A woman sits on a train, the rain-spotted windows flash against a dark sky. Buds pressed into her ears. She stares out into the mysterious night.
The announcer intones: “What this woman is listening to is taking her to a place that this train never could. That is the power of a great performance.”
Honestly, what utter pap.
This is an ad for Audible books, of course. The idea implies that life can’t possibly be as interesting as a book. Your life will never be as engaging as something you should buy, listen to or watch.
Hogswallop. Nonsense. A complete and utter lie.
This ad is just one more message about how if we want adventure in our lives, we have to experience it vicariously. Heaven forbid we should be the hero in our own novel. While this may sell audio books, which is fine, the real truth is that we can also be out there putting amazing chapters into the narrative of our own lives. Why live only vicariously through others when we can make our own stories? Why not both?
Now look, if you’re disabled to the point where you cannot possibly move, maybe this works. But when severely disabled folks are making their way up Mt. Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua in South America, I have a terrifically difficult time buying the argument that those of us who are able-bodied can’t go out and create our own interesting stories. It makes no difference whether that adventure is caving in the Carolinas or kayaking in the San Juans. Being willing to step outside our comfort zone to do something different is the essence of a good story- and that’s the definition an adventure.
Your Choice of Adventure Doesn’t Matter. Just Do It. NOW.
It most assuredly doesn’t have to be a physical adventure, either. The point is to explore. Try something new. By definition that creates the story line in our lives that puts us on the Orient Express instead of the daily express into Manhattan.
Your adventure could be finishing your degree at fifty. Adopting a child from China. Buying a ticket to Tibet. Does it really matter?
A dear girlfriend of mine, childless, in her late fifties, adopted a South American girl. You think she’s having an adventure? Transformed her entire existence.
Another decided to finally get her medical degree in her forties. You think that didn’t shift her options just a bit and change the landscape of her life?
At sixty I decided to climb Kilimanjaro, which fundamentally retooled the direction of my life.
I once met a woman who spent years doing medical work in Siberia. She thought it wasn’t that big a deal. Are you kidding me? There’s a novel in the making.
Our lives are the stuff of storytelling. Yet most of us don’t realize it.
The Same Daily Gift of 24 Hours
Every morning we are each of us given the exact same twenty-four hours. Another page on which we can write the beginning of a new story. Yet far too many of us treat the day as a drudge, angry at our condition, ignoring that at any given time we can indeed do something fundamentally different. The point is to do it. As Yoda intoned, there is no try; there is do or not do. What are you willing to do differently that turns your life into a passionate experience?
I’m a fan of good books. I read them, too. While I’m on the planes, trains, buses, boats and carts that are hauling me off to my own adventures. They’re inspiration, not a replacement, for living life.
Back in the early 1980s the book Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson inspired me to spend four years hitchhiking, flying ultralights and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Reading about Beryl Markham’s remarkable life in early colonial Africa continually inspires me to live outside the norm. Markham’s my muse.
Where you want to go today? How do you want to live differently? What stories make you want to leap out of your chair and break out of your routine?
You can be that person who reads about (or listens to the story about) the person who has the thrilling adventure.
Or you can by golly go out and have one yourself. What that adventure may be is uniquely defined by you and you alone. Books are an invitation to explore in our minds. Every single day is an invitation to do something and be something different.
I know which one I choose. In three weeks I leave for a month in Indonesia. Solo. I only have a vague idea of what might happen. That’s the whole point.
How will the novel of your life read?
See you on the train. Plane. Bus. Horse. Cart. Bike. Hike……