One of my favorite books of all time is Robyn Davidson’s Tracks. I didn’t know of its existence until later in life, and that grieves me something fierce. I wish I’d been reading about female adventurers long before I discovered them…but I don’t really consider Davidson an adventurer. She went on a adventure of her own making, on her own accord. Then, she wrote about it. Is she a professional adventurer? I’m not so sure.
Anyway, I revisit that book every so often when I’m thinking about what I really want out of life. I particularly like to linger on the part where the idea of her journey just started to percolate. I’ve come across similar descriptions in other books where people have changed their lives. They listen to a small voice within, and instead of suppressing it and choosing a safe, traditional path, they listen. They go. They transform first with the decision to pursue their desire, and then continue to learn more about themselves through each task required in the pursuit.
As part of my daily routine, I review the list of things I want to pursue in the next five to ten years. I typed it up and printed it out and hung it on my refrigerator. I read it every day like a prayer. I review my travel destinations and personal growth goals. But lately, I’ve been puzzling over a few things on the list, like the item of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’m wondering if they’re on there now because they’re do-able, prescribed, acceptable adventures. It seems there are many, many people completing thru-hikes, or quitting their jobs to travel the world. Not that those aren’t admirable pursuits, but I want to check to see if, in my hunger for adventure, I’m just grasping at what’s out there. Am I protecting myself by putting well-traveled pursuits on my list?
It could very well be a way of playing it safe.
When I think of Robyn Davidson’s trek across the desert, which she did in the 1970s, I think about originality. It was not a well-traveled path. In that way, she was a pioneer. Another writer who pursued her own path is Janice MacLeod. In her book, Paris Letters, she begins her journey by wondering what it would cost to live in Europe for a year. Once she got to Europe, her journey took on a life of its own. In many ways, traveling to Europe is a well-worn path. But her journey isn’t typical, but that might be from her telling of it. Turning it into art, whether it be a business, a blog, or a book, makes it all more extraordinary. I mean, doesn’t it?
Lots of people do it, though. Is that path well-worn, too?
I don’t need to be a pioneer. I don’t need to be extraordinary. What I need is to be true to myself. I need to explore the ways in which I want to grow. I need to examine what could use some transformation. Or, I need to just listen to my heart tell me where it wants to go, and how, much like Grandma Gatewood, or any other person embarking on a personal journey. Like Davidson, who regretted selling her story for most of her trip.
Does anyone consciously choose a pursuit because they know they’ll be talking about it publicly? Or in the hopes of getting a book deal? I mean, isn’t that how Gretchen Rubin started The Happiness Project? To have something to talk about at parties? Or, what about all the immersive journalists. There are currently two different memoirs about walking in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps.
When I was just starting my goal of hiking all the local metro parks in one year, I happened upon a book about the Buckeye Trail. I printed off the map of the trail and hung it on my wall. I asked the guys at the local outfitters if anyone thru-hikes it. It turns out that they do. The trail circles Ohio. It’s not as sexy as the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Appalachian, or that one in Portugal. But it’s here, in my home state. I had the desire to hike it, and then I let it go in favor of something bigger! more popular! Part of the trail is named after Steve Newman, the World Walker. Talk about a big adventure.
Why do I even want a big adventure? What would be wrong with wanting several smaller ones? For years, I’ve dreamed of owning land along the Ohio River. I want to create a nature preserve. I also want to have small dwellings in which friends can come stay. It’s not quite Karenville, but it’s something I keep returning to. It would mean forgoing some of my travel dreams. It would be a commitment unlike any I’ve ever made before.
And isn’t that what it usually comes down to? Committing to your own dream? It’s so easy to fall into someone else’s, whether it be your parents’, society’s at large, or your smaller social group. At least those models for success are already built. Then again, so are the models for a lot of adventures.
There are a lot of really good people on the internet, and they’re doing very cool things. It’s great to hear. It’s inspiring. It’s motivating. It’s also overwhelming. All those stories can turn into noise. Consume too many, and you can easily lose sight of your own.
I’m spending some time weeding out the noise. I’m listening closely to my curiosity, and reading within the areas to which it is calling me. From there, I hope my own true adventure will rise from chatter.
It will be purely my own, even if the path is worn. Whether or not I offer it up for public consumption will be determined at a later date.