Most of us aren’t adventurers. It was never an option for us outside of penciling it into our lists of Things We Want To Be When We Grow Up. Situations in which you are enduring sustained periods with your life largely in the hands of surrounding environmental elements has become nearly impossible in the last 30 years: often times we can’t escape technology and modern convenience despite how hard we try, married to the blinking lighted signs of our time, and our individual abilities to find any areas of untouched or even infrequently inhabited areas is increasingly difficult if not downright impossible. The typical citizen of earth does not typically get the chance to seek and find solitude in the style of Thoreau on Walden Pond. And it’s not because that is no longer the world we live in: these pockets of discovery still exist in a very large way, but not in close proximity of city limits or within the grasp of personal conception. We now have to actively seek out and pursue places where we can see the wide-open night sky unobstructed from the orange glow of light pollution.
The world has failed the would-be, aspiring adventurers. Not only have we put up barriers in the forms of roads and physical obstructions in reaching our surrounding natural world, but we’ve deprived the last few generations of a feeling of empowerment and ownership of our planet. We’ve shoveled the ownness onto the ambiguous Someone Else: Someone who is closer in proximity to more trees and wide open spaces, Someone who is descended from a line of great biologists, researchers, world-travelers or landowners with vast expanses in their backyards, Someone who is Into That Kind Of Thing. We’ve failed to bring the natural world into the lives of so many to the point where we no longer consider how the water pouring out of our faucets came from the clouds above us, filtered through the lungs of fishes in our lakes and streams.
We’ve been raised on a fear of the unknown and under the comfort of familiarity, influenced more strongly by our diets of readily-accessible information rather than driven by inherently adventuresome spirits. Made to feel as though Adventurers were a thing of the past or belonging characters of fiction; heroes like Indiana Jones racing cavalierly through life, bounding from one unlikely situation to the next without ever allowing us to stop and ponder if he ever questioned what he wanted to study as an undergraduate. Part of what perpetuates this disassociation of self contextualized within the world is the lack of emphasis placed on the importance of knowing what is outside our front doors. What is the name of the tree growing on your city block? What is the species of squirrel getting into your parent’s bird feeder? What’s your state fish, fossil, flower? Given a poll of my generation I wouldn’t be surprised if more people could name all of the members of the Kardashian family before they could list native species of flowering plants in their local county.
The downside of not adamantly insisting or even encouraging hands-on exploration of the unknown results in those would-be adventurers brought up being deprived of realizing their deepest aspirations. Maybe I just need to tell you that your deep-seeded dreams of discovery, your desire for the pursuit of knowledge and adventure and your insatiable urge to explore this planet are all real, valid, and possible feelings. I’ll tell you with great certainty that the Indiana Jones movie- and storybook heroes can’t be further removed from reality but our true heroes are those impassioned researchers and scientists going about their work without the pomp and circumstance of theme soundtracks and romantic notions of accolades and glory.
If I could improve anything about this world it would be to help others feel personal agency for change in order to perpetuate and foster passion and ownership of our collective planet on an individual level. Most of us aren’t adventurers now, but that doesn’t mean adventure isn’t out there for the taking; our world and its context within the universe remains unknown, unexplored, with questions that deserve answers, solutions to problems we haven’t yet anticipated. We need a stronger celebration of those heroes championing the pursuit of knowledge to cultivate that sense of duty within ourselves. The point of all of this is to say adventurers aren’t born, they’re created from a sense of duty, which is absolutely within anyone’s grasp.
Photo by Alvaro del Campo [x]