Someone I know who runs outdoor retreats for young people stated how Adventure should be regarded as a universal human value, alongside peace, love, respect etc.
Having just returned from what ended up as an eight-hour slog over what turned out to be rather arduous outdoor coastal walk, I totally see where he is coming from …
The morning was bright as I set off alone with a spring in my step and in anticipation of the newness that lay ahead of me. In that sense the faith was already there that I had the resources to get successfully to journey’s end – albeit it does help in having a mobile phone and a blister band-aid plaster … just in case …
However, after two hours of joyous scenery and easy footing, things began to change - as they tend to do on adventures! Footpaths dwindled into nothingness and became replaced by thistle beds, and sizeable cliff drops below. At one point I climbed over the barbed wire fence and walked along the edge of the adjacent field in order to advance without nursing nettle stings.
After two months of healthy rainfall, the summer vegetation had thrived and grown overly long, such that they remained wet, despite the strong sun and coastal breeze. I became increasingly aware of my feet squelching inside my waterproof shoes which nevertheless had eyelets for the now soggy laces… 🙄 dah!
Despite the glorious sunshine, no fellow rambler ever came into view … message here? It began to get me thinking of the obvious parallels to life:
- We set off to follow our ideas, our dreams, filled with enthusiasm and energy
- At first, it all seems like a good idea, and then obstacles start to appear and it is no longer plain sailing
- We begin to waken up to possible pitfalls and that strategies have to be changed.
Okay, dig deeper, get smarter, get woke. Then as we adjust and toughen up, things also start to get tougher around us as if in response. And the destination isn’t even yet in sight on the horizon. But stuck alone in the middle of nowhere what are the options? ‘Beam me up now, Scottie!’ isn’t one of them.
And in fact, it is good when to just keep going is the only choice there is. There is peace in that. No more wriggle-squiggle resistance, just stay present and get on with it.
Climbing up to yet another promontory the journey’s end at last appears in view. But the distance yet to cover seems eternal; so many ups and downs / ins and outs still to negotiate. The mind wants to whimper. But the inner voice - the one that speaks my truth - steps in to say ‘No matter what it takes and how long it takes you are going to get on with it. Even learn to appreciate it for what it is. Then we’ll stop for lunch when we are closer and can better appreciate the view.’
There is a saying – in fact, it is a spiritual law - that we are never challenged in life beyond our capabilities. Stretched, yes – but it is never impossible. In hindsight, one sees how along the journey, life will always provide for what we need: including the barbed wire fencing on which to hook on the wrung out socks to dry a little during lunch break.
Curiously also, when we look back on where we have come - there is wonderment and even awe - did I cover all of that ground? On my own?
This day, the aim was to reach a pile of old stones, a castle ruin - but in fact, it was insignificant compared to the view of the road that had just been travelled and conquered.
And there is always a surprise twist towards the end of the tale – the unexpected ‘reward’, the wonderful gift that appears from nowhere. In this adventure, it was the unexpected pleasure and joy of walking the 5miles (8km) return along the quiet back road without the coastline even in sight.
Yes, the heightened appreciation of obstacle-free terrain, such that there was no sense of annoyance to step off the road to enable the rare passing car to safely and quietly go by. But oh … such exquisite and unexpected silence. No squalling seabird, no breeze even, absolutely nothing to promote any sense of separateness between oneself and the surroundings; just blending and being.
It became my ‘God time’. A chance to relax, reflect, converse in a way that along my earlier trek would have been impossible as it had necessitated hands-on concentration and a matter of just maintaining spiritual connection. To celebrate what I have learned about myself, and to use that to deepen faith – that inner knowing – to grow, to strengthen, and to then be able to help more as a support for others.
And this time it was glorious to view a seemingly endless road stretch out in front of me suggesting how long I have to enjoy this, like sinking into a warm bath for a nice long, uninterrupted soak. A road, that despite its neverending bends and stretches still yielded entertainment. Like grazing llamas ... Really? 🙃
Would I have appreciated the contrast so much if I had chosen to start rather than end my trek with this five-mile walk? I think not - the adventure has to come first to then take so much from the peace that then follows.
And it reminded me of the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge who shares in his book Silence in the Age of Noise his lifelong journey to unlock the power of silence. It has included a 53-day trek to the South Pole on his own and without a dog sled or radio contact, in order to understand silence more deeply. One of the hardest things of the entire expedition was afterwards where he had to force himself to enter into human conversation again …
Adventure is the quickest route to getting to know myself and what I am made of – which is always going to exceed what I think are my limits. In other words, adventure gives me glimpses of my inner strength, my resilience, my greatness. And the power of silence makes a big contribution towards this.
Adventure helps me to develop faith in myself. And the more faith there is in myself, I can then begin to develop faith in others, faith in a Higher Consiousness that protects me, and faith in life no matter what it throws at me.
Adventure means to live. I can see how extreme adventure may distill itself into a matter of survival, but is that not always to be favoured over stagnation of the soul? After all, is that not a living death on two legs?