"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Five steps to great adventure

I have a reputation for adventure.  People often ask me "how I do it," as though it's more complicated than picking a place and going there.  (It's really not, folks.)  They look at me with big eyes and say, "Wow, I could never do that!"

Yes.  You could.

In fact, I started this blog so my commitment to a life of adventure and wildness could be shared, and hopefully inspire others on their journeys.  I decided to break down my adventure "secrets" for you here in a five easy steps.


1. Stop making excuses and leave your house already.

Just do it.  No more "Oh my work/money/family/health/diet/weather/bills/car."  Unless you're hooked up to a life-support system in a hospital bed, take your able, strong, beautiful body out of the buildings where you spend every day of your life and see something new with the amazing eyes you have been blessed with before they are gone.  

Know how I started traveling?  I got into a car accident.  Yep.  I got rear-ended and my car was totaled, so I took the insurance money and did something I always wanted to do but had allowed to become buried under a skyscraper of "reasonable" excuses and stories about how travel is only for rich people - went backpacking through Europe for six weeks by myself.   I ate lots of sandwiches and stayed in cheap hostels and with strangers-turned-friends.  It was not that expensive.  It was life-changing.

It doesn't have to be Europe.  It can be the state right next to yours.  It can be the woods near your house that you've never entered.  It can be whatever the cheapest plane ticket is on kayak.com today.  Get rid of the small stories that are holding you back and JUST GO SOMEWHERE.  No more excuses.

Some new friends I met while in Amsterdam, on my first international
trip ever.  These Aussies are still friends of mine six years later.

2. Give yourself permission to do different things.

If I'm not careful, I can easily slip into the trap of getting somewhere new and immediately recreating the life I have back home.  I need a comfortable bed, a nearby coffee shop, and food I know I like.  For others, perhaps they need a tv, an iron, and people to talk to who think exactly like them.  Then why go?

When you are somewhere new, notice the inclination towards sameness as it arises, without judgement of yourself.  See if you can let one, little comfort go.  Stretch yourself towards something you've never tasted, felt, seen, or heard before.  If you like it, great!  If you don't, great - you have a good story, and you're just a little bit braver for it!

I actually didn't like ice climbing that much,
and I'm so glad I tried it!

3. Observe first, then plan.

Before you dig out the guidebooks and scour the internet for how to fill your days in this place, take some time to notice it.  Observe.  Drive (or even better, walk) around and take in the place.  How do you feel here?  What do people do here?  What is the pace?  Observe your surroundings, and then observe your body in those surroundings.  What does your body want to do here?  Rest in a meadow?  Go to a baseball game?  Hike a trail?  See some art?  Let yourself be guided by the natural rhythm of the place - all places have a rhythm.  I find that I am much happier that way than if I arrive and immediately start forcing the place into my agenda.

We had planned to hike immediately upon arriving at Glacier
National Park, and when we arrived, this is what our bodies wanted
to do instead.  We listened.

4. Allow things to change.

After you observe and make a loose plan for the afternoon/day/week, hold it with an open hand.  Some of the best adventures I've ever had were interruptions to the adventure I had planned.  Do you see something intriguing along the trail?  Take the time to explore it.  Who cares if you don't hike as far as you set out to?  Did you run into a talented street musician on your way to the expensive concert?  Stop and listen.  What does it matter if you're late?

Plan, and then say "yes" to what shows up along the way.

My first backpacking trip ever, on the Olympic Peninsula, taken
on a whim while visiting a friend in Seattle.  I bought the backpack
the day before.  Since then, this pack has trekked through 10 more states. 

5. Embrace fear.

One of the main reasons I've heard people give to why they couldn't do some of the things I do is that they would be too afraid.  Do you think I was afraid the first time I went rock-climbing?  Ice-climbing? Sky-diving?  The first time I saw a grizzly bear in the wild? Every time I saw a bear in the wild?  Absolutely!  I was terrified!

One thing I've learned through these experiences is that fear only holds me back if I allow it to.  If I keep saying, "Oh I don't do that because I'm afraid of heights/bears/the dark/whatever," I'll never do anything but what I've already done.  I don't do things in spite of my fear, I do them because of my fear.

Fear embraced becomes courage.

For you, it may not be ice-climbing or hanging with grizzlies.  It may be talking to a stranger,  traveling somewhere where you don't speak the language, or simply swimming in the ocean.  Whatever your edge, experiment with pushing it just a bit.  I say you will be delightfully surprised with the resulting feeling - and you may even go back for more.

Skydiving over the Swiss Alps.  Boy am I glad I pushed through that fear!!

6. Take the vacation back with you.

Ok I know I only promised five steps, soooo - bonus!

One thing I learned from a great teacher of mine is to choose to be on vacation every day.   Literally wake up and say, "Today on my vacation, I think I'll go into work."  Hold the same travel mindset of curious observation, flexibility, and courage, and see how life shows up differently for you even in your most familiar places.

Because really, adventures away from home are there to help us be more aware, more compassionate, more peaceful people in the "regular" lives we lead every day.  

In my own backyard


  1. Melanie, thank you so much for this beautiful and inspiring post. I especially Love the idea of bringing vacation mindset to each day - I will be playing with this one, for sure! Here's to pushing my edges. AND - congrats, Mrs. Lady!!!

  2. Aw, thanks Crystal! I'm glad it served. Douglas Drewyer taught the vacation mindset practice to me, if you know him from Tai Sophia. Inspiring guy. Thanks for reading and for the congratulations!

  3. Melanie, I can't find words -- you put wisdom that I know but have forgotten or rarely remember into words. I want my daughters to read this. And then next week, when we have a million and one things to do, we are going somewhere new. Thank you for sharing your love and inspiration. -- Alexandra

  4. Hooray!! Thanks so much for telling me this, Alexandra. This is why I write! Please let me know what new thing you do and how you all enjoyed it (or didn't, and what you learned from it). Have fun! Love to the girls.