On Comfort and Adventure

I’m moving to Melbourne in 29 days and I won’t lie, I’m freaking out a little bit. And since writing has always helped to calm me down here we go…

The tried and true analogy of a duck who looks to be floating right along on the surface but is kicking his feet as hard as he can just to tread water wouldn’t be all that far off of a description of my mental state right now.

The past few months have been incredibly easy. After over a year of traveling- having to constantly meet new people, navigate new cities, and basically never really having a “home” – always being on the go- it was all too nice to slip back into a routine Nebraska life.

Sometimes you’ve got to to through the cave to get to the valley.

Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks were tough. I had forgotten what it was like to do the same thing day in and day out. I had forgotten what it was like to call up a buddy on a Wednesday and grab a cocktail. I wasn’t used to making plans weeks in advance and felt a little overwhelmed when it was expected of me. I’m the kind of guy who can’t watch a movie on Netflix because 2 hours seems like too much of a commitment. But here I was surrounded by people wanting to know what I was doing 3 weekends from now? That kind of planning just wasn’t normal to me anymore.

Needless to say upon coming back there was an adjustment period. Honestly, I was as close to “depressed” as I’ve ever been. I had no goals, no desire, and no direction. I’ve never been the type of person to just mindlessly do something and just getting out of bed was proving to be a challenge.. All I wanted to do was move. But I couldn’t. I was broke. And even worse, I was trapped in Nebraska and winter was coming. I can’t imagine what’s worse than being stuck somewhere you don’t want to be with no way of leaving. But in October, that’s where I was.

After a week at my parents’ place in a state I can only describe as pathetic and unmotivated I decided what I needed was a goal. My goal became: move somewhere warmer close to the ocean. In order to move I needed money. To earn money I needed a job and from there a plan started to form. Well the outline of one at least.

I accepted that I was to be confined to Nebraska for one final winter. Accepting this unchangeable fact was like lifting a boulder off my shoulders. I was able to find a temporary job at a commodities trading company. And lucked out when an old friend had a spare room in the house he had just bought. I couldn’t have planned this better had I known about it months in advance. The job and living situation were exactly what my situation called for.

For the past few months I’ve been in what my buddy Sami and I refer to as “grind mode.” Grind mode basically means go to work, the gym, get through the evening (book/TV), sleep, and repeat. The #1 rule in grind mode- don’t spend money. The past few months I’ve basically been a grind mode All-Star. So much so, that I’ve honestly become scared of leaving. My job is easy, I like the people I work with, and enjoy the low key nights hanging with old friends or doing some light reading. It’s like I’d found an old pair of socks, put them on, and realized that though they may be falling apart they are still pretty comfortable. Am I being challenged? No. But I’m comfortable and shouldn’t that count for something?

I know it’s obvious to everyone else, but with my departure less than a month away it hit me how much of my future and life is up in the air. And as hard to believe as it is, I don’t know if I fully realized this when I made my choice to move across the world. I had just gotten back from nonstop traveling and didn’t see any problem wanting to continue it. All I wanted was to keep my adventures going. My sense of adventure inspired me and my desire to take risks was at an all time high. I wasn’t thinking about jobs, or apartments, or finding a new cellphone carrier.

But now I’m beginning to fully realize that I’m moving to another country with no job, no apartment, and no real plan. I have a few friends down there but that’s it. I’ve left before but always with the knowledge of having a job, place to stay, and a home to come back to. For the past week or so I’ve been worried that I’m making a terrible mistake. Obviously there’s a chance that this decision completely backfires on me. There’s also a chance that it’s the best decision I’ll ever make. There’s just no way to know ahead of time. After all, there’s no way to predict the future.

People who know me would find my self doubt hard to believe. They would argue that one thing I’ve never lacked is confidence in myself or my abilities (take that as you will). They may even say that when I talk about the upcoming move I make it seem like no big deal. And they’d be right with all those statements. Very few times in my life have I felt at a disadvantage or that I couldn’t overcome something. Even fewer times has this belief held true. And my number one rule is to never let people see you sweat.

But with so much uncertainty in my future it’s been overwhelming. Overwhelming enough to put a crack in the illusion of my life, Petrifying self doubt is new to me. I’ve become so comfortable the last few months that I started losing my sense of adventure. The same sense of adventure that has helped me meet some of my best friends, backpack around Europe, scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, etc, has slowly been disappearing and I didn’t stop to notice. Even worse I don’t know if I want it back now because it would mean risking my current state of comfort.

And here lies one of life’s biggest dilemmas:

Adventure or comfort?

I’ve met enough people to know that there’s no absolute answer to the question. What’s right for someone is different based on the time, place, and circumstance. For me, at age 24, with no real responsibilities I would have to choose adventure right? I need to know what I’m really capable of and how far can I push myself before falling down, right? Not only that, but will I have it in me to get back up? Can I go somewhere with hardly anything and succeed with nothing more than my wits and charm? The only way to find the answer to those questions is to take risks. To continually plunge into the unknown and see what happens.

To me, our sense of adventure and ability to take risks is like a muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. You can’t wake up at 60 and finally decide to start taking chances. You don’t retire and then decide “hey I’m going to climb Mt. Everest.” It’s something you have to be doing continually throughout your life. Risk and adventure tend to lead to experience and growth and no one can ever do those two things enough.

Writing on risk and adventure made me think of the following passage from

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer:

“I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. 

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty…

Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience…My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”

I got a text from a friend yesterday asking me how excited I was to move- he assumed I was super excited and not borderline terrified. He’d moved from Omaha to Dallas by himself a few months back and loves it. I explained that I was scared and having second thoughts. He told me that I was dumb. That I needed to explore as much as I could in my 20s and reminded me that I excel at meeting people and going to new places. The funny thing is, before he moved he and I had the same conversation but then I was the one giving the advice to move and try something different. It’s a weird feeling having a conversation when your own advice is thrown back in your face, even weirder when it’s right.

I’d been focusing more on the unknown variables of my future than I had on all the things I’d learned throughout my experiences that will help me with my future. I’d begun to forget about the thrill of a new city or the excitement I feel during a new conversation because of all the places it can take you. Though I’m still worried, I’m no longer scared. I have no choice but to embrace this new challenge and trust that everything will work itself out; from past experiences it always has.

Our lives are an endless battle of comfort vs adventure. The sooner we accept this the sooner we can confront it. But before picking one over the other my only advice is this: don’t choose from a place of fear. Don’t let fear of loss or the unknown stop you from making a life-changing decision. Giving into fear does nothing but weaken your adventure muscle and who knows, you may need it to climb Mt. Everest one day.

Stay Gold.

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