David Silberkleit used to be an adventure junkie. Bicycling in Laos, sailing across the Atlantic, piloting a blimp across Connecticut – these high-octane recreations were par for the course whenever he went on vacation. But it wasn’t until a trip to the island nation of Palau that the Branford, Conn., resident hit on an important realization: that true adventure is rooted less in exotic locales than in an engaged attitude and a willingness to experience something new.
“On the way to Palau, I stopped over in Guam where I took a dip in a swimming pool,” Silberkleit recalls. “It started to pour while I was in the pool, and I began to notice how magical the rain made the surface of the pool look from underwater. I had this whole childlike experience of celebrating being in the pool in the rain.”
The absurdity of experiencing such a mundane pleasure halfway around the world was not lost on Silberkleit. “In that moment,” he says, “I realized that there are pools in my own neighborhood and that I didn’t need a passport to find adventure. True adventure is with us every day.”
That experience motivated Silberkleit in 1998 to become a master certified coach and help others see the wonder in everyday life. The author of A New Adventure Every Day: 541 Simple Ways to Live With Pizzazz (Sourcebooks, 2002), Silberkleit says one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to adventure is choosing between “big” adventures and everyday ones.
“Focusing on traditional adventure forces us to live a polarized life: ‘I’m either out parachuting and loving my life, or I’m doing my job and suffering,'” he says. “I don’t want to dismiss ‘big’ adventures, because I would love to go to Palau again, but the difference is that I have a sense that I am in Palau today, right now – that the spirit of Palau exists right here in Branford.”
The Benefits of Adventure
Do you suspect that you might be in need of a little adventure? Be on the lookout for telltale signs: boredom, apathy, restlessness, big sighs, constant frowning.
“When you hear yourself talk about being ‘restless,’ or ‘stuck,’ or you find yourself frustrated by little irritations, you’re probably in need of an adventure,” counsels New York–based writer and workshop leader Judy Wolf. “If you hear yourself saying something like, ‘I wish I could do that, but …’ then you are definitely overdue.”
Everyday adventures are essential because they enrich our lives and help us route our attention away from life’s hassles. They help us see things with a fresh perspective, and, perhaps best of all, they open the door for us to reenergize our lives with more fun and creativity.
Embracing the spirit of everyday adventure requires living in the present moment and “waking up” to the spontaneous wonders always going on around us. But in a world in which so many people micromanage their days via BlackBerrys, laptops and cell phones, many of us are in danger of managing and multitasking all possibility of adventure right out of our lives.
That’s too bad, says Silberkleit, because engaging in simple, daily adventures allows us to form supportive bonds and hopeful attitudes that help us through life’s rough patches. It can open us to new possibilities and also help us feel more at ease in a world that sometimes feels rife with uncertainties and instabilities far beyond our control.
Little Adventures 101
No need to go jumping out of an airplane. According to Tracy Needham, a Washington, D.C.–based life and business coach, simply driving a new way to work or walking your dog on a new route can qualify as everyday adventures – because you never know how these seemingly small changes might enrich your life.
“I was walking my dog one day, and a neighbor stopped to talk,” Needham recalls. “At first I thought, ‘I don’t have time for this,’ but we ended up talking for 30 minutes. It turned out to be really relaxing to stay in the moment and to get to know my neighbor.”
Even painting your toenails bright pink or wearing a neon-color tie to work qualifies as an everyday adventure, says Wolf, as long as it falls outside your comfort zone. After all, adventure is, above all else, a state of mind, an openness to doing something unfamiliar that has the potential to expand your spirit or your perspective.
“Adventure is that feeling you get when you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next. There’s so much about our lives today that is safe, predictable and climate controlled – how often does any one of us have a chance to make it up from scratch?” Wolf asks. “As human beings, we crave the opportunity to use our ingenuity, yet we create the opportunity very infrequently.”
Of course, seeking adventure means straying from a predictable path. Silberkleit, Needham and Wolf all agree that fear of failure is the reason most people don’t initiate changes, even small ones, in their lives. Even signing up for a class strikes fear in some people, Needham says, because they think that if they don’t love it, it’s a flop.
“But it’s not a failure. You still learn from those experiences,” she says. At the core of everyday adventures is the idea that you can take on an experience just for the fun of it, with no expectation of success, reward or mastery.
People who start living a more adventurous life might also face some resistance from others who are threatened by their newfound free-spirit attitude, cautions Wolf. When she set off on a five-month solo bike trip, some people wanted her to be penalized for breaking free of convention. “They were bound by the fear of defying societal expectations,” says Wolf. “What would it do to their own excuses if I broke free without consequences?”
The secret to overcoming your own sense of fear and the possibility of other people’s negative reactions, advise Wolf, Needham and Silberkleit, is to make room for spontaneity and engage in subtle but exciting variations on your everyday routine, both of which help you remain curious and open to your creativity.
“The key to getting past the superficial – and often unreachable – definitions of heroism and adventure lies in recognizing that each of us is the hero in our own life, which is, after all, the real adventure,” Wolf says. “Anytime we do something that is, to us, plucky, bold or intrepid, we are embracing the heroic qualities in ourselves.”