Get Lost on Purpose

The building was cold. Drafty would be one way to describe it, but the word wouldn’t do it justice. The heat never worked, and the winter months dragged on. We sat at a long, white table, all bundled in our hats and coats, hands tucked into pockets in an effort to stay warm while the teacher drilled us on the Nominative case, the Genitive Case, and everything in between.

It was 1998, and I was a student at The Institute of Foreign Languages in Kiev, Ukraine. There were seven students in my Russian language class – six of them from China, and me, the blond-headed American with a love for languages and a longing for adventure.

After school we’d attempt small talk. Our only common language was Russian, so if we wanted to converse it had to be in the language we’d come there to learn. We did a lot of gesturing, and a lot of laughing. I’m sure we looked quite comical walking down the street, the Chinese and the American charading our way through Kiev.

adventure

On the afternoons when I wasn’t hanging out with my classmates, I’d explore the city on my own. My very favorite pastime was getting lost.

I got lost on purpose.

I’d walk in a new direction and take multiple turns until I didn’t quite know where I was, then I’d make myself find a way back. In my self-induced confusion, I found so many great little treasures.

I stumbled upon a tea shop on one of my wanderings. I walked inside and breathed in deep the heady scent of hundreds of different teas. Glass jars lined the wall from floor to ceiling, all of the labels written in Russian so I couldn’t quite make them out. But oh, how I enjoyed the challenge.

The owner of the shop was an older woman with bright grey hair and piercing eyes that probed my face. She found me amusing, maybe even a little annoying, and after a few attempts at speaking and realizing that my language was not strong enough to keep up with her fast speech, she left me to explore the walls on my own.

Another day, I got so turned around I could not find my way back. It was getting dark, and I was freezing cold. I was twenty, and didn’t always make the best decisions, but I did know that getting lost in a big city after dark on a cold night was a bad idea.

So I hailed a cab.

In Kiev, anyone can be a cab. Stick out your hand and anyone looking for money could swing by and pick you up. I decided to wait until I saw an actual cab car before sticking out my hand. You know, for safety.

I ended up in the car with one of the happiest, friendliest men I’ve ever met. His eyes swam with kindness. He spoke no English, but he was fluent in Spanish. My Russian language was stronger at that point, and I had a small cache of Spanish words stored in my memory from high school, so we pieced a conversation together using Russian and a bit of Spanish.

It’s been nearly eighteen years since I spent that semester in Ukraine, and even now I find that I still long for adventure. I crave that feeling of being lost.

Last year just about this time, I jetted off to Munich for a week with my dad, and on my first day there I took a walk. I turned left, then right, the left again until I was significantly turned around, and my heartbeat quickened. I was lost, and I was thrilled.

There’s beauty in wandering, and comfort in adventure. Sometimes it’s scary, not knowing where the next turn will lead you. But if you’re willing to take the ride, to seek out the treasures in the unknown path, you just may find that the unknown is the place where your soul comes alive.

Some days, I feel swallowed up by the predictability of my life. Each day, though hectic, is relatively the same. We wake up, we have sports and school and bickering and loving, we go to bed, and we wake up and do it again.

I’m not complaining. I love my life. It’s messy and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to walk this path with anyone besides the people I’ve been given. So in the moments when I find myself longing for adventure again, I look at the unknown that stands before me.

Though my schedule may be predictable, the truth is I don’t know which direction tomorrow will lead me or my family. It’s always a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and looking for the adventure that is right now. 

Even today, it’s possible to get lost on purpose. The fun lies in exploring each new turn life throws our way.

Are you an adventure seeker? How do you find adventure in the mundane spaces of life?

The Magic of Exploration

Our little house sat nestled on a five-acre field, the sprawling Wisconsin woods providing the backdrop to what was a pretty idyllic scene. I was a child, so my memories of Wisconsin winters are filled with nothing more than magic. Hours spent tunneling through the snow, building igloos, eating snacks inside our burrowed out snow caverns in six and seven foot drifts.

We lived at the top of a large hill, so the neighborhood descended upon our back yard daily to sled. We’d bring out pitchers of water at the end of each day, and build up a ramp of snow, sprinkling it with water between each layer. By morning, we’d have a frozen solid launching pad for our toboggans.

My bedroom was on the second story, and I’d wake up each morning to look out over the stark white landscape, a wonderland of possibility for my imaginative mind. I didn’t need a wardrobe to reach Narnia. It waited for me in my backyard.

It’s easy to remember those Wisconsin years with great fondness. I was a child, and my only responsibility was to bundle up and give in to the imagination. As an adult, I shudder at the thoughts of frigid winters and snowy fields, but as a child?

I lived for winter.

When I was little, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring. My brother and I would wake early and make plans to traverse the woods behind our house. Of course, during hunting season it was imperative that we wore bright colors and made enough noise to not be mistaken for deer, but in the summer, when the snow finally melted and the trees turned vibrant, we’d spend hours and hours in their shade.

There’s magic in exploration, and I miss it.

exploration

There are days when the mundane feels like a blanket over my head. The predictability of life presses down, and I find myself longing for those early years  when I was nothing more than the girl in the trees, swinging from one grand adventure to the next.

There are other days, however, when I’m completely smitten with this life I’m living. As the cooler Florida weather kisses my bare arms (I’ll take a Florida winter over a Wisconsin winter any day of the week now), I watch my husband and kids play in the backyard.

The boys kick the soccer ball, whooping and hollering in delight with each scored goal.

Tia flips and tumbles over her mats, the very same mats upon which I used to flip and tumble in my Wisconsin yard as a child, and I feel her delight as she takes in the world upside down.

And Annika tromps through the yard, high stepping over the areas where the grass is a little too high. Her face is filled with that rapturous delight that only toddlers possess when they’re given the freedom to roam unhindered.

All the sights and sound assail my senses, and I realize there’s plenty of adventure left. Some of the adventure is awesome, the imaginations of my small people lighting the path for grand adventures.

Some of the adventure I could do without – like broken bottles of nail polish and shattered snow globes, and everything else the rambunctious toddler longs to attack inside the house.

It’s all an adventure, even the monotony. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective, and a willingness to use your imagination. Because the truth is, we were made for adventure. We weren’t made for monotony because it leads to complacency, and there’s no power in complacency.

If you sit back and think about it, I imagine you’re seeking adventure just like I am. Maybe you’re an obvious thrill seeker, always open and game for the next wild endeavor.

Or maybe you’re a homebody, content to stay nestled inside your comfort zone.

But I imagine you still long for adventure. 

So what does adventure look like for you? Is it the challenge of your work? Is it the delight you take in watching your children grow? Is it travel? Do you find adventure in a good book, or in the creativity of your every day life?

What is it that breaks you free from the monotony of the day to day? When was your last adventure?

Has it been too long?

Helen Keller told us that “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” If this is true, and if you believe it, then what are you doing to enjoy the ride?

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make today an adventure.

 

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