I love adventure. The idea of hanging on a rope between heaven and earth, holding onto nothing but steep, slick rocks delights me. I like to go far into the wilderness, sleep in a tent, discover new paths, light a campfire, and shiver as I bravely slide into a freezing lake. The lake especially is a challenge, because I don’t like to be cold, but the exhilaration I feel swimming surpasses most of my life’s greatest joys.
At the same time, I am a home body. I dislike leaving my routine. I’m not flexible in uncomfortable situations, and I like to have my own way. I get upset if I don’t have space to write, and I‘m attached to my quiet morning time eating and reading. I easily get overwhelmed and anxious in unfamiliar places, and if I don’t eat on time or enough I can get moody, headachy and unpleasant.
Paradoxical me, living with a dual temperament in one body, with one part that craves excitement and danger, and another that requires safety and routine. An odd combination, seemingly impossible to bridge. And yet, somehow, I have been straddling these lines for forty years, exploring the world’s wild places but also making myself a home where, despite the abundance of wildlife and trails all around, I rarely set foot outside.
Adventure is where I challenge who I believe I am. Sometimes I discover that I am capable of so much more than I thought, and other times I smash into a wall of limitations and weaknesses. When I climbed Mount Shasta five years ago, I leaped over the barriers of cold wind and darkness and found within myself the strength to keep moving and the knowledge that I can reach the summit. When I first arrived at Paradise to climb Mount Rainier, only a few months later that year, I grew overwhelmed by fears and found myself declaring defeat and retreating home without even trying.
In Kauai a few months ago, my creativity blossomed. Nothing, not heavy rain or Dar’s disability at the time could mar my enjoyment of the island. I wrote. I ran. I swam. I had endless patience to walk with Dar as he hobbled along on his crutches. But on Roatan, a Honduran island with every promise of heaven, I felt trapped, stressed and unable to handle any of the discomforts of the trip. Nothing, not our beautiful rented house, the promise of kayaking, or the glorious jungle could relieve the tension headache from hell that I had.
Perhaps it is time for me to stop defining success in adventure by whether I followed through with my plans and start appreciating that I left on adventure in the first place. I travel into the world, secure in the knowledge that I can always return home, my safe base from which I can challenge myself farther and to which I can return to lick any bruises to my courage. Like a baby who peeks out of her mother’s skirts, testing the waters. That’s how I am.