Getting lost is no easy task around here. We live on an island small enough to walk around in a day. A few weeks ago though, we managed it. We got lost, at least for a little while.
Sasha (my one year-old son) and I set off on a blackberry hunt. We wandered through the lanes, grazing our way along the hedgerows. We entered a field and then made our way down a track; tantalised by the abundant fat fruit.
Sasha chattered in his backpack with a purple face, cheering at the site of each new treat being passed back to him. He loves being outside, but above all, he loves eating.
I had a vague route planned out in my head, but this soon unravelled, and before long I didn’t know how to get home.
‘At least we’ve got the berries to keep us going,’ I said to Sasha, willing myself to believe the situation was far more serious than it was, and that we were fearless explorers, surviving the wilderness against all odds.
We found ourselves in a field from which there was no way out, but down a steep drop into another field, covered in bracken and undergrowth. Turning back wasn’t really an option because of the obstacles we had already battled through. Negotiating barbed wire fences, clawing through brambles and scaling gates bearing signs promising prosecution, had not been easy with a baby on my back back.
We launched ourselves over the edge. We made it. We were breaking the rules, and it felt great. Soon after we ventured into a woodland, down a steep, steep hill, across a stream and finally to a familiar road.
There is something about being lost that is so exhilarating. I often find myself longing to be abandoned in the wilderness with one or two friends, being forced to trap rabbits and fish and eat wild plants. Some of the best dates I’ve had with Irina have been ones where we’ve cooked on a fire and slept under the stars on a beach, in a field or on a mountaintop.
One good memory from my childhood, is of a bike ride my dad took us on when camping in France. We became completely lost, and spent a whole day roaming remote mountain tracks with nothing to eat or drink but an apple to share between 5 of us (a Granny Smith never tasted so sweet). Heavy rain had turned the paths into deep trenches, and for the majority of the way we were forced to drag our bikes along rather than cycle them.
‘Just over that peak and we’ll be back,’ Dad would would say. This was always followed soon after by yet another mountain looming into view that stood between us and our BBQ and beds.
I don’t don’t think I enjoyed parts of this journey at the time, yet it is cemented in my mind as a positive memory; we overcame hunger and tough terrain to enjoy a hot dinner and a good sleep at the end of it – the sense of achievement made the pain worth it.
Another of my favourite memories is of a voyage two friends and I made. We set off down a river in attempt to reach the sea in a child’s dinghy, with nothing to sustain us but a bottle of rum and some squashed jam sandwiches. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that the river was little more than a stream for most of its meandering journey through the Norfolk Countryside, and it rarely had the capacity to float our vessel.
As a result we spent the day battling through marshy undergrowth, hiding from farmers, sinking waist deep in duck poo, and baring scathing interjection from landowners.
But it was all worth it for that glorious moment, when tired, tattered and dirty, we found the sea, and next to it, a pub. Once full of fish and chips we collapsed on the pebbles and slept well beside a popping fire.
The toil of a difficult journey is certainly eased when shared with good friends.
What makes an adventure?
A key element that makes adventures fun, is the fact that they have an end. The sense of achievement we feel that we managed to survive, that we had what it took to see it to the end, is what makes good memories. There are probably not many people who would enjoy spending the rest of their life fighting for survival in a remote jungle. The best part of getting lost, is when you find your way home.
The great adventure
I believe that for all of us, life is supposed to be an epic adventure – one full of fun and discovery. My wife likes to say that ‘we were born for a life full of risk and full of play’. We made this a foundation of our relationship, and now aim to build our family on it. It guides our decisions, as we choose to embrace risk and savour the unknown.
But sometimes life doesn’t seem like a good adventure. It can become a frightening, unenjoyable journey. All of us can feel overwhelmed by challenges and difficulties, or confused about what to do in certain situations, perhaps with no one to turn to for help. Sometimes life can simply be boring.
I think that one of the main reasons life becomes this way, is when we no longer expect good things to happen.
How to Illuminate the darkness
To live an adventure, for the sense of fun and delight in the journey to remain, we need hope. Expecting good things is like turning on a torch that illuminates the path before us, no matter how dark or difficult it becomes. It enables us to stand up and continue our journey, and remember that we’re headed somewhere great.
How to get hope
Despite what many think, hope isn’t based on circumstances. It isn’t a personality trait, like being optimistic. It is an underlying certainty that what lies around the corner, is good – even when there’s nothing promising on the horizon.
This may sound like wishful thinking or foolishness. How can I expect something great in my life if there is no rational reason for it to happen?
Expecting positive things to happen terrifies most of us to the core, because it sets us up to fail. I’ll only be disappointed, We think. The truth is though, is that little good can happen in our lives without the presence of hope. It creates an enabling environment inside of us, where new things can grow. Instead of being crushed by our circumstances and remaining stagnant, it enables us to push on, and overcome, like in every good adventure.
‘But I’ve had a hard life, nothing good ever happens to me’, some people say. If that’s you, learning to believe that good things are on the way is even more necessary. To move on and start enjoying the journey, hope is essential – no matter how terrifying it may be. Otherwise the cycle of lack and struggle is likely only to continue.
If you want life to be an adventure rather than drudgery, dare to believe good things are on their way for you. By nurturing that kind of belief, you will find yourself going about life in a very different way. You will keep fighting and taking risks, pushing through adversity, getting stronger, becoming wiser, and most of all, each day you will become younger and more filled with life.
If you found this helpful, I’d love it if you could share it with your friends! I’d love to hear your comments.