Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* What exactly is adventure?

If life is your adventure, what exactly is adventure?

We may think we know what adventure is when we see it –kayaking off the Queen Charlotte Islands, a grand tour of Europe etc., but most of the time I suspect we’re mistaking manifestations of adventure for the true meaning of the word.  Or to use a Zen metaphor, we’re confusing a reflection of the moon on water for the real thing.

I’ve had several emails from people in various parts of the world more or less telling me that, “not everyone can go off to the Amazon.”   No!  And thank goodness for that. But going off to the ends of the earth is not at all what I’m talking about when I proclaim “Life is Your Adventure!”  And I apologize if I’ve created the impression that this is what I mean by “adventure”.  It isn’t.  In some ways, it’s harder to have a true adventure thousands of miles from home than when you’re stuck in traffic just because it’s so easy to be confused by exotic surroundings and imagine you’re having an adventure when you may not be.

To me, above all, adventure is an attitude of mind.  And you can exercise that just as well sitting on a subway on a daily commute or standing in line at the supermarket check out.   I have a friend in Toronto carries a camera with her everywhere she goes so that even a subway ride becomes an adventure because she keeps her eyes open for sights that intrigue her.

According to the dictionary, adventure is “a risky undertaking of unknown outcome” and “an exciting or unexpected event or course of events”.  So you can see where the confusion might arise that an adventure has to involve going somewhere dangerous or exotic. And if you’re driving the same road to work day after day, perhaps it’s tough to see how you could possibly be having an adventure.

But if you take these definitions at face value, all of a sudden, the world becomes full of possible “risky undertakings of unknown outcome.”  I’m not trying to pretend that changing the route to the office is a great adventure – though you never know, it might be.  How do you know what’s round the corner if you’ve never looked?

In my experience, adventure is about being willing to let go of control of one’s life and at the same time being willing to engage the unknown with curiosity and an open mind.  With this attitude to life, it’s possible to make even quitting smoking or the family get-together at Christmas memorable adventures.  When you go white water rafting you certainly have little or no control, its risky and the exact outcome is unpredictable.  It’s this that makes the adventure, not the getting soaked with cold water.

And conversely, you can travel to the end of the earth, but if you have no curiosity, a closed mind and want to control every aspect of your existence, then what you’re living is no kind of adventure merely the worst kind of tourism.

Curiosity, an open mind and a willingness to engage with life, however gritty, are the key ingredients of adventure.  And these qualities exist inside all of us right now  – there’s not out there remote from us.  Nor do they have to be bought.  There may be a price, but it isn’t dollars or dinars; just the willingness to take the rough with the smooth sometimes and to be shaken from our complacency.

What it comes down to is choice.  Each one of us already has everything we need to live our own life as the greatest adventure.  But we do have to choose.  Babies are born curious and engaged with the world.  It’s the human default mode of being.  There may not be an “on” button but, as we go through life and get knocked about a bit or become bored or disillusioned, there is definitely an “off” switch.

As adults, we can choose to “reset ourselves”.  We can choose an attitude of engagement with the world.  We can choose to see the possibilities, not the limitations, of any situation.  We can choose to make life our adventure.

© 2007 Dennison Berwick.  This article may be republished for noncommercial purposes, with full copyright attribution and notification to the author. Any other use is a violation of copyright.

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This entry was posted on January 3, 2010 by in Life Skills and tagged , .
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