The Benefits of Adventure

Some people might think I'm brave. Others undoubtedly believe I'm totally off my rocker. Me? I prefer the term 'adventurous'. Honestly, though, if I'm compared to some of my friends, I lead a totally mundane, risk-free existence. Then again, compared to others of my acquaintance, I'm definitely living on the edge...with one foot dangling over.

I'm not brave, and I'm not a show-off (okay, well, not much of a show-off). I'm merely curious and fun loving. I'm also a story-teller. I'll admit that I've often been pushed into doing something adventurous by the little voice in the back of my mind that whispers 'you know, this will make a great story...' Attempting things for the sake of the story is really a win-win effort: If I succeed, it will be a good story. If I fail, it will be an even better story.

Sometimes, my quest for adventure can get a bit unmanageable. After all, landing on my head while attempting a back hand-spring off a horse is an accident the first time. The second time, it's bravery. The third time, it's just sheer insanity.

The one thing I never figured on was this: The adventures I've already had are the ruler with which to measure and the springboard to launch me into new escapades. Let me give you some examples.

When I was 15, I started working at Camp David. It was a totally new thing for me - my first big adventure. It was a great place to have my first experience of working and living away from home for an extended period of time. I got stretched far out of my comfort zone, and did some things I wouldn't have done on my own. A few years later, when I first started thinking about going to Africa, I used camp as a measure to decide if I could make it. My mental process went something like this: 'At camp, I've worked hard in the heat, lived in community, functioned efficiently with a constantly shifting schedule, used sawdust toilets and ice-cold outdoor showers...yeah, I think I can do a mission trip to Africa.'

Of course, Africa was much more challenging than camp (as I'd known it would be). But all my experiences in Moz. are now serving to hearten me for new, less grand and exciting, (but, to me, more intimidating, experiences). My thoughts these days run in this vein: 'If I can preach to a prison full of men in Moz., I can get up on this stage and play my violin.' (Yes, the playing is more scary than the preaching). Or, 'if I can fight demons, I can drive this car.' (In this case, the level of sheer freakiness is about the same).

All these experiences of mine have also given me a pretty firm grasp of my limitations. I've discovered that, if pushed, I can usually do more than I think I can. I've discovered that I can even do things I dislike - such as be a group leader, confront those who are in the wrong, and bring order out of chaos with a group of small children - and do them well. I know how long I can function on less than 8 hours of sleep per night (about four weeks). I know that I can walk approximately two miles with a fever. I know that I can get clean with less than a gallon of water. I know that I can stave off an imminent emotional breakdown for hours...days.

Then there are many things I've tried to do and failed. I know that I can not do a back handspring from a horse. I know that I can not throw a frisbee in a straight line. I know that I can not pull myself into a canoe from deep water. Know what? Let's just say I'm not very athletic and have done with it. Of course, there was also that one episode involving a nail, the seat of my pants, and the back of a truck...with guys. But that's a story for another time.

I'm sure you think it's high time I wrapped up this ramble and went to annoy someone else. So I'll just say this: adventures are good, and (usually) fun, and you should go have some. I've made some mistakes, looked like a fool many times, and had painful mishaps, but the laughter, lessons, and good memories far outweigh the negative experiences. I think it's safe to say that I've never regretted any time that I got out of my comfort zone and did something adventurous.