“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.”
– Norman Cousins
"Now the World is calling... and I must go to wander and explore. Mom is of course worried. So is Dad. They have reason; more experienced people than us have died in the wilderness. But it's something I must do, and risks are a part of life. What is man making himself by removing risks and dangers? It's not that I haven't assessed the risks, either, or that I don't care about them. With proper planning and preparation they aren't that great. But also, within reason, I would rather live fast than die slow."
Another year went by, and it happened again. I needed to see the rest of the Continental U.S. I needed to ride my bike across the country. Having had enough solo-riding from my Alaskan trip, I decided to go with a group of young people... yet this time, my parents were doubly worried. A fellow student and friend had been killed the year before riding across the country. Another extraordinary girl was killed the week before my trip began. Why do something so risky?
In my mind there were two reasons.
The first was that a friend of mine had also been killed one night walking down Thayer Street, the main street in campus. There are risks in everything we do in this world, from walking down the street, to driving in a car, to riding your bike across the country. I wasn't going to stop walking down main street on campus because of Avi's death, and I wasn't going to give up a calling because of Paige's.
The second reason was written in my journal as follows:
"I want everyone to know that I am well aware that I could die doing this. I want them to also know that I would be dead inside if I didn't."
People have told me I would make a great alpine climber. I have no interest in it - I find the dangers to far outweigh the risks and I don't have the calling... But I sure as Hell understand why Conrad did it, and I don't judge Alexander Supertramp as just a stupid kid. I feel the power of that call, and by weighing the power of the call and the risks involved, I cautiously follow it to make me a better person.
The fact of the matter is that adventure, whether extreme or casual, serves to further ourselves on our journey to our highest selves. The wonders experienced, people met, and change of pace from everyday life serves to renew our energies for all other aspects of life, and for this reason intermittent adventures should be had quite regularly, whether they are microadventures or last many months.
Furthermore, when things don't go as expected is when our true character shows through and adventure shines at pushing us past our current capacities. Adventures, like athletics, are practice for the stresses of everyday life. If you can weather a cold thunderstorm and whitecaps from the cockpit of a kayak, surely you can calmly handle a boss yelling at you. If you can get over your fear of heights and trusting others (your partner) to climb a spire, surely you can get over your fear of taking the leap and starting your own business.
The stresses involved in adventures also serve to remind our genome of our evolutionary history, comforting it in a world so distant from our genetic upbringing.
So the next time you have a risky idea for adventure that seems to make you come alive, weigh the risks and benefits. Think about it. Ask if you are giving in to a 'deferred life plan'; if in 20 years, you will regret not doing it. And then, go ahead and dare to live.