It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper adventure. It’s been a while since a bad decision made at 3AM irrevocably changed the course of an evening, leaving only a sore head and a good story the next morning. It’s been too long since I got in a car with no particular purpose in mind or ended up in a vehicle with unknown people headed for unknown destinations. It’s been a few years since a new legend was created in my personal oral history, which leaves its listeners dumbfounded; not knowing whether to laugh or be appalled by the ridiculous tale. Not all of my adventures were good. Most of them, in fact, were horrible, but the best stories are those that contain peril and lunacy woven together.
Perhaps I’m getting too old for such shenanigans. Perhaps my days of adventuring are behind me. I’d prefer not to believe that’s true. After all, Christopher Columbus was older than I am when he sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and a 76-year old man climbed Mount Everest a couple of years ago. Surely, age isn’t a factor in adventure. If it is, I might as well pack it in right now since a life without the occasional adventure isn’t really a life at all. No, I think it’s more a matter of will. You have to want an adventure, or at the very least, put yourself in a situation where it might find you. Sometimes, it finds you whether you want it or not, but most of the time, you have to look for it. Most adventure stories don’t start with “I was lying in bed…”
Even though, generally, one must seek adventure out, it cannot be too planned either, otherwise adventure will remain elusive. Adventure and itineraries don’t really get along. You can’t plan an adventure or it’s not really an adventure; it’s just an experience. Experiences are a dime a dozen. We all have countless experiences on a daily basis, but adventure is something else entirely. It’s a whole bunch of experiences tied together with a string of surreality. Adventure is fraught with potential danger, the unknown and the unpredictable.
You can put yourself in adventure’s way and hope that it comes along, but it’s finicky. Adventure is shy and it won’t come out if you seek it too directly. Sometimes, if you plan to have an adventure, you won’t have one. You could spend six whole months backpacking through Europe and hardly run across anything out of the ordinary at all. A trip like that would most likely breed plenty of experience with some interesting tales of some people who aren’t exactly just like you, but real adventure is unexpected. Real adventures are usually only categorized as such in hindsight. They involve circumstances, people and experiences that you never could have imagined when you stepped out your front door that morning.
I was talking to a friend about adventures last night. This friend and I have shared an adventure together. It’s one of the greatest adventure tales we have. I’ve already written about it in this blog as The Montebello Incident. Rarely do I meet either of the friends involved in that tale when floating hot dogs are not briefly mentioned with a flicker in the eye and a sense of conspiracy. Adventure brings people together. You will always have a bond with someone after an adventure, even if you share little else in common.
Last night, this friend of mine and I decided that we are both in need of adventuring. We thought that maybe a trip to Mexico City was in order. To up the ante, this trip would be undertaken in an unreliable vehicle without a map. Now, that would surely be a situation in which adventure could be found. It could put The Montebello Incident to shame. Amazing stories could be had from a trip like that. Those circumstances just ooze adventure out of every syllable. It might be the adventure of a lifetime, but it’s possible that we wouldn’t make it back. There’s not much point in adventuring if you don’t return to tell the tale. So, I got to thinking about other adventures that might be had with a little less danger and a little less expense, that wouldn’t necessarily require a passport or knowledge of another language.
In the spirit of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, where Toshirō Mifune throws a stick into the air at a crossroad and goes the direction in which it lands, I thought about getting a map of Southern California and a pencil. We could unfurl the map to its full breadth and then drop the pencil. Whichever way the pencil pointed, that’s the direction in which adventure might possibly lie. Even if there was no adventure to be found, I’m sure there would be some experience to be had in those little bits of map. We might not find adventure there, but it couldn’t hurt to try it anyway. Even experience is better than nothing.