MusingsTrip Journal

How Do You Access Adventure?

By February 11, 2014 14 Comments

People often tell us that we are on an adventure. This always gets me scratching my chin. I mean, really, we just climb little rocks. We’re not big-walling, we seldom sleep in a tent. We’re not polar explorers. As far as climbing goes, we’re usually on a well-beaten path. We actually live quite comfortably, and though we are thrifty, we don’t really have financial stress. Yet, it was adventure, in some sense, that we sought when we left the default world nearly two years ago. What does that mean?

an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.

Rock climbing certainly conjures up images of adventure. Stallone. K2. Vertical Limit. That Mission Impossible opening scene. The climber archetype, as per pop culture, is fearless to the extreme, well-versed in all kinds of gear, and with the exception of Stallone, highly intelligent. The modern climber is in some ways more heroic than adventurous, rock solid in the face of uncertainty.

I’ve been pulling on holds both plastic and geologic for ten years now. Climbing is my comfort zone. Rarely do I feel heroic or adventurous. Being an introvert, social gatherings take much more mental energy for me than a day spent on a personal struggle against a route. I’m much more scared by the thought of going to a crowded bar. Sometimes, stepping into a large group of people is scarier to me than stepping off the ground on a committing highball. Similarly, the one-eyed world of a camera’s viewfinder is a comfortable space for me to inhabit, even if said camera is 60 feet off the deck.

Vikki went on this adventure, a late-spring hike up Mt. Adams

Oftentimes we are not adventurous, and yet here we are, on this grand “adventure.” And like most adventures, what we’re doing requires Enterprise and Enthusiasm. But what adventure are we on, exactly?

I believe that Adventure can be found not in a physical place or activity per se, but in a mental space called The Edge. The Edge is just beyond safety, one step over the line of what’s completely understood, a little bit past predictability. The Edge is where we learn about ourselves, learn how we’ll react to the unknown. The Edge can be found anywhere and everywhere. For some, it’s backpacking through a foreign continent. For others, it’s quitting their job and starting a business. It can be a blind date, a Craigslist roommate, standing up to a bully, or reconnecting with estranged relatives.

It’s whatever it takes to shake up the neat little filing system in our heads that says what’s what about the world and about ourselves, because, maybe if we rearrange things a little, we’ll find a filing system that’s just a little bit more accurate. And isn’t that what life’s all about?

(Captured from Google) Mentions of the word "adventure" in books over the past 100 years. Seems like "adventure" suffered a lull in the 50's and 60's, and is now on the upswing again.

(Captured from Google) Mentions of the word “adventure” in books over the past 100 years. Seems like “adventure” suffered a lull during the 60’s and 70’s, and is now on the upswing again. I wonder if the spike in the 1920s was due to WWI?

There are many Edges that I have explored on this road trip, and many that I’ve avoided. Adventures I’ve undertaken and adventures to which I’ve said “no thanks.” With few exceptions, each one I’ve said yes to was a good thing. I learned from them. Each one I’ve turned down was a mistake. Right now, I’m being a bit adventurous in airing these confessions. I hope to gain some insight from doing so.

Rock climbing is the way that I access adventure, the way that I find The Edge, and it extends to every aspect of this trip. I find it in a highball boulder problem. Will I commit? I find it when trying to flash a climb near my limit, where every faculty is directed in one do-or-do-not attempt. I find it when publishing videos. What if people don’t think it’s cool, what if the subject doesn’t want to work with us anymore? Adventure is in the air when we pack up and leave a familiar place. I’m at my Edge when asking for favors, like a shower or a place to crash. And I’m very much at the Edge when attempting to explain to my relatives just what, exactly, we are doing out here.

This past summer in Squamish, both Vikki and I adventured constantly. We felt the flow, we were in our grooves, and try-hard came naturally. Yet I have to admit that too many chances to leave my comfort zone came and went. The Chief was calling and I didn’t respond. I hid behind a camera instead of trying some of the prouder highballs that I sure as shit would like to climb. Missed opportunities.

Teenage Lobotomy, an adventure I said yes to. Vikki Glinskii photo.

 

The Chief, extra-intimidating when covered in swirly clouds. Next summer for sure.

Those are one-offs, though. While there are plenty of instances of either or both of us visiting The Edge over the past two years, there is a larger circle of Adventure that I think we’re finally ready to step in to. What I mean is this: we’ve pussy-footed around in our comfort zone of climbing, casually pointing a camera, and not really taking the RV Project’s mission as seriously as we should. Much easier to drink a few beers and watch a movie in the evening than buckle down and edit some videos. I believe that fear, not laziness, is responsible for this perpetual false-start. Like some timid wallflower, we are standing in the gymnasium hoping someone will ask us to dance.

I fear commitment. I fear that success in photography and video-making will result in a workload that will outweigh my own discipline. I fear that we won’t achieve that success to begin with. I fear that committing to being a better climber means giving up too much comfort (and too much comfort food). I fear that taking climbing too seriously will alienate me from my friends.

But this fear is good. Or rather, I’m glad I have finally recognized this feeling as fear. Adventure can be found at the intersection of fear and ambition, and I’m ready for more meaningful adventures. 2014 is the year of facing my fears, of diving in, of realizing my scariest, most audacious goals. 2014 is the year to shit or get off the pot.

I turn 30 this year. What I fear above all else is wasting any more time.

I’ll close with this passage about The Edge from Hunter S Thompson’s 1967 masterpiece Hell’s Angels. It may not be directly relevant, but it’s one of my favorite pieces of writing of all time. I think we can all relate in some way, even if the stakes aren’t life and death.

Hunter S

“So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate Park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head….but in a matter of minutes I’d be out at the beach with the sound of the engine in my ears, the surf booming up on the sea wall and a fine empty road stretching all the way down to Santa Cruz…not even a gas station in the whole seventy miles; the only public light along the way is an all-night diner down around Rockaway Beach.

There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves. The momentary freedom of the park was like the one unlucky drink that shoves a wavering alcoholic off the wagon. I would come out of the park near the soccer field and pause for a moment at the stop sign, wondering if I knew anyone parked out there on the midnight humping strip.

Then into first gear, forgetting the cars and letting the beast wind out…thirty-five, forty-five…then into second and wailing through the light at Lincoln Way, not worried about green or red signals, but only some other werewolf loony who might be pulling out, too slowly, to start his own run. Not many of these, and with three lanes on a wide curve, a bike coming hard has plenty of room to get around almost anything…then into third, the boomer gear, pushing seventy-five and the beginning of a windscram in the ears, a pressure on the eyeballs like diving into water off a high board.

Bent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering in the wind. Taillights far up ahead coming closer, faster, and suddenly–zaaappp–going past and leaning down for a curve near the zoo, where the road swings out to sea.

The dunes are flatter here, and on windy days sand blows across the highway, piling up in thick drifts as deadly as any oil-slick–instant loss of control, a crashing, cartwheeeling slide and maybe one of those two-inch notices in the paper the next day: “An unidentified motorcyclist was killed last night when he failed to negotiate a turn on Highway 1.”

Indeed…but no sand this time, so the lever goes up into fourth, and now there’s no sound except wind. Screw it all the way over, reach through the handlebars to raise the headlight beam, the needle leans down on a hundred and wind-burned eyeballs strain to see down the centerline, trying to provide a margin for reflexes.

But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right…and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it…howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica…letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge…

The Edge…There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are ones who have gone over. The others–the living–are those who who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.” 

Photo from Sabotage Times

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