It goes without saying that I try to find adventure in the everyday. Making my day as special and unique as I can is important to me. But sometimes you want to get away. You have a place that is calling to you and you need to go on a Big Adventure.
For years I have been called to Zion National Park. In college I watched a documentary on Netflix about the park and it has been in my head ever since. Back in February I decided I needed to just do it. So I found a weekend in April with nothing on my calendar called a friend and told him, “I’m booking my flight to Zion on Monday. Are you in?” Two months later we were hiking up Angel’s Landing having the absolute time of our lives.
Big adventures stimulate my mind in many different ways. They add perspective, they immerse me in different cultures, they introduce me to new things and allow me to see something that it is impossible to see during my Everyday Adventures. What is more important to me is that while experiencing these benefits I find myself changed when I get home.
These are three of the lessons I have learned from traveling farther away from home:
1. Try New Things
I never travel and go to a restaurant I can find at home. This innately forces me to try or see something new. In 2012 I went to Ghana to visit my sister. First of all, going to an African country was new. The food, the clothing, the buildings. For the first time in my life, I was the minority. It was overwhelming at first, but I settled into everything and I was able to appreciate everything.
I remember the first time that I tried banku (a sour fermented corn dough) I was not impressed, but it was exciting. But it started the process of trying so many things that I just can’t experience here. Piling into a tro tro (large van for public transit) to get from city to city, hitchhiking down a jungle road, pulling water up from a well to use for me bathe and to wash my clothes (skills I have used back at home).
I stretched my perspective and found that people love to teach their way of life. Did I like everything new I tried, of course not (see banku above), but you never know what you will like until you try something you new. So I try new things in my day to day adventures. Maybe I will fall in love with it.
2. Plan, But Not Everything.
When I travel I like to leave in some none scheduled wiggle room. There is no possible way that I can no everything about the place and predict what I am going to want to do when I get there. Sometimes an opportunity shows up that I couldn’t have seen. You need to be able to jump on those.
When I was traveling in Arizona back in 2016 the plan was to backpack to the bottom and spend the week there. The trip had to be cancelled, but I was already in Phoenix. I had been spending the past few months hiking in preparation and I wanted the challenge. The plan had to change. So me and the group I was meeting up with, instead, did a more tourist oriented trip. We car camped outside of the Grand Canyon and did a few day hikes. Afterwards we traveled north to Lake Powell where we would spend time kayaking on the lake. Super beautiful experience.
At the end of the trip I had no complaints. The experience was fun, the people were great and I was prepared to say goodbye and head off. Then the opportunity came. There was an opening at Phantom Ranch for the next night. Phantom Ranch is a hostel style lodging situation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and it fills up very fast. I couldn’t say no. I stayed flexible and shifted my few remaining plans in such a way that I was able to do what I originally set out to do. Get to the bottom. It is my favorite experience to this day. So I plan and schedule, but I leave room for spontaneity, because sometimes you just need to jump on an opportunity when it knocks.
3. It’s All About The People
Every trip I have ever gone on has been made better or worse by the people. In Ghana I traveled with my sister. In Arizona, I met up with a group of people who were great. And in Utah I traveled with one of my best friends. Even when you travel alone, people are what make the experience amazing. In Arizona I met this woman who was just so immensely engaged in us. She was curious and interested in who we were as people. She would ask thought provoking questions about me in a way that made me feel safe to open up to her. Oh, she was also immensely fun. She was the linchpin of the group getting so close. I know that if I ever go out to Kansas I plan to reach out to her and catch up because she was just that kind of person.
In Utah, we met a couple who had seen me running down the Angel’s Landing Trail and started talking. I asked them about what they love about the different parks and they gave us amazing insight into what to do as our trip progressed. We trusted them and took their advice and ended up with an amazing experience that we definitely did not plan to have.
And in Ghana the people were so accommodating and nice. They considered it an honor to ensure that my trip was special and that I was able to see and do everything that I wanted to (and a few I didn’t). Overall, I try to take the right people on my adventures and take every opportunity to meet new people along the way. We are all connected. I like to remind myself of that.
I am a big believer in the Big Adventure. To me this often takes the form of any experience designed to completely smash my comfort zone. Each time I involve myself in one, my perspective on the world takes a shift and my faith in people increases. I learn about myself and the type of person I can be with each trip and I try to use these lessons in my day to day to inform my choices. So I challenge you to think of your next big adventure. Just decide a place where you would like to go. And just keep thinking about it until you finally plan it.
So what types of lessons have you learned when you traveled? How can they be used to benefit us during our day to day adventures? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below and if you like what you are reading I encourage you to follow me. I will be posting every Monday. So thank you for your time! Go find an adventure today!
John Latona Jr., The Boy with the Bear