We all know that adventure doesn’t need to be exotic or expensive. We know this because we've all, in one way or another, found joy in simple acts like walking our dog or skipping stones. Often the best adventures are humble and free.
Yet it’s easy to be tempted by the myth that the quality of an adventure rises in direct proportion to dollars spent and air miles traveled.
When we give in to this myth, we long for the far away: The white sand of Fiji. The hot springs of Reykjavik. The cobbled alleyways in Sienna. The grass-is-greener syndrome takes hold and it’s hard to shake. The siren of longing whispers to us.
Travel, especially far-reaching travel, can be profoundly good for us. The tug of longing that comes when we think of travel is sometimes just what we need to push away from the desk and lift the needle out of a worn groove.
"The tug of longing that comes when we think of travel is sometimes just what we need to push away from the desk and lift the needle out of a worn groove"
But longing can also encourage unskillful tendencies. It distract us from possibilities in the present. It blinds us to the extraordinary in the ordinary. It causes us to postpone our happiness by chasing the imaginary instead of engaging in the here and now.
Recognizing longing and how it affects us is one of the subtle and necessary skills of adventure.
What is the source of the longing?
Is it the natural and adventure-driven impulse to seek the new, to challenge and thereby better ourselves? If so then we need to follow the impulse. We need to heed the tug, the call of adventure.
Or does it arise from a misdirected belief that we are incomplete, that happiness can somehow only be found outside us? When we are drawn by this false siren, we reach out to the world of experience, grasping, but the act is like chasing butterflies without a net. We are doomed to return home empty handed.
Hemingway's exotic adventures are legendary. There are hundreds of iconic photos of him hunting, fishing, and watching bullfights in far-flung, exotic places. But Hemingway’s favorite photo of himself might surprise you.
Taken on a slushy backroad in Idaho, he is caught mid-kick, punting an empty beer can into a steely sky.
That’s it. A can of beer. An Idaho backroad. An unremarkable winter afternoon. Yet the simple moment was one of his fondest memories. There’s a lesson in that.