I’ve started and re-started this post multiple times, fumbling for the right words to use. The first draft felt too self involved, the second aimless, and the rest were drafts in my head.
It is more than just taking off, quitting your job and vagabonding around the world. Of course, it is that too, but there are all sorts of smaller, side adventures as well.
Part of the draft writing has lead me to realize that while I might not have felt I was adventurous pre-Appalachian Trail, upon closer inspection of my life, I/we had been fairly adventurous. Perhaps I hadn’t taken as full advantage that I could, and I probably still don’t, but that’s where I’m going with this little essay.
Are you doing what you want to do?
That question can be asked in your career, your hobbies, your personal life. Are you going through life just ‘being there’ and not participating? Of course it is easy to fade into the background when stress becomes rampant, life careens a little off course, we get sick, things like that; but, did you get yourself back in line with what makes you happy? Usually we don’t immediately get to it, or it will take weeks or months, sometimes years to get realigned and back on course with life and your goals.
What do you want to do?
Are you following a career or job path that you are only comfortable in and not necessarily happy with? Find a way to make a change. No, don’t completely quit without planning, that would only make you more miserable by upsetting anyone you provide for, but also potentially dig you deep into debt. We took a full year to plan for the Appalachian Trail, saving up money for not only the trail but for life after. We were leaving good, well paying jobs in the beginning of the financial crisis and knew quite possibly we might not find a permanent position when we returned. While our folks were nice enough to let us crash with them during our transient stage, the last thing we wanted was to be bumming money to pay bills. Planning was vital to doing what we did and if switching careers or taking a break from a job to explore the world is on your list of things to do, plan, plan, plan!
Are you doing things you don’t even like or want to do?
Have you been holding onto dreams or hobbies that you once loved but don’t exactly fit in with your life now? We all change, our interests change and what you may have loved last year or 10 years ago might be different than you want now. Case in point, I used to love scrapbooking. Thought for awhile I’d try to get ‘in’ it, submitting to magazines and such. I later realized I was only doing it because others were doing it and it wasn’t something I loved. While I do love scrapbooking it has definitely taken a back seat to my other creative adventures and so I began to phase it out when we moved, getting rid of products I never used, deciding that if I wanted to continue doing the hobby I would do it in a different form.
Another example is that for years and years I have wished on the first star at night I see, when I am out to see the stars, for the same thing I started wishing back in college. However, that wish is unfeasible unless I made a gigantic life course change. Why do I hold onto it? Because it is that little childhood dream of mine that was never fully realized. If I let go does that mean it will never happen? Probably, but maybe it shouldn’t. I’ve changed courses and followed a different path, not that the previous path wasn’t something I loved, but along the way I realized it wasn’t going to fit with all the other combinations of activities in my life. It is a give and take, if you really want something you may have to give up something else in your life.
So, instead of continuing in the same fashion of feeling like you have to keep up a hobby or something else in your life, stop it. It is very freeing not to have the burden of continuing to repeat something you don’t like to do.
Decide what you want
What is it you really want? Do you want to travel? Do you want to try a new hobby? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never did, like stopping in a shop you always drive past but never go in because you think you are too busy? Is it not spending time reading a book or researching how to remodel something in your house? Write it down. This is the so-called Bucket List, but there are varying types of Bucket Lists, the long term and short term, plus the serious and frivolous. Separate them out or put them into one big list, but write them down! Have you been afraid to try a new food? Go with someone you know who has been to a good restaurant and can tell you what is good to try. If you don’t enjoy it, at least you know! Sometimes we have to mull over the things on our list, garnering up the strength and wits to do them. Write the list and revisit it often, every few weeks or months, crossing things off as you go.
A few years ago I wrote a 28 for 28 list and while I didn’t get to all of them on my list, I did cross a lot of them off. Maybe your list is only five items, maybe it is 101 like the 101 in 1001 project.
The point is, start doing things instead of dreaming about them. Sometimes writing them down doesn’t mean they will be accomplished for awhile. I wrote down to hike the Appalachian Trail (and CDT and PCT and other things) many years ago but I also didn’t think they would ever happen or fully understand the process of it. I also wrote that I wanted to write and publish a book, but didn’t know what, and here I am now 30,000 words into a book about our Florida Trail hike. The idea is there but sometimes it takes while to figure out the what and how of it all.
Have the simple adventures but make room for the big ones too. The big ones take more time and planning but are so very worth it. I don’t think on either of our thru-hikes did we encounter anyone who said that they didn’t wish they could either do the hike or something like it. Maybe now isn’t the right time, but get started on those dreams!
+Texas A&M Wildlife Job Board: This is a great place to find field jobs that will allow you to travel to different parts of the country (or world) and gain more experience, especially if you have been stuck in an office job for awhile.
+Behance: I got this idea for creative jobs via Jeff Goins.
+Alexis Grant, who I ‘met’ via the Kate of the Traveling Circus who has her own set of guides for those interested in taking a break to travel, gave me the following recommendations for inspiration on breaking out and doing what you want. Suitcase Entrepreneur, Mixergy, Life Without Pants, Thursday Bram and of course I think most of the internet world is familiar with Chris Guillebeau.
The thing is, the internet is full of people who have created their own adventures. People who’ve adventured and returned to life, others who have made a long term event of adventure, and people doing smaller things like running marathons for charity or visiting all of the 50 U.S. high points (hi Patrice and Justin!). The resources are out there and you won’t be alone in finding out how to go about it.
I am really inspired by National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nominee Alastair Humphreys and his year of micro-adventures. He says it best: “Adventure is only a state of mind. Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.”
Look outside your own town—what hasn’t been done? What adventure do you want to do? What are you driving by day in and day out that you are ignoring or looking over?
It’s time to do something different.
Get on that list! Start marking things off and coming up with ideas to replace those…
This is SUCH an amazing post, Misti. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve read it and re-read it. I hope you don’t mind that I printed it out and put it in my “file” of important reading that motivates.
Awesome post, lots of thinking about these kinds of subjects recently as graduation is coming up and I feel like I have an open book to write in. I almost feel paralyzed by my options and I’m having trouble differentiating between what should remain a “hobby/passion” and what could be a feasible career. Then again why do they need to be two separate things right?!
Really enjoyed going through this post. Always nice to hear what a friend has to say about life and what it means to live a life that one may enjoy.
I remember doing a 30 before 30 list. I think I still have it somewhere. Some of those things came true. Ok, I got married at 31. lol, but it was worth waiting another year.
An acquaintance of mine who owns a coffeeshop encouraged me to continue playing music solo this year after having heard the HipCity Cruz CD. I took a break from music to get married last year and was sort of floating, not attached to a group like I was then, but those years spent at Cabrillo and fumbling through our sets on the stage with the band were endless ways to sharpen a skill that I’m starting to appreciate more and more.
I’m about to play my second and third public show in Laval next week, and it really is exhilirating. I haven’t played solo in years, and yet I know that I can do it better than I had before, and it’s a lot of fun to communicate with people this way. I had a few good teachers(formally and informally), and just kept at it.
Oh, and there were/are plenty of “I can’t really do this” moments…it is good to have the friends/spouses/parents who are around to say “yes, you can.”
Lots of true things in this post, and a good balance of “make your adventures happen,” with “plan so that the adventuring doesn’t ruin the rest of your life.” Wonderfully, once you’re in the preparing phase for big adventures, your eyes are attuned more carefully for the small daily adventures. Yay!