On Recovering A Sense Of Adventure

In 2014 my world got very small thanks to a panic attack. Anxiety and vertigo followed suit for the next year and half or so, keeping me close to home. In summer 2015 it started to subside, then in 2016 it subsided even more.

As the anxiety lifted I became more interested in leaving the house, being social and making big changes, like finding a new job. Bit by bit, I started recovering my sense of adventure.

This year I'm particularly drawn to recovering my ability to enjoy the great outdoors. I'm itching to explore new vistas, push myself physically and discover new places with D. like I did pre-panic attack.

Thanks to a brief conversation and one seemingly unassuming decision, I think it's happening.

Rediscovering possibility

Last month I was sifting through some old photos and found myself aching for my circa 2007 self. She was brave and bold and grinning wide on every shot. She was physically fit and stood with a confident stance. She went camping and hiking and road tripping, and she loved the company of others. She and D. had a fabulous time!

I missed her terribly.

"Cliff side" camping on Grand Manan Island, NB, in 2007. That night we drank wine and watched whales swim in front of our campsite.

"Cliff side" camping on Grand Manan Island, NB, in 2007. That night we drank wine and watched whales swim in front of our campsite.

When I mentioned to D. that I missed my circa 2007 self he simply said something to the effect of "That was good yes, but why try to relive the past? I'm more interested in creating new adventures."

D.'s ability to provide insights in simple statements never ceases to amaze me.

It was probably a three-minute conversation, but I left it feeling uplifted, ready to tap into what I knew was possible in 2007 to create a new reality for 2017.

Starting small

It's been a very wet spring here in Ottawa, for several weeks grey and rainy was the weekend norm. On one of those weekends I got fed up and ventured into the woods despite the shitty weather. It. was. wonderful. I felt alive.

I did it again the next weekend. And the one after that.

The more I did it, the more I felt resilient to the elements. Walking in the rain became a new normal and rain was no longer a deterrent to my enjoying the outdoors.

This seemingly small shift in behaviour is turning out to be mighty. Why? Because expanding my comfort zone by taking a small risk – like going out in the rain – gave me confidence to consider bigger risks.

Friends invite us to go camping with them? Why yes, I'm game!

Co-workers suggest a last-minute lunch outing? Count me in!

Vacationing on an island that's only accessible only by boat? That could be fun!

This confidence permeates other aspects of my life such as work, health, my art and my relationship with D. I feel happier.

All of this because of one simple decision to venture out in the rain on a shitty Sunday afternoon.

Campfire by the St. Lawrence river this past weekend. That night, the night of the full Strawberry Moon, D. and I heard coyotes call each other across the river.

Campfire by the St. Lawrence river this past weekend. That night, the night of the full Strawberry Moon, D. and I heard coyotes call each other across the river.

Insights gleaned from this experience (so far)

Rediscovering possibility via my circa 2007 self and choosing to go out in the rain seem to have set me on a path back to the great outdoors. I am grateful and curious to see where it will lead.

Below are a few insights I've gleaned on the path so far. I thought I'd share them here, should they spark anything with you, too:

1. Adventure is in the eye of the beholder. While a walk in the rain may seem insignificant to someone else, it was a big deal to me. I must put aside what I think adventure should look like (trekking in Nepal, hiking the Appalachian Trail, travelling to India) and focus on what it looks like for me (going for a drive, discovering a new conservation area, walking in the rain).

2. Adventure may shift in form and shape. Adventure may mean different things to me at different points in my life, depending on where I am in my journey. Last year it meant a solo walk around the block, this month I'm car camping with friends, next year I might be back country camping or paddling on a lake. I go with what feels right for me, today.

3. I can set myself up for success. Rain in the forecast? I'll pack my rain gear. Nervous in a tent because my imagination runs wild at things that go bump in the night? Ear plugs. Anxious at the idea of sailing to an island? Gravol and peppermint tea should do the trick.

4. Resiliency can be built in increments. Stretching my adventure muscle by regularly taking small risks makes it easier to take slightly bigger risks, like going camping or hiking a challenging trail. It's an incremental process. I feel like my brain is being re-wired each time I stretch.

5. With risk comes reward. Lush greens on a rainy day, a full moon rising against an indigo sky, a change of scenery, expansion, laughter, stories... I am slowly rediscovering rewards other than those that lie within my comfort zone.

6. Respecting my right recovery pace is important. Recovery can take time, going gently seems to be working for me right now. That being said I must watch out for fear and its tricky companion: complacency. Self-awareness goes a long way in knowing when something is truly beyond my reach – physically or from an anxiety perspective – and knowing when it's time to move through fear and do it anyway.

7. Incremental risk-taking is a transferable process. In this particular instance I seek to expand my experience of the great outdoors, but the concept of incremental risk-taking and building resiliency can be carried into any facet of life in which I seek to stretch: art, style and appearance, work, my physical health, relationships. This might be my favourite insight of all.

Your turn

Do you feel called to stretch your risk or adventure muscle this year? If so, what small action could you take to do so? How could you set yourself up for success?

In spirit of discovery,