Candice, Franny, and I recently went to Florida to visit my snow-birding parents. They tow a trailer down with a giant conversion van, which Dad and I affectionately refer to as "The Red Ram of Death," and stay in a park a mile from the beach in Melbourne. As all of us Michiganders know, they avoided one hell of a pummeling winter this year. The moment we walked out of the Sanford-Orlando airport the humidity healed our dry-cracked hands and coiled Franny's curls into a majestic pasty-white-girl afro. My folks graciously stayed with friends and gave us their trailer so we wouldn't have to get a hotel. In this humble abode we both got caught up in day-dreaming about living in smaller scale and having a more fluid arrangement that would allow us to move as the winds of inspiration whisper suggestions to us. Like we do when we play out the "what would you do if you won the lotto?" scenario we started thinking about how we could live without the sandbags of adulthood responsibility feeling so crushingly heavy and how we can live...with more adventure!
I've always reveled in little adventures: tornado warnings, power-outages, snow storms, heat waves, you know...things outside our control that people generally like to complain about. To this day I'm totally bummed I lived in St. Louis during the Great North-Eastern Black Out of 2003. My buddy tells me he never felt closer to his neighbors than in that little 3 day stretch when everyone was outside grilling food together and living in the sun. This probably explains why I moved around so much too.
In 2006 Candice's mom and her boyfriend sold their house, bought an RV, and drove out to the sunny West to live off the land a bit and sell their hand-made jewelry and other home-made goods at any market that would have them. After time in Arizona, they settled in several spots in California, and eventually ended up as Camp Hosts at Lime Kiln State Park within Big Sur on the Coast of central Cali where we were able to visit them. The park was closed to the public at the time because of forest fires nearby so they had the grounds mostly to themselves. We got to stay with them in their camper while they tended to things and shoo'd away people trying to enter the closed park. I'll never forget the views from the cliff overlooking the ocean-side or the romantic afternoon picnic Candy and I had on it. I'll never forget the sea-sickening, spaghetti-noodle-winding Highway-1 and its giant rock-stabilizing nets covering the mountainside, protecting us from being smashed. Or the cold nights when the space-heater wasn't enough to keep the windows in the camper from dripping their condensation on we stowaways in the loft. Or the GIANT cheddar cheese block we ate leftover from a conference on the grounds. They were living their dream, but it wasn't easy. More often than not, they were living day to day as well, the same way we are, just in smaller confines with fresher air and crashing waves nearby.
Last week as we mentally mapped out what we could change to find more adventure, a question dawned on me: Is adventure simply glorified adversity?
I live a pretty comfortable life now. The hunting aspect of my early 20s is long gone. Though I'm not sure I could put it into words succinctly, I've found who I am. I've found the person I want to live beside and grow old with. Together we've created the most adorable darling daughter the world has ever seen (wink, wink). We have a piece of clay we're molding into home. The two of us have secure avenues for work and a whole host of friends and family whom we love and love us. By most peoples' standards we're "living the dream." But there's a lingering feeling that we could be doing and experiencing more.
Surrounded by retirees down south I wondered what it must be like to spend 30+ years building a life filled with all the things mentioned above just to bid all of it adieu and coast into those golden years building a new sense of home. Why does our culture that tell us to keep our noses to the grind-stone so we can prepare for adventures in the future? Why not adventure here, why not now!?!? Cue various punk songs!
But instead of smashing the system or fighting the man I'm considering donating more to my 401K, like a big boy, for the future. In the meantime we'll keep dreaming about taking-this-show-on-the-road and making-a-go-of-it, and other nice phrases that imply adventure. I think we have the goods to do it, but do we have the courage? Time will tell.