We met a Catholic priest who stopped to help as we were fixing our bikes.
We met a 90-something-year-old man who had once ridden his motorcycle out West — and never returned.
We stopped for wild horses.
We came across a church being built out of nothing but adobe.
We had a beer in the Rio Grande.
We laid outside under the stars for hours just staring at the Milky Way.
And we watched the sunrise and sunset from atop a canyon overlooking Mexico.
Something inside me dances just remembering and describing those moments. It moves from my gut to my heart and then lifts the corners of my mouth.
I thought a little about what the deep lesson is here. What does this say about me? What am I yearning for, really?
Is the lesson that we should be careful we don't get too wrapped in fantasy and neglect what we have here, now?
What about: There's a spirit of adventure deep within us all. Find ways to feed it. But, you know, don't go overboard.
Or maybe: Find what you're passionate about and do it for the rest of your life.
I think all of those things are true. And none of them are wrong. But here's what I keep coming back to: We have to make sure we're not running away from something or someone, but rather running to something. Find some deeper things in life. Don't neglect your responsibilities. Rather, go away and find deeper ones. Find the deeper meanings in the responsibilities you already have. Find the ones that really matter. Find the one that matters.
I'm reminded of a man I've read about. Probably the most adventurous person I've heard of.
He had a horrible accident while traveling a dirt road that temporarily blinded him.
The boat he was using capsized and broke apart. He had to swim to safety and found himself on a remote island.
He would be shipwrecked twice more in his life.
On multiple occasions he encountered unfriendly locals, some who beat him and threw him in jail.
One time, they beat him so badly with stones that they thought he was dead. He lived.
And yet another time, a search party was sent for him and he only escaped when his friends had the ingenious idea of putting him in a basket and lowering him down a wall.
In his letters, he talks about going without food and being exposed to the elements.
And yet he was one of the most determined people ever. Because his adventures had a greater purpose. He was driven by his faith, by his convictions. His adventures did something for his soul and for the souls of others.
Without a greater purpose to adventure, we just become aimless drifters. And drift wood — while beautiful — is constantly breaking down. It's decaying. I'd rather be the petrified wood — the wood that is seasoned over years and years of experience and pressure, and becomes not more hollow than before, but heavier, more stable, and more rich.
So, I'm still planning on going on an adventure. Hopefully this summer. But it won't be to "get away" or "find myself." I know me. I can find me. That's the problem. It will be to find someone else. Not to find my heart's deep desires, but to find the one who put them there.
I might just find myself in a stock photo at the end, too.
This post originally appeared on iamsecond.com.