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Pressed:  Intersection by Shelley Robinson

18 Aug

Source: Intersection by Shelley Robinson

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Pressed:  Good Morning Vietnam

23 May

Taking the Plunge:  What a wonderful world we have discovered nestled in by the South China Sea. Vietnam always captured my attention as fellow travellers assured me that it was the country to see filled with kind people, good food, cheap accommodations and a beautiful countryside. After considering options as a couple to get off of the North American grid, we started exploring volunteering and work options on a site called HelpX. Chris had learned that some people he had met at a hostle in Vancouver had travelled the world while working for free food and accommodations doing odd jobs in various organizations, and private enterprises. We took a look at SE Asia, and there were many places in Vietnam that jumped out.

We started doing the math. To live in Canada means to stay locked into a financial grid where we work hard to pay a lot to keep inside a lifestyle box. It is a nice box, but it is a box never-the-less. We work from morning to night to sustain a way of living. How much time have I spent working for, minding the paperwork of, and tending to the management of my home inside a culture where everyone is doing the same thing? At the end of the day, the savings are nominal, and unless I am frugal and vigilent with my finances, money just gets used up. It disappears. Therefore, we felt that if we could live leanly working for an organization that supports our room, board, Internet connections and cultural interactions, we would be able to manage. We could pick up extra work, and possibly save money in the end if we were motivated.  As well, we did other math.  As a couple, at most, while working we spend three hours a day together.  By working together abroad, we have far more time together.  This means that in one year, we can potentially increase our time together to be equivalent to three or four years of time of the average working couple.

After meeting with some people who have worked in some English as Second Language (ESL) learning centres in Vietnam, we realize that our English skills are pretty marketable. As well, a couple of these people have made it a lucrative experience. One fellow told us that he would never go back to England. “What would be the point,” he told us. He felt that he was making more in Vietnam for half of the stress. As well, an older fellow who had come from what he called the “US rat race”, explained that he would never go back either. It was just too nice to live in such a pleasant culture with fewer “issues and pressures”.

Learning About Vietnam: Now visiting Vietnam, we can see the richness of the culture, and the very real opportunities that abound in a culture where this country that has really only been free of war since 1995. Vietnam wants to network and connect with other countries. The hotel manager in Hanoi talked about knowing that he is about 20 years behind where other countries are in terms of the hospitality industry. He wanted to hear our suggestions about how his hotel could improve. He knew that we had travelled in other countries, and as a result, might be able to give him insight into what foreigners wanted when coming to visit Vietnam. We were complimentary of the hotel that afforded us everything we needed, and gently reminded him that people from all over the world all have different expectations. Unfortunately, in my travels, I have learned that unless people are already happy, no one can ever truly assist in making them happy. They are quick to find fault, and make things difficult for hotel owners hosting them, especially in some undeveloped countries. (I notice some trends in the foreign travellers who seem to be the most disgruntled–but I won’t generalize at the risk or sounding judgmental.  This discontentment by my estimation is the following formula: “high expectations”=unhappiness).

What we are enjoying about Vietnam is only a small commentary on the North which is the focus of our visit so far.  Today we head further South to Hoi An, and I am certain that we will have many more experiences to write about.  Hanoi and Hai Phong have much to offer people who are interested in getting off the beaten track into the noisy cacophony of the scooter culture. The tastes of the real Vietnamese food are both exciting and disconcerting to a more conservative taste pallet such as my own. The food is as diverse as the families running each restaurant, whether in a little space with real tables, or on the street on tiny plastic chairs. I find the people to be both innocent and filled with raw enthusiasm for anything such as cherry blossoms shipped in from the country to experiencing music and technology; and as well, shrewd as they are able to find ways to rip off the unsuspecting tourist. Here are some interesting things that we are enjoying about our visit to Vietnam:

– People are very friendly, but English is not the universal language that we expect it to be here. We had to really try to speak Vietnamese and our language translation book came in handy many times. Google translate was a real God-send. It allowed me to communicate more complex information without as much difficulty.

-There are literally millions of scooters. What was once a bicycle culture, has quickly become a motorized scooter population. We had difficulty crossing the roads. Scooters were never following any traffic laws, and were often turning corners, going in the opposite directions, driving on sidewalks and generally freaking me out.

-People eat dog here. Need I say more. This was pretty hard to get used to right out of the gate. I have been pretty careful to avoid anything that looks like “thit” on the menu. Other crazy foods such as frogs, eel, tongue, pork feet, and creatures that I have never really associated with a digestable food, keep paying close to the menu. I am getting braver every time I order something, but I draw the line at eating dog.  My favourite meal was the hot beef noodle soup.  (People with peanut allergies should beward here).

-People rise early here with their desire to be fit through aerobics on the main streets, and Tai Chi in the parks and court yards. Exercise here means loud music. There is never a quiet exercise routine by our observation.

-People like to say that it is a foggy environment, but the polution is pretty intense. Some of the people who we met along the way seem genuinely concerned about it and are hoping that the government will set up some policies to start helping with the problem.  Being a country of almost a hundred million, and being South of China, smog is a fixed part of the scenary. It was disappointing to see Halong Bay through a haze of pollution, but we still appreciate the amazing beauty of the countriside.

-There is noise everywhere. Traffic, construction, music, animals, alarms, talking, singing, whistling, and animals, are all the regular sounds in a normal day in the lives of the urban Vietnamese. It takes some getting used to this type of constant sound stimulation–noise. I found that Ihad to manage it by bowing out into a temple for respite, or taking some time in my hotel or hostel bedroom to re-group. This noise must take a toll on people’s hearing, but everyone seems immune to the volume of sound that I find new to me.

-People stop working at certain times of the day, and on certain times of the week. Not everything is open all of the time. Not everyone is available all of the time. Lunch hours mean that doors close for approximately an hour and a half. Sundays are quieter as shops and businesses are often closed. Mondays are sometimes closed as well. Signs appear in windows, and, guess what?  No one seems to care.  And, guess what?  We were okay with it too.

-Things are cheap in some places, but not in all places. You have to do a bit of looking, but there are deals to be had. However, some shop owners are catching on to the value of a dollar or Euro and charging people accordingly.

-The men congregate, drink beer, play games in local bars, and once again, I am sometimes left wondering where the women are hiding. I am finding this to be a common trend across all of the countries that I visit … and live in. Men rest and take time outs together, and women seem to be…somewhere else.

-The greenery is lush here in Vietnam, especially in the countryside outside of the cities which include:  tropical trees (bamboo, banana, mangrove, palm); different types of cacti; and other tropical growth. I have a lot to learn about the different varieties of trees and flowers, but we are learning that the 100% humidity in the air, makes everything grow like crazy, and prevents my hair from drying and doing anything even remotely manageable.

-The signture feature in many photos of the country side are the limestone karsts that jut out of the land and sea.  Inside of many of them are massive caves that are drawing visitors from all over the world.  What the Vietnamese have explained to us is that they are upset that foreigners who have the money to visit them are experiencing this incredible opportunity to see the wonders under the earth; whereas, the Vietnamese who are less able to afford it, cannot.

-Chris notices that the matters of health and safety (as this is his work background) are left pretty much to chance. Seeing people up on ladders without safety measures, or working without what we consider due diligence to standards that keep people from dying is not as common as in Canada where we are likely hyper-vigilent about these kinds of things. People just work hard here in Vietnam and get the job done–no matter what, even if it means short cuts that might be dangerous, but are obviously more affordable.

-Historically, this is a culture that has been through many wars.  We were impressed by how many countries have tried to conquer, invade or destroy Vietnam, and yet, these people successfully defended and kept their country to the Vietnamese.  These are strong, resilient people.

Connecting with Educators: I have enjoyed travelling with Chris on this exciting holiday. It has really been a cultural experience as I find ways to learn more about the education and culture by visiting some of the schools and universities. I am learning that everyone here is interested in the same types of things when it comes to teaching and learning: “How can we make it interesting and engaging for the students?” This is the common topic. I think the key is to keep everyone applying their learning to the real world.  As well, educators seem interested in building new curriculum (locally developed courses) and teaching students new information.  Communist philsophy is a big part of the school programming in Vietnam.

One of the most exciting times was visiting one of the ESL centres, and going with the adult students to the museum. Through the field trip, the conversational English opportunities in the museum provided multiple opportunities for the students to ask and answer questions in English where textbooks could not provide the same connection points. We enjoyed the whole experience from riding on the scooters to eating some wonderful food with the students and staff, very much. Overall, we are finding that by visiting Vietnam as explorers and researchers, we are thinking of the opportunity to travel (not tour) as something that is more manageable than we initially expected. Where there is a desire to really connect with another country, and to do so affordably, there lies the opportunity to stay longer, dig more deeply, and really find meaning in the experience.

Will we come back to Vietnam to do some work within it?  I think it is much more possible now that we have dived into the deep, and came up swimming. It is a beautiful place to visit, and quite possibly a place to live for awhile.  Time will tell.

Source: Good Morning Vietnam

Pressed:  Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

2 Sep

Source: Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

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“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.”  Les Brown

Letting Go:  When fear has a death grip on your life to the point that it becomes impossible to breathe, it is time to change.  It often may appear easier to speculate what change might look and feel like by dipping our toes into its frigid cold waters and slowly acclimating to it while clinging to the edge of the dock, than it is to simply take the plunge.  Taking one tentative step after another before submerging into the glorious depths of a new life, often sounds something like this when we are having conversations with people about the “what if’s” that could happen in our lives:

  • “When I get these things finished, I can…”
  • “When I have enough money saved, I will…”
  • “When my partner is ready and available to change, I will…”
  • “When I know exactly what will happen wherever I go, I might…”
  • “When I am feeling really ready, I will try to…”
  • “When I have all of the education and/or qualifications that I will need to be very employable, I will…”
  • “When I sell or rent my home…”
  • “When my children move out…”
  • “When my pets die…”
  • “When I retire and have a pension…”
  • “When I get married…”

Change is terribly frightening, especially when we are sitting on the precipice between the past and the future.  Letting go of a pay cheque; a partner; a way of life filled with a false sense of security and comfort, just seems too impossible because even unsatisfying security is some type of stability never-the-less.  Even when life is life-sucking, soul crunching and/or dysfunctional, it can be more desirable than taking the risk of truly catapulting into a new life where we do not know nor can we control the outcomes.  It is often the devil we know that we will allow to govern our lives, than the one we do not know very well.  In this case, comfort, complacency, security can be the real evil in our lives preventing us from leaping through the fiery hoop to the other side.  The other side could potentially allow us to find our true callings, passions or valuable life experiences.

The Chicken and the Egg Catalyst:  So, what comes first?  The chicken (in this case, ourselves, taking the final steps towards letting go of an old life and embracing the new), or the egg (the promise or guarantee of something to which we can cling onto at the other side)?  Do we just leap without any guarantee of another side (a job, partner, financial security, an education…)?  Should we be reckless as our conservative parents taught us not to be?  Or do we wait for somethinganything to come along and propel us into a new opportunity where we can make a change with some sense of security?  Common sense tells us that it is the latter that is the wiser choice.  We need that little catalyst or motivator.  We will wait for some sign from some source, and follow it because it represents safety within the change we hope to adopt.

However, what if the wisest choice is to let go completely, and search for that which truly inspires us to be our authentic selves?  This would mean not clinging to our old lives, nor grasping for a solid new one; rather, it means leaping with faith.  The faith would be trusting ourselves, knowing that we are capable of thoughtfully discerning what we need as we move forward.  It also means having faith that we have the where-with-all to find a means to support ourselves (either in the solo or in the tandem leap) so that we will be okay in the end.  The trust comes in knowing and believing in our own capacity to land on our feet.

Reaching for the Right Stars:   So the question arises, what do we truly need in our lives?

I need to be creative.  I need to feel efficacy in my own life experience.  I especially need to know that I have voice in relationship to others.  Having self love and respect, and the love and respect for and of others is also paramount to whatever I do from this point forward.  Nature will need to be an essential part of everything I do.  I need to know what the rest of the world looks, feels, sounds, tastes and smells like.  And most importantly, I want to share this with someone special in a long term and committed way.  Therefore, my stars need to shine on those priorities and I need to align my sextant to these stars so that I can find my directions, and get my real life bearings.  The rest…will fall into place because I will be living my truth.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 52: How 52 Weeks Became 156 Weeks

22 Jun

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Looking Back to July 2012:  Three years ago, I made a journey from Calgary to Comox.  It was a leap of faith and one where I had very little idea about what lay ahead.  I decided to write about my journey and experiences and began with this one 156 weeks ago:  https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/52-weeks-begins-now-moving-to-comox/  I was both excited and scared to make my way out West to live out a dream of being by the ocean and in amidst the rain forests on Vancouver Island.  Despite some nerves in doing so, I felt oddly sure of myself moving ahead.  I knew deep inside of me that there was a reason for going.  I felt a readiness to leave Calgary, and an even greater belief that where I was going was where I needed to be.  I was confident that I would meet new people, and explore new opportunities in my career.  Most importantly, I felt that I would meet someone who would be like-minded in his passion for the outdoors.  I hoped that together we would find ourselves together in the woods.

In many ways, as I review my blog entries over the last three years that were intended to be written over the course of one year, I realize that I have filled a lifetime into three years.  There really was very little time to sit down and write about it.  At one point, I began writing a novel entitled Coast to Coast Calling. My experiences were stranger than fiction, but fiction-worthy, never-the-less.  My blog entries have helped to inspire some of that writing, and it has been a helpful process as I attempted to make sense of my experiences in my new homes on both Pender Island and the Comox Valley.

Dreams Do Come True:  Perhaps I moved to the Comox Valley with such conviction (and naivete) because I was intended to meet my partner Chris.  He has been both an inspiration to me and someone who challenges me to be my best.  He has afforded me the belief that there is a purpose in the life experiences that we have had to date.  All of my life seems to have led me to this place where my vantage from Pender looked out onto the Crawford homestead on Saltspring Island (without knowing it), and from where he looked many times onto Pender Island to see my neck of the woods (again without knowing it).  And from there, our tales collide.  We have learned that our ancestors come from the County of Tyrone, and that we have many similarities that have afforded us to land in the same spot in exactly the same time based on our families journeys to Canada, and then our respective journeys to the islands.   https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/pressed-52-weeks-begin-now-week-forty-eight-what-happens-when-god-answers/

We both express daily how fortunate we are to have found each other.  I feel very fortunate to know that someone who is so expressive, and responsive to me as a person, can actually exist.  Every day is a new adventure now that we are learning to live together in the same home.  We have big plans ahead of us.  We have stories that we want to share with each other and our grandchildren to come.  However, before those grandchildren come (from my son, or his three sons), we have some things we want to do, accomplish and experience around the world.

New Blog Site:  As a result, we hope to share some of these adventures (and misadventures) with our friends and potential blog followers on the following site that is still in its infancy:  https://stretchingcomfortzones.wordpress.com/

We hope to see you on our new blog post.  I will continue to write, and Chris is hoping to share some of our pictures from our experiences together.  We both feel that it is important to map out our journey in advance, during and after our experiences so that we can also savor every aspect of each new trail we encounter, and each trip we have the good fortune to share together in Canada and abroad.

Thank you for reading my blog entries so far, and I hope that you will feel inspired to share your feedback, input and ideas with us as we move ahead together.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 51: Under-Graduate Milestones

22 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 51: Under-Graduate Milestones.

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Benchmarks for Success:  What is of interest to me is this idea of how we know we are making progress in life.  Are we getting ahead?  This idea that we can get from one point to another while accomplishing things and becoming better people as a result of our efforts, is a Modernist concept.  It relies on this philosophical pillar that there is a greater good to which we can strive and become better for our efforts.

I still buy into this line of reasoning, hoping that all of the “Sturm and Drang” in my life has been for some greater good.  I especially hope that my belief system holds some truth to it due to the fact that I shared this value system with my son who has recently graduated from university with an under-graduate degree in sociology in the Faculty of Arts.

Under-graduate Confusion and Ambivalence:  Undergraduate work can feel under-whelming.  These early academic years (to use an old expression) “separate the men from the boys”.  This milestone of convocating from a university with an undergraduate degree is supposed to symbolize incredible accomplishment where we feel that we have “arrived” somewhere that is significant, leading to somewhere else that will also be significant, and potentially even more important.  From this juncture in the road, we are supposed to have a clear vantage point from which to make choices upon which to base the rest of our life journeys.  In many cases, we catch glimpses of satisfaction and accomplishment, but it can be short-lived.

“Getting off the academic track” can be very unnerving for students.  We have been following so closely the institutional guidelines that tell us how to think and learn; when to do so; and how good we have to be at doing so in order to pass, that when we are relieved of these obligations, we can be left feeling confused and disoriented.  When we graduate, sometimes we are left with a sense of post-academic depression, realizing that all of our grueling efforts got us to a point where we still have more unanswered questions than when we went into the program in the first place. Degrees don’t guarantee jobs or success.  Unlike where we worked hard in the academic world to get a passing grade, life doesn’t hand out grades.  It simply looks at us blankly in the face owing us nothing for our efforts.

Looking Back:  Having gone through the academic world, which is both exciting and disillusioning, the first leg of academic work (the filtering and streaming years) can be a very institutional process that affords us very little “free thinking”.  Instead, we are indoctrinated into becoming good at “it”.  We become programmed to write and say the right things in order to be the best that our mentors believe that we can be within the parameters of the academic protocols.  We are groomed to achieve the status quo of high level critical thinking.  I loved it, but by the end of it, I hated it.  I remember graduating from the University of Calgary (my first time around), and as I packed up my bag of books, I looked back at the building and said boldly, “I will never go back!”

Next Steps:  The first steps after the program are the hardest.  They are like those first wobbly steps of a new born.  We wiggle around from one piece of furniture to another trying to grab onto something–anything that will provide some stability.  We are not secure enough to carry our own weight.  The time to embark out into the world on our own steam, with our own rules, takes incredible courage.  Where do we go next?  How do we afford it?  What matters most…first?  First things first, how can we enjoy the reality of our new found freedom when we are so worried about what comes next?  It is all very anxiety-provoking, but a very important experience, never-the-less.  We cannot grow and become our best selves until we truly are out of our comfort zones.  We need to stumble and fall, and then learn to wait.  We have to avoid that sense of desperation that forces us to grab onto the wrong things.  Instead, we have to be courageous and hold out for the best things that are yet to come.

My Son:  My son’s sociology program forces its students to think out of the box, and yet, when they are truly released into the world to think “out of the box”, it can be quite disconcerting for all of them.  He is truly wondering whether this degree was worth it.  It does not set him on any real practical and immediate track.  Instead, it just got him to think differently than he did before he entered it.  He got to learn that the world is not straight-forward, fair, or even relevant to itself.  He became a bigger thinker, challenged by his teachers, and his student cohort; and from this, he has accomplished a real cognitive milestone–the milestone of being a philosopher of his own learning, and as a result, a potential composer of a richer score of life.

He has the whole world just waiting for him to jump right in, but he needs to first determine who he is, and how to climb thoughtfully up the ladder to look over the edge at the next part of his journey.  Even though he is a little afraid of heights, he needs to climb to the top, set his eyes on the horizon and point outward.  Once he spots a landmark that can hold his gaze with his head, heart and spirit, he can begin moving ahead.  He may get side-tracked as he takes his next tentative steps forward, but our calling is always our calling.  He too will find his true calling through various means. And most importantly, he will begin to accept that he has never really strayed too far from being exactly who he has always been (perhaps a bit worldlier and wiser)…a very good man.

“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self acceptance opened.”
Shannon L. Alder

 

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You’re going the wrong way!

3 Jan

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Looking up:  Have you ever been driving along happily (or unhappily), in a zone of quiet (or frantic) windshield contemplation, and you look up, and realize that suddenly, nothing looks familiar?  In fact, you are lost, and it is slowly dawning on you that you are not only going the wrong way, but you have landed somewhere where you don’t recognize anything or anyone, nor yourself in this habitat.

How can this be, you ask?  You researched the trip; followed the map; read the signs, invested some money; but somehow, you are not in the place where you had anticipated being.  Instead, you are somewhere else and it does not feel right.  It even feels a bit dangerous.  It is late.  It is not easy to turn around.  Your fuel tank is running on close to empty, and there isn’t an open gas station to be found.  However, you decide that turning around is your best option.   This place is not what you had hoped, and you are disappointed that you had invested time and money in getting here.

When this epiphany has happened to me recently (as I feel a crossroads in my own life), lines from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles ring in my head with Steve Martin and John Candy providing some levity to what I know is a disappointing situation:

Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way…”

Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

Or, from the Twilight Zone, “Where is everybody?”

All of these lines of confused travellers bear witness to the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one that has found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time even after taking a leap of faith with the best of intentions, and hoping that this dream would play out just as I had anticipated.

How does this happen?  The Dalai Lama in his book The Middle Way:  Faith Grounded in Reason (2014) points out that when we “grasp at self-hood and self existence” we have the potential of finding a very unenlightened existence at some point in the journey.  We realize that what we were hoping for in this harmonious, happily-ever-after dream, did not “penetrate our true mode of being” (p. 19).  He explains that the “direct antidote to the self-grasping mind as well as its associated mental factors is insight into selflessness.  Therefore, it is on the basis of realizing selflessness that we attain true liberation” (p. 16).

What this means for me is that I have to be very clear about who I am so that I can best understand what I have to offer the world, and what to expect from it in return.  Sometimes we fixate on wanting a certain picture of how things will end up.  We manifest them, but in doing so, it has the potential of missing a key ingredient of who we truly are in the picture.  For example, some of us slave everyday to afford our vision, or do things or continue breathing life into a dream that is not necessarily in our best interests.  The dream lacks the raison d’être of all dreams…finding our calling and the flow within that calling.  Finding our vocation is not always an easy journey, as most spiritual journeys are not easy, but it should not be perpetually difficult with obstacle after obstacle thrown in our way.

When everyday is an uphill battle, or swimming against the stream of people with different goals and value systems; or where you have to prove yourself over and over again, just to make a little bit of progress, you know you are in the wrong place with the wrong people.  Therefore, the dream needs to be revised.  And that is okay, because who leads a perfectly well-executed plan the first time around, or even the 500th time around?  Unfortunately, most people don’t try anything new for fear of making mistakes.  A new expression I learned on this trip is a nice one:  “Feeding fear is feeding the enemy.  Feeding faith is feeding your true self.”  Therefore, we have to live in faith, even where our faith may lead us to places that scare us (Chodran).

I come back to the quote from the movie The Lunchbox that says that “sometimes the wrong train takes us to the right station”, and we have to have faith that this is the case.  Sometimes life’s departures from the expected have less to do with our failings, and sometimes to do with external variables that the universe plays out randomly.  The universe knows.  Therefore, sometimes, the courage and the learning that goes with the effort is worth the experience.  It helps us to know more clearly where we want to go–need to go next.  Knowing when to turn around and find another route is part of growing up and figuring things out because we learn from life’s mishaps and periods of isolation and loss, just as we do from finding ourselves in the right places for those blessed fleeting moments in time.

Travelling Teaches Me Much:  There is something about the fluidity of travelling that shows me more about life than any other experience that I attempt.  Travelling relies so much on chance and a faith that whatever we plan (or don’t plan) will turn out to be a great experience.  If we go in to travelling with any higher expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.  How wonderful if I can learn to transfer this philosophy more to my everyday life and become less attached to it, and dependent on so much of what I do for a living to afford the things that I surround myself to call it a safe, secure and successful life (attachments).

On each trip, I get lost, lose something, meet someone, learn something, inquire about something that I didn’t know about before, risk a little, and find joy in small experiences.  I always grow from my experiences.   However, every so often, I look up, and say to myself, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”   I don’t feel safe.  I don’t like the vibe, the people, the smell…all of it, and I move on.  This is not a waste of time to realize this after you have invested time getting to these locations.  It is, instead, insight, and wisdom to realize that it is time to move on.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

6 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure.

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt