The Spirit of Adventure

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We’ve been busy the past few weeks, but not doing the kind of thing that merits a lot of photos.  We’ve got some new adventures coming up that we are anxious to tell about, but in all of our planning, we’ve also done a lot of thinking about how we turned into an adventuring family in the first place.

Truth be told, I haven’t always been an adventure loving wife.  Before Ben and I became a couple, I could probably count the nights I’d spent in a tent on one hand  and the only outdoor equipment I owned was a shiny new road bike with less than a few hundred miles on it. Even though I’d been a lifelong advocate of exercise and fitness, I didn’t know what it was like to truly push myself just for the sake of accomplishing something new.  I suppose it should have been my first clue that I was in for it when he convinced me to jump out of a plane with him mere days after we started dating, but that was only the beginning.

Over the next year, I found myself giving everything I had (and then still failing) to stay on Ben’s rear wheel as we pedaled the new parkway together.  I would come home red faced and flustered, convinced that he and I would never make successful riding partners.

As I settled into our new lifestyle, I found myself nervous, exhausted, shivering, and sometimes in pretty serious pain as I followed my new husband to the ends of the earth hiking, biking, snorkeling, camping, and once nearly drowning in the Provo River.  Most of the time, as we left the house headed for our next set of big plans I would swallow a big lump of anxiety in my throat wondering just how miserable my Saturday was going to be, but Ben’s patience with me and his downright joy at every new adventure we had, kept me going.

Then, the spring after our wedding, we followed our neighbor on a true canyoneering adventure that was doomed even before it began way too early in the season.  We rappelled into Spry Canyon in Zion’s National Park against the ranger’s warning and ultimately ended up swimming through pools of (literally) icy water.  The next eight hours were spent repelling cliff after cliff while I slowly lost my dexterity and sanity to the intense cold that was settling in through my entire body.  I jumped up and down, up and down, up and down,as I tried to get even just a little bit warmer, all the while picturing the search and rescue team that would surely have to come retrieve my frozen body at the bottom of the canyon.  But rather than let me sink into my own panic and give up, my husband encouraged me, carried me through the remaining slushy pools, and guided my shivering feet over the edge of every new rapel. Slowly but surely, we emerged out of the canyon into the sunshine, picked our way down the perilous decent, over the cactus that had overgrown the only way down, and walked back to the car.

It took a few days for the shock of that miserable experience to wear off (and for the cactus prickles to work themselves out of my skin), but looking back, a turning point took place in that canyon when I realized just how tough I could be just by deciding to keep moving.  I found that activities which were easy, which caused us no stress, no discomfort,and no pain were less memorable, and we’ve since noticed that the same principle applies beyond hiking trips and bike rides but to every aspect of our lives together.

These days, when Ben makes one of his over the top suggestion as to how to spend our Saturday or vacation time, I no longer shrug him off, because with his encouragement, I can go anywhere.  I can jump off a waterfall and sleep the night with a coyote outside of my tent.  I can ride 100 miles on my bike or spin it to the top of a volcano, and most importantly, I can keep my front wheel right behind his rear one as we pedal down the parkway at record speeds.   I can choose to keep moving forward even when I feel downright miserable because the moments when I choose to I throw my comfort out the window define me.  As my legs get stronger, so does my belief that we can get through absolutely anything.

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