Monday, February 10, 2020

What’s Next?

There always seems to be a letdown after an adventure.  In most cases, the air in the balloon begins to escape before the end of the journey.  Such is the case in my trip to Antarctica.  That deflated feeling begins to creep into the final days and hours as I anticipate the dream, converted to an experience, become a memory. 

It took 7 years for the idea of going to Antarctica to become a reality.  It was conceived in the waning moments of the trip I took with my dear friend, Carson Pue, around the world in 2012.  We were in New Zealand, the end of the trip and splitting up to travel different directions after together.  We had visited 17 countries, experiencing more adventures than we could count.  We found ourselves asking, “What’s next?”  We had visited all seven continents except one, so it seemed logical to answer that question with ”Antarctica”, despite knowing nothing about what was involved nor having any appreciation for what challenges would become part of our lives in the following years.  I won’t recount the circumstances, except to say it has been a difficult series of events since we naively agreed that the next big adventure would be Antarctica.

Now, the journey to Antarctica is over, as well as our visit to Buenos Aries, Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn, all in Argentina, the Falkland Islands (under Great Britain’s flag) and Montevideo, Uruguay.  Our venture to the last continent, the most southerly place we will ever experience, is behind us.  The memories of this extraordinary expedition are already indelibly etched by the synapses into our minds (if that is what synapses do, physiologically speaking).  We are not likely to forget being bundled in layers of clothes to stand on deck staring in disbelief at the brilliant white and blue icebergs, and the countless glaciers with sheer faces intersecting the frigid waters.  There were innumerable sightings of playful penguins racing our ship as well as too many whale sightings to recall.  Though uninhabited by humans, other than the few itinerant occupants of small scientific stations scattered around the perimeters of this frozen continent, it is much bigger than I ever imagined (5.5 million square miles, 14.4 million square kilometers – the size of the continental USA and Mexico combined and 1.5 times larger than Canada).  It is difficult to believe that, while much of the earth’s surface has been occupied, or at least discovered, for millennia, Antarctica was only discovered in 1820, a mere 200 years ago, and is far from being fully explored.

Still, despite my age and decreasing mobility, energy and time, I find myself searching my bucket list for the next adventure; asking the same question, “What’s next?  Because it is never too soon to plan the next adventure.

I have learned something about adventures over the years. They represent more of an attitude than an action or activity. They are not so much an idea as the experience realized when circumstances dictate or provide opportunity. It doesn’t take a trip to Antarctica to have an adventure. But it does take a willingness to engage and embrace uncertainty and risk, to step outside of the comfort zone we so readily occupy. The recipe for adventure needs a dash of courage, a sprinkle of faith, and a measure of patience as one waits for the unique taste of significance to fill one’s senses.

Whether challenging the unfamiliar elements, grappling with fear, disease, failure, loss or insecurity, when an adventure reaches the time when it’s almost over, or there is a new chapter, there are three things to do.  First, plant the memories in your garden of adventures, where you can stroll through the variegated colors, moods, characters, significance and impact.  I need to remember the things I learned along the way, not just ‘move on’.  Second, do not let melancholy, disappointment or resentment taint the final hours or days.  Drink it to completion.  I am often prone to miss the special or surprising endings waiting for me unless I am looking for them.  Third, begin in earnest to imagine the next adventure before the current one is fully spent.  Big or small, commit yourself to live on purpose, embrace the known and unknown.  Dream again.  Plan again.  

We are made for adventure.