Life is a non-stop opportunity for learning, creating, and becoming. I believe a better self is always possible today, every day, as long as I keep exploring. Adventure is the primary means of my continuous search for a better self.
Each new day brings another trail to hike, book to read, person to meet, relationship to strengthen, recipe to cook, or idea to try. The more I explore “out there” in the world, the more I develop “in here” within myself. I am the sum total of my life’s adventures.
I know I am embarking on an adventure when one or more of the following occurs:
- There is an element of risk or danger
- I’m trying something new that I’ve never done before
- The outcome is unknown or unexpected
Discovery is thrilling. Learning is rewarding. Creating is fulfilling. Becoming more is invigorating. I feel most alive when I am testing limits, stepping into something unknown, and beginning another adventure.
According to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche and the American recording artist Kelly Clarkson, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I put their theory to the test in the summer of 2007 during our fourth annual boys-only rafting trip. I was floating solo down the Cataract Canyon in my own two-person inflatable raft. Our group was nearing a landing beach on the left side of the Colorado River before the three most notorious rapids in the canyon, simply named Big Drop 1, Big Drop 2, and Big Drop 3.
Before I knew what was happening, a wave caught me from the right, slammed me out of my raft, and pushed me towards the bottom of the river. I was struggling to get to the surface, couldn’t find “up,” and started to worry that I would run out of breath. Then I remembered our guide Johnny’s advice,
“If you’re under water and can’t find the surface, stop struggling, curl into a ball, and let your life jacket do its job.”
I was still under and unable to find the surface. I had a very clear and deliberate thought, “I hope Johnny is right!” I curled into a ball and hoped for the best. Suddenly, I popped up to the surface near my son and his fellow rafter. I made it back into my raft and they handed me my paddle, which they had recovered.
I was worn out, but had to paddle hard to make it to the beach. Big Drop 1 was roaring just ahead. If I couldn’t make the beach, I was going over 1, 2, and 3… alone.
I paddled and paddled and paddled. It took every bit of energy I could muster to make it to that beach. When I finally reached the shore, I fell to the ground in complete exhaustion and exhilaration.
Risk & Reward
When I think of adventure, activities with a real element of danger such as rafting are what first come to mind.
The challenge is electrifying. Time slows. Senses heighten. Overcoming it is inspiring. Recalling it is humbling. The memory lasts forever. Adventure ignites the human spirit. It reveals hidden capabilities that lie within us. It helps us become more.
Experiences like this have changed me as a person. It seems the bigger the danger and the higher the risk, the more an adventure could change you. This is why people try to climb deadly mountains like K2 or Mount Everest.
The dangerous adventures of my life have their place in my pursuit of happy living. Next week, I’ll introduce two milder forms of adventure that nurture my spirit and help me evolve as a human being.
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