We had no particular destination in mind, only a belief shared by all pre-adolescent boys that railroad tracks are neat and inevitably lead to mysterious and exotic destinations.
But overplanning can ruin adventures. It destroys the suspense, the mystery, and the surprise.
The only thing better than experiencing an adventure is to experience it with friends.
I've been thinking lately about adventure--the need we humans have for it and the way it seems to fade with age. Until a few years ago, most of my best adventures occurred before I was 12.
There was the Saturday Joe Moore and I followed the Palo Duro Creek west of town past the Sim's place and the country club golf course into "uncharted territory." Our adventure ended with the discovery of a new fishing hole where we caught a half-dozen perch on vienna sausages left over from lunch.
Then there was the sunny August day when Jon Lair and I decided to follow the railroad track south of town. We had no particular destination in mind, only a belief shared by all pre-adolescent boys that railroad tracks are neat and inevitably lead to mysterious and exotic destinations. Our exotic destination turned out to be my Uncle Barney's farm 10 miles away, where Aunt Renna Beth graciously fed us and returned us to our homes (10 miles sure didn't seem as far in an air-conditioned car).
Not all of my adventures were on foot. One weekend my brother Craig and I joined the Crossland boys and Ronnie and Larry Wooten for an overnight horseback ride to Buffalo Lake (about four hours west of town at a good trot). On another occasion, Charles Starnes, the Methodist minister's son, and I bicycled to the lake and back (not that easy before 10-speeds).
Yet our best adventures need not belong only to our youth. Midlifers can experience them too if only we will practice a few of the principles we learned as children.
We adults tend to obsess with destinations. We want to know exactly where we are going, when we will get there, and, once there, what we will do first. But overplanning can ruin adventures. It destroys the suspense, the mystery, and the surprise. Obviously, some planning is necessary, but we need to keep it both simple and flexible.
Flexible planning means allowing for discovery. We are creatures of habit and, because of this, we like the familiar. But familiarity can inhibit discovery (it either keeps us from seeing new things or from seeing old things in new ways). So sometimes we need to take unfamiliar routes to familiar places or to travel by unconventional means (a train instead of a plane or, for short trips, a bicycle instead of a car).
And most childhood adventures are spontaneous, something we adults prevent with too much structure. We think unplanned time is unproductive time, or, worse still, boring time.
Yet I'm convinced we've overrated boredom and underrated creativity. I feel sorry for children today whose schedules and appointment calendars rival those of their overly busy parents. Sure, we kids used to get bored on those long dog-days of summer. But that's what prompted our best adventures.
Take along friends
Finally, all of my childhood adventures have one thing in common--good friends. The only thing better than experiencing an adventure is to experience it with friends. For adventures, along with things like laughter and creativity, are contagious.
Want some proof? Share this column with a midlife friend and just see where it takes you. And let me hear from you. I like adventure stories.
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