“You are my greatest adventure.”
If you haven’t already read Jacob Machado’s One Step Guide to Going on an Adventure I highly recommend you do so here. His discussion of adventure as an unknown risk and not in accord with comfort or a desire to be in control is wonderful, and will be helpful to keep in mind as I attempt to expand the idea without regurgitating.
Being in the middle of a semester abroad, I am currently living what a vast majority would consider an adventure. I am living in a reformed monastery in the foothills of the Alps, studying philosophy and theology, and spending my weekends traveling all over Europe. I am experiencing different cultures every week, each one incredibly unique. I have spent weekends hiking through snow to frozen waterfalls and incredible views. I have learned how to navigate European train systems, and spent afternoons wandering through thousands of years of history.
What I have noticed, through all of these adventures, however, is that the experiences, in and of themselves, while beautiful, do not satisfy. What has elevated each one from experiences to check off my list to adventures is what I have learned about the people around me (including myself) in and through these experiences.
If you have ever taken the time to get to know someone, and I mean really get to know someone, you have experienced an adventure. Each time you learn something new about them, there is a new thrill. Each time you are vulnerable you take an unknown risk. Getting to know someone better, whether it is yourself or another, is what makes experiences, even the thrilling ones, adventures.
In the midst of a pilgrimage to Rome, I was invited to join a few friends at a dinner with a former Franciscan student living and studying in the city. At first it was just exciting to think about going to a Roman apartment and having homemade Italian food. What was incredible, though, was that after a dinner filled with talk about studies in humanities, she decided to walk us around Rome, showing us her favorite sites. It was exciting to see the city at night, with someone who knows the way. As she talked, incredible turned to indescribable, and I saw the city through her eyes. As she told us how she ended up in Rome, I began to see everything the city was to her, and the whole night came alive. Through getting to know her, wandering the streets of Rome, though they were familiar by this point, became an adventure.
As communal creatures, the fact that learning about others is what makes an adventure means that not only do we desire adventure, we need it. We need to be drawn out of our comfort zone and into the hearts and minds of others. We need to be challenged in our beliefs, our thoughts, and our skills so that they might become stronger. We need to come to know others and ourselves so that we may come to know Christ. And it all starts with the One Step Guide to Going on an Adventure.
I would like to propose, however, before signing off, that we must be careful in this discussion not to undervalue stereotypically adventurous experiences. It was not until traveling that I could see the areas in which my spirit of adventure had started to atrophy. It wasn’t until wandering the streets of Rome on someone else’s timetable that I could see in what areas my need for control was affecting me. It was being the only two awake on an overnight train that encouraged me to be a little more vulnerable with a new friend. It was jumping into a random pick up game of volleyball in an Italian schoolyard that reminded me I need to cultivate my spirit of adventure.
And so, my friends, let us be adventurers, in all senses, keeping adventures themselves and the spirit of adventure each in perspective, so that we might live fully that adventure we are called to, a life lived in Christ.