Tag Archives: Bucket List

Too Much Adventure Can be Deadly

Milepost 3-18-14   Fillmore, California

“I can’t move my legs,” my friend whispered in the pitch black darkness as he slipped into unconsciousness.  We were teetering on the face of a steep mountain in the Sierra Madres of Mexico where Marc had just tumbled head over heels 90 feet down a rough slope, his balance thrown off by the overloaded backpack.  It didn’t help that there were only three flashlights for 15 hikers; because of delays, we had been caught on the mountain after dark, something that our guide hadn’t prepared us for.  Our efforts for the next hour proved to make the difference between life and death;  not to worry, Marc lived.   And he recovered quickly over the next few days, having no broken bones and no lasting injuries.

Hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.
Hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Mexico.

That was a bit more adventure than I had counted on when I organized this trek for a group of young summer missionaries.  Marc’s fall caused him no small amount of trauma and an equal amount of stress for me and the rest of the trekkers.

And that’s the risk one takes when he signs on for an adventure.

Most Americans never have such a scary experience, because most do not sign on for much adventure at all.  For many, their most risky experience is the morning commute to the job in the city.  Mind you, it can be stressful too, but is hardly ever an adventure.

The American dream is a comfortable one and not very adventurous.  Most of us spend our summer weekends on the backyard patio with a steak on the grill and a cold drink in hand.  We don’t paddle any whitewater or jump off any cliffs.   And that’s how we like it.   No adventure, no risk, and no worries.  Mind you, for some, that is the best thing.

Here I'm rappelling into the 30-foot pit entrance of Coon's Cave.
Here I’m rappelling into the 30-foot pit entrance of Coon’s Cave.

But there are others who become restless if they haven’t had the crap scared out of them a time or two within the last six months.  They get cabin fever when the winter is too long, and they start dreaming of tents, sleeping bags and the latest climbing gear.

Dad took us to the narrows at Zion Canyon Nat'l Park when we were kids.
Dad took us to the narrows at Zion Canyon Nat’l Park in Utah when we were kids.

I’m not sure if it is personality that makes the difference, or if family history is a more profound ingredient in the adventure quotient.  My dad was a camper and loved to take the family on an adventure every summer.  Some of his kids are the same way, but not all  of us.

On the other hand, my three kids are all adventurers and world travelers.  I give partial credit to an extended adventure that I took the family on in the middle of my small-town teaching career.  Taking a one-year leave-of-absence, we moved to an underdeveloped country in the Caribbean where Kaye and I taught in an international school.  We lived in an indigenous neighborhood where we were isolated from other Americans.  This experience changed our family forever.  The adventure factor has run strong in all of us ever since.

Our girls posed with the neighbors in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Our girls posed with the neighbors in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Kaye visits with neighbors in Santiago.
Kaye visits with neighbors in Santiago.

Are you a restless adventurer?  Do you get frustrated when you spend more time punching a time clock than kicking through the gears on a motorcycle?  Do you live for the weekends?   Have you applied the risk-reward ratio to your financial portfolio but never to the balance of comfort and adventure in your life?

Maybe it’s time for a change –  If you feel that you need more excitement in your life.  If you are young, you might want to take this into consideration when you are choosing your career.  At 17 years old, I chose teaching partly because of the long summer vacations.  I knew myself well enough to know that I would not be happy with only the two weeks off every year that my friends who went to the auto assembly plant would get.  They made a lot more money – I had a lot more fun.

Our three girls explored the ghost town of Red Mountain, Colorado.
Our three girls explored the ghost town of Red Mountain, Colorado.

And it was a wise decision, because I eventually became the adventure trips planner for our local church youth group and found myself in all kinds of exciting locations over the next 35 years.

Kids climbed and jumped off the shipwreck at South Manitou Island, Michigan.
Kids climbed and jumped off the shipwreck at South Manitou Island, Michigan.

 I had teams of 13-year-olds squeezing through wild caves in southern Indiana, groups of boys lost at night on the sand dunes by Lake Michigan (just because their group leader was an Eagle scout didn’t mean he had earned the badge for orienteering).

Hikers at the Pictured Rocks, Michigan.
Hikers at the Pictured Rocks, Michigan.

 I have been skinny-dipping with friends in the middle of the nighttime bioluminescence of the Indian Ocean – green sparks exploding in the water with every movement.  I’ve crashed a motorcycle on the most winding two-lane road in Michigan (my only broken bone ever), and rafted the whitewater of the Ocoee River in the mountains of Tennessee – the same river used for the kayak races in the 1996 summer olympics.

And now I’m living on the road in an RV with my life-long companion as we explore the backroads of America.  And Kaye and I are gearing up for the ultimate road trip this summer, the Alaska Highway, with a pickup and a fifth-wheel.

Life on the open road takes us... just about wherever we want!
Life on the open road takes us…  well,  just about anywhere we want!

When our appetite for risk and adventure is satisfied, we pull into an RV park or a friend’s backyard, and we stay a while.  We fuel up our comfort-and-safety quotient for a while until we start to get restless again and long for the open road.  A couple of months is just about the perfect duration for us to stay in one place.

Bob's ven burst bckgrnd _0001
Too much comfort may result in boredom – and too much risk may bring on stress.  You need to know yourself and discover what level of adventure you require to keep a satisfying balance.

The adventure appetite runs pretty strong with us right now.  Age and failing health will park us someday, but for now we plan to git while the gittin’s good.

How about you?  Do you have your summer planned full of adventures yet?  What about the rest of your life?  Are you assigning enough risk to satisfy your adventure quotient?

Don’t get me wrong, adventure is not for everybody.  It depends on your appetite for risk.  If you don’t have it, you are fine to enjoy the security of a comfortable and stress-free life in America.

But, if you are increasingly restless and keep gazing out the window of your office or your kitchen, it’s possible that the adrenaline runs stronger in your veins than you thought.  And maybe you should do something about it.  Increase the risk factor.  Dive into the next adventure.Tony dives in

Okay, so maybe too much adventure can be deadly, but a more common tragedy is the slow death of dreams and bucket lists while we safely watch the grass grow in our comfortable back yards, the regretful long-term product of too much comfort and security.

For your own well-being, maybe you should get some adrenaline going on this summer.  Have fun.  And be safe.

A Race Against Time

Milepost 12-10-13   The newer RV arrived yesterday, and Kaye and I are on a mission to have it ready by our departure day, December 28th, when we hope to head for California for the winter and spring.  Today we emptied the cupboards and drawers of the old RV and carried everything across the yard (through the snow) to the new rig for sorting and re-assigning places – for the stuff we want to take with us for the next phase of life.  It feels like we are in a race against time.

It’s a small slice of the larger race against time:  Life.  And it is informed by bucket lists and lifelong dreams and a watchful eye on the clock of human life expectancy and physical well being.  Can we get everything done before we are too decrepit to climb the proverbial mountain (because it’s there)?  Or will we die trying?  Or will we die NOT trying?

I climbed to the top of a mountain with family members on the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.
I summited a mountain with family members hiking the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.

It’s been 10 years since Kaye was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, and we have been keenly aware of our mortality since that day, two days before Christmas, 2003.  There’s nothing like cancer to remind a person of the shortness of human life and to cause one to formulate  some quick plans about how to spend what’s left of it.

We decided to travel more, to see more of the world, but our financial situation wouldn’t accommodate us.  All of our capital was in real estate, and none of it was liquid.  We had to make radical changes.  For us, it meant downsizing, and we are still in the process.

Finally, later this month, it looks like we will get to hit the road and wander around the country for a few years…  perhaps until we can’t climb the steps of the RV anymore – let alone the proverbial mountain.

To my younger friends who haven’t yet given a thought to the future and how to make the most of it,  I have some words of wisdom:

  • Enjoy the moment.   Stop and smell the roses.  Don’t wait until retirement to have adventure or to take risks (and don’t seek adventure if you don’t like to take risks; they go hand in hand).
  • Upsize when you need to.   You need a bigger house and vehicle  during the family years.    And a bigger garage — for the Harley.
  • Downsize when you need to.   For us it was after the kids had moved out and we realized our house and 30-acres were too big for two people.
  • Prioritize from the outset.  If money is important to you, get an education.   With a college degree, on the average, you’ll make 30% more over the span of your career (if you can get a job in your field).   At 17 years old, a major factor in my decision to become a teacher was having summers off.  No way would a 2-week vacation every year satisfy my need for extended adventure trips.
  • Love people more than stuff.   Your friends and family will determine your quality of life more than the job you have or the stuff you own.  Respect them even when they don’t seem all that respectable,  hold them tight for the most part,  but give them space when they need it.
  • Go climb a mountain.  Start on your bucket list while you are still young.  Believe me, it’s a big world, and there is too much to see in one lifetime, so you better get started now.
My kids set the pace.

My daughter, Wendi, has visited all 50 states and has backpacked with her husband from Mexico south through South America to Argentina.  She and Scott own an adventure tour business in Alaska where they spend their summers.*  My middle daughter, Angie, has lived on four continents and resided with her husband in India for two years.  She planned their 10th anniversary trip to Florence, Venice and Rome without the help of the tour companies.   My oldest daughter, Stacy, has visited 46 states and will get the other four in 2014 before her 40th birthday.  She could write the book on lone wolf adventures for women (and she might do it), as her husband often works weekends.

Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

They’ve been great adventuring role models for me!  Maybe this post isn’t really about the race against time that is life, but more about the race to keep up with my daughters on their adventures!

Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping on South Manitou Island as young adults.
Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping together on South Manitou Island as young adults.

Anyway,  Kaye and I are taking off to assume the gypsy life for a while – and the risks and adventures that go along with it.  Maybe we will meet other vagabonds along the way.  Perhaps we will bump into YOU somewhere between the oceans in the next couple of years.  I hope you will give us directions if we seem to be lost.

Just remember, “Not all those who wander are lost.”   –J.R.R. Tolkien

 What adventures are on your bucket list?  In what phase of life will you make them happen?   Click  “Leave a Comment” at the top to tell me about it.  Also, if you’re interested in life on the road, please “Follow” (in the left sidebar) to see where we end up next time.

* Also see the BBC story from Lonely Planet writer Roff Smith mentioning Wendi and her work at the famous Black Bear Coffee House at Denali.