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.
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?
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.
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.