Our sense of adventure is a muscle we must continually exercise. As my middle school health class teacher explained muscular atrophy, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” In the spring of 2022–two full trips around the sun since a global pandemic turned the whole world upside down–I am discovering just how much I have neglected my adventure muscles.
Out of Shape
I have spent the better part of two years inside a well-measured and cautious bubble. I don’t regret that, because it kept me and my loved ones safe and it was absolutely the right thing to do. I carefully weighed every option, and took selective highly calculated risks. Learning just how much was out of my control, I clung to what little remained within it. I curated a safe space for myself and my family and settled in for the long haul. I knew the few places and circumstances in which I felt safe, and willingly leaned into that bubble. And I discovered a lot of beauty and peace there.
However, there were tradeoffs to be had, not the least of which is that my sense of adventure is out of shape. I have forgotten how to feel comfortable venturing too far outside of my comfort zone.
Two weeks ago my husband and I joined some dear friends on a Caribbean cruise. Leading up to it, I was a nervous wreck. I hadn’t set foot on a plane in nearly three years. The last time I was on a cruise ship was five years ago–a week and a half after learning I was pregnant. This time I had to leave that precious four-year-old baby behind (in the capable care of her grandmothers), and my anxiety was through the roof.
I worried about the flight, the week at sea, whether the COVID precautions in place were sufficient, being away from my girl, whether I had adequately prepared for everything she would need in our absence, and… what if everything went horribly wrong and it turned into a permanent absence?! My brain ran itself in circles with the scariest possibilities, never once considering how good it might feel to take a (clearly much-needed) break. I nearly talked myself out of this vacation I desperately needed because I had forgotten how to be adventurous. Had it not already been paid for I might have even bailed–something I never do.
Then a funny thing happened. The closer we got to departure day, the less I worried. I simply did what had to be done, and found my bravery in each moment as needed. I discovered the formula for my anxiousness: The Unknown x Lead Time = Anxiety Level The longer I had to think about everything that could go wrong, the more I did so, and with vivid imagination. The closer I got to the main event, the more I stepped into the moment feeling prepared and capable.
We fear less what is familiar to us. For instance, if I were someone who regularly flew for work, I would think nothing of this flight. It only felt scary because it was something so out of the ordinary for me. On the flip side, I drive my car every day. I do so with great ease and comfort. Meanwhile, there are people who live in major cities where they are exclusively dependent upon public transportation, and would freak out if they had to drive a car. The concept of adventure itself is relative to familiarity.
If I had been in the habit of taking vacations–like I was pre-pandemic–I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying about this one. In fact, by the time we returned from our trip, I was ready to plan our next cruise.
Our daughter had an amazing time with her grandmothers, completing every craft project available within a ten-mile radius. My husband and I got some much-needed quality time with each other, and deepened connections with our beautiful friends. We saw stunning blue waters, ate delicious food, and experienced new cities. But most importantly, we flexed our adventure muscles. Now to keep them in shape for the next adventure that comes our way!
What are you doing to flex your adventure muscles?