Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Way to Look at Unfamiliarity: An Adventure

Photo: Butch Osborne
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

With summer now fully in flight, many of us are taking time off to travel, and in some cases, escape the heat. Just returned from a trip myself, I’m contemplating the virtues of both travel and adventure, and how following the unfamiliar path will often lead to a positive outcome.

Let me first define what I mean by travel, and how my perspective of it relates to adventure: My family didn’t vacation regularly when I was growing up. It just wasn’t part of our program. So over the years, my concept of travel has evolved into more of an exercise in exploration and adventure than a relax-on-the-beach, Corona-style vacation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I could literally spend half the year traveling. I thoroughly enjoy diving into a new cultural setting, sampling new food and drink, learning new customs and spending time with the locals of any given place. To that end, travel has always been a unique form of adventure for me, and it’s by traveling that I’ve learned to reach beyond my comfort zone and experience true adventure.

My curious and independent nature has led me to take an on-the-ground interest in life outside of the United States. My first such international foray came in 1995, at age nineteen, when a friend from high school, who was drafted to play semi-pro basketball in Puerto Rico, asked me to join him for the summer (after our freshman year in college), and I opted to go.

It was an unusual choice to make at the time, but I wanted the change in scenery. In retrospect, I'm glad I went, because the experience provided a chance for me to build inner fortitude.

Within a week, I found a job as a bartender in Ponce, a quaint city on the south side of the island. Let me tell you, there are not many better experiences than finding a job – and facing some healthy rejection before actually landing it – in a city outside of your own.

The experience I gained that summer was useful, providing lessons by which I still benefit today, not the least of which is a sense of satisfaction gained in facing and working through uncertainty.

I underwent a similar experience in 1999, after graduating from college. Upon the recommendation of a friend who knew I had an interest in sharpening my skills around the Spanish language, I left for Santiago, Chile, again not yet employed. I knew one person who was willing to show me the ropes, and that was all I needed.

Within two weeks, I had a position with a then-fledgling company, which served as my employer for the next eighteen months. This was another instance where, by making an unconventional decision, the outcome was unforeseen, yet desirable.

In neither case did I make a ton of money, but both experiences came during periods of life when my financial obligations were few. The time I spent stretching beyond my comfort zone would be difficult to measure monetarily, but worth every minute in terms of personal growth and development. Each contributed to who I am today. With a small amount of perseverance and a little risk, I became comfortable with operating in an unfamiliar environment.

By using these previous experiences as well as taking examples from others who have been influential in my life, I constantly remind myself to equally consider the uncertain over the comfortable when making choices. I view the unfamiliar situation as an opportunity to grow, and it is when such unfamiliarity is introduced that life becomes interesting and adventurous.

Adventure doesn’t always mean jumping from an airplane or climbing a 14,000-foot mountain. Whether journeying abroad or simply staying home, we can find adventure in everyday life. We’re all routinely faced with decisions that have no certain answer. Life is not smooth sailing. It's how we respond that matters.

I like to subscribe to a description of adventure provided by self-proclaimed adventurer Lane Wallace.

Adventure, in short, is what happens anytime I step out of routine and comfort into a place where my footing is a little uncertain, the outcome is a little unpredictable, but the possibilities are suddenly wide open.

There’s nothing wrong with taking the well-worn path, there’s a time and place for that, but I’ve realized that pursuing the unfamiliar route has its rewards. Trust your instincts, and the situation will almost always work to your favor.

Consider the unconventional choice when making your next decision. It’s not always the easiest route, but often the most fulfilling.

Safe travels, and enjoy the adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment