How I began living adventurously.
I did not ask any big questions like ‘would I like to live more adventurously?’ until I was in my twenties. I was just getting on with life and working towards becoming ‘Mr Humphreys, the Science teacher’. I was modest in my ambitions, living a normal life with plenty of beer and football and jumping comfortably through life’s hoops towards what could be described as ‘a successful life’.I had gone to school because my parents took me. I took the exams my teachers made me do. I went to university because my friends were going. I anticipated getting a proper job because that was what everyone did. Conventional expectations and standards have a seductive pull. I cannot remember any specific incident that prompted me to look up from the well-worn path I was following everyone down. It is difficult when you are being swept along by your friends, your family and the conventional way of doing things. It is even harder to decide to change direction and push back against the crowd.But as I pictured the passing days building towards the drift of years, something nagged in my belly. Was this actually what I wanted from what Mary Oliver called our ‘one wild and precious life’? Did I really want to be a teacher? My immediate answer was ‘yes’.I enjoyed teaching. I was good at it. It was a worthwhile career. I liked the prospect of becoming a headteacher and having a significant impact on young people’s lives. The holidays were brilliant. The pay was enough.But dig a little deeper, and I grew uneasy. Did I really want to be a teacher? Was that truly how I wanted to spend my days? ‘How we spend our days,’ noted Annie Dillard, ‘is, of course, how we spend our lives.’‘Ah, yes,’ I continued my defence to myself. ‘If I was a millionaire, I would spend my days sunning myself in my Speedos. But everyone needs a job. You get a job, save up, settle down, retire and then relax. The Speedos come later. That’s the way real life works.’Does it have to be that way? ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,’ reflected John Lennon. Thank goodness he did not postpone his bold, creative ideas until later in life…So I decided to take a deep breath and change direction. By my standards, it was a brave decision. I slammed on the brakes, swerved off the congested conveyor belt I was on and looked down a different road.What I saw was a lonely and meandering path with no signposts or clear destination. It filled me with at least as much fear as excitement. I was tempted to stick with unhappy rather than risk uncertainty. But I consoled myself that if it all went wrong, I could always come back and get a job. That was the worst that would probably happen. I was fortunate in that it is far easier to take a brave leap with a safety net like this beneath you. The road I headed down in search of a more adventurous life was, quite literally, a road and an adventure. Your path might lead in a very different direction, even if what we are both searching for is the same: an engaging, curiosity-filled, adventurous life.I strapped a tent to the back of a bicycle and set off from my front door to have a look around. That adventure changed the way I looked at things. A liberating side effect of spending the next few years on the road was that I realised there is no such thing as the right way to live. Travel shows you many different versions of ‘normal’. One definition of normal life and priorities is very different from another. Pedal far enough from your front door and you eventually become an exotic curiosity yourself. There is no correct route through life. There is no ideal lifestyle. There is not even one perfect way of life for you. It is better than that: there is an enticing abundance of intriguing possibilities. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to pick an adventurous path that tickles your fancy then go and explore it.
OVER TO YOU:
– Theoretically, how could you change direction in your life to begin living more adventurously? Ignore all the barriers and realities of life. We will tackle them later.
-What would be the worst thing that might happen if you did this?
-What good things could happen if you did this?
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