There’s something about the road.
It doesn’t matter how many times people write about it, how many times people say it, the truth of it always resonates: There is something about the road. Maybe it’s the unsteadiness of it, the unpredictability. It cracks people open, leaves them vulnerable, open to spark and tangents. It pulls us in unforeseen directions, leaves us with fresh perceptions. There is something beautiful about it. Something primal.
I was outside just after dusk last night. 100 steps from the house was silent, dark. Then a flash of green, and another. Slowly they multiplied, a sea of beacons blinking around me: fireflies. The first of the season? I couldn’t tell. I hadn’t noticed them before last night, but was that because they weren’t there, or because I’d been distracted? I don’t know. But seeing them was like magic.
How much to we forget to see? How often do we look at the world as mundane because we have grown accustomed? And once we’ve stopped seeing, how do was see again?
That is the gift of the road. It brings us back to our senses, to our sense of wonder. The things that we grow accustomed to at home become new again in our absence. The fireflies regain their spark.
I hit the road in a few days. A week of freediving in the Florida Keys, then out to California for some friends, diving and climbing, then up the Pacific Coast to surf, climb and explore the Pacific Northwest. From there I catch a flight to Belize where I’m working with high school students on a service-learning project for three weeks, then diving for a week. Then it’s back to the PNW, and who knows, maybe more climbing, maybe Canada, maybe drive east.
But as much power as the road has for revealing the richness of our existence, I’m still caught among a mixture or emotions. It’s strange to be preparing to leave again. Today marks two weeks since I got home, barely time to settle after two months of climbing, diving, surfing and friends, adventures that began on one coast and ended on the other. It’s been two weeks of family, friends, oceans, rivers and lakes, cliffs and mountains, coffees and laughter. There are so many things that make life rich, and adventure is but one of them.
Adventure, however, is the one I know well. My heart can throw itself into lost wandering at a moment’s notice, barely a change of clothes in hand. When I was 15 I started carrying a toothbrush, a towel and a fresh pair of underwear with me everywhere I went. I wanted to be ready to wander, always. It’s a habit I’ve only built on over the last two decades.
But there is another version of adventure, a kind that doesn’t require plane tickets and mountains; an emotional kind, a personal kind. It is standing in front of a roomful of people and speaking honestly about something that scares you. It is taking the stage to sing, talking to a friend and admitting you were wrong. Saying “I don’t know” in a roomful of colleagues. It is revealing your heart, your beautiful raw self, with openness and vulnerability, being your true you in a crowd. Those are a different kind of adventure, the kind that build build bonds not just to ourselves or to one another, but to society, to community. They are nature, but not as we normally seek it. They are us in our natural state, us as us.
Those, I find, are rarer on the road. They may be there with one person, or with a few, but to throw ourselves into the depths of our community and be our richest, rawest selves, we need society. We need a critical mass of humanity. We need room to be among the members of our tribe.
That is not the adventure I’m known for. That is the adventure of musicians, artists, dancers, not those we typically call “adventurers.” But it is in the same spirit, lives within the same reckless heart, that someone takes to the stage for the first time to act in a play. To climb a mountain is no more daunting. This is the full spectrum of “adventure.”
My life of late has been full of the mountain kind. It has been full of rope and remote places, plane tickets and passports, oceans and overhangs. Some call it “Living the dream,” but lost along the Pacific Coast Highway is only one kind of adventure, and many versions call. The Dream includes every version of risk.
The Road. That is one thing, and I will soon be back on it. It is a course I can easily take—my bags are still always packed. But the other version of recklessness—the vulnerable human kind—calls too. And to access it takes more than plane tickets, more than wandering. It takes people. It takes community. It takes a crowded room. It takes a willingness to cut through the mundane, to reveal things normally kept hidden. It takes a bold heart, one poised for emotional destruction, not just physical.
And just like wandering the remote enclaves of nature, there is tremendous beauty hidden on these adventures, moments full of richness and light. But they are seen together, shared, not lived alone.
There is something alluring about that. As alluring as the road.