Adventure for the Non-Adventurous

Wasn’t it about this time last year when I was fixated on the idea of selling everything and moving into an RV? I wonder, if I looked at my journals from the past two decades, if I would find that every late-winter brings me this “itchy feet” sensation.

What’s interesting this year is that my husband seems to have it, too.

“I think we should have some kind of adventure,” he said last weekend.

“Adventure?” I repeated, one eyebrow raised. “What kind of adventure?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe a road trip.”

“We’re going to western Mass in July,” I said. “We could drive up to Acadia and camp sometime. We could drive down to DC and see my dad, visit some museums. Oh! We could fly to Mexico and visit Tucker and Victoria before they head across the Pacific!”

“I’d like to see Vermont,” he replied.

“What about the big Canadian/Upper Midwest road trip you wanted to do?”

“I still want to do that,” he said after a slight hesitation.

“We’ll need to plan it, then. Hey! We could camp all through Canada on our way to Detroit!”

“Umm…” my husband replied.

“The kids and I need passports, and to get those, we need you to come with us to the post office between 10 and 3 one day.” It doesn’t take much to get me off and running in planning mode.

“Okay. Let’s do it. We’ll make the deadline for applying for passports March 1st.” I was impressed by the decisiveness of his reply.

Of course, we’ve not done anything else towards this goal. The passport applications are still collecting dust on the desk. We’ve not investigated routes or campgrounds or timing for a Canadian adventure. We’ve not seriously considered whether our car is big enough for camping equipment for two weeks AND the family.

And it’s not all my husband’s fault. I talk a lot about taking adventures, but when it comes to action, I’m as guilty of procrastination and equivocation as he is.

As much as we’re craving adventure, we realize that our definition of “adventure” is different than other people’s. For us, the 30-mile trek into Boston is preceded by weeks of planning (and then eventually scrapped because it’s too much work/the kids won’t get much out of it/parking will be a pain/it’s too expensive/what will I eat? I missed the Pompeii exhibit at the Museum of Science for all of these reasons).

We will, with little hesitation, pull up stakes and move across the United States, something that other people find unthinkable, but at the same time, the trip to visit my dad in DC has been postponed indefinitely because I can’t decide if he’d be offended if I bought a salad spinner, brought along my Vita-Mix, and filled his fridge with kale during our visit and because between train, plane, and automobile, I can’t think of any way to travel alone with my children that would actually be “pleasant.”

But should adventure be pleasant? My friend from middle school, Maggie, who recently spent a year traveling around the world, wrote about sixteen-hour bus rides with no bathroom facilities (and along narrow roads cut into the sides of cliffs…not sure which part I found most unnerving about this). She wrote about trips down the Nile that resulted in her contracting some kind of parasite. She wrote about almost getting kidnapped and robbed by a motorcycle cab driver in India. She wrote about drinking some unidentifiable liquor during a power outage somewhere in Africa. She risked injury, illness, and death on three continents, and this was all still part of her definition of adventure. It falls more in my definition of “near-death experiences.” Chances are, it’s a little of each.

What, then, is our (our family’s) definition of “adventure”?

I’ve referred to taking the kids on the bus through downtown Salt Lake City as an “adventure.” There was an element of the unknown. We were doing something out of the ordinary, although not unprecedented. It required ignoring the unpleasant (like the smell of the guy in the seat in front of us) in favor of focusing on the pleasant (my son’s amazement at finding himself inside this huge vehicle, my daughter’s elation at getting to pull the cord to request our stop, my own satisfaction at successfully reading a route map/schedule). But there was little danger of physical harm or even of getting lost. If all else failed, we knew how to get home thanks to the grid system upon which the roads are laid out (my daughter learned early on to ask, “What South are we?” a habit that’s less helpful in New England). And I always traveled with ample snacks and clean water, in case we found ourselves stranded on State Street where there would be nothing but fast food places and adult bookstores (like the one advertising “used” magazines. Ew).

Tucker assures me that adventure is different for different people and that my little anxiety-filled adventures are just as adventurous as his family’s upcoming voyage across the largest ocean in the world. I have the sense that this is at least mostly true, but I’m not  entirely convinced.

I mean, which do you think sounds more adventurous? “We took our two kids and sailed our boat across the Pacific Ocean,” or “We took our two kids to the children’s museum in Salt Lake City via public transit”?

Or how about, “we camped our way across Canada from Boston to Detroit with two kids and a salad spinner?” (Yes, I know neither Boston nor Detroit is in Canada, but there’s some Canada in between the two cities.)

 

Goodbye, Salamanders! See You Tomorrow!

So, we went camping. And we made it back. And the children loved it.

Our tent. Luckily it wasn’t windy because we have no clue how to put on the guylines.

“I loved camping!” my daughter proclaimed while we were at the coffee shop waiting for our supplemental breakfast to be served (cold bagels and frosted mini wheats weren’t really my kids’ thing, and we needed eggs, pancakes, and—in my daughter’s case—hot dogs).

“What did you like about camping?” I asked.

“No, Mom; I loved it!” she corrected.

“OK, what did you love about it?”

“I liked finding things,” she said, referring to the scavenger hunt we’d done the night before.

The campout was through the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The campout was listed under their homeschooling programs, but we were the only homeschooling family there. In fact, the two other moms there were sixth-grade public school teachers. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to make the acquaintance of new homeschooling families, but I appreciated that the teachers didn’t talk to me about homeschooling. I get really, really tired of talking about socialization.

Chris holding a monarch butterfly larva on a milkweed leaf.

My daughter took a real shine to our guide, Chris, and I could only hope that she really was delighted at my daughter’s attentions and not just being polite.

“Wow, you sure know a lot about animals!” Chris exclaimed after my daughter directed her in the proper method of returning a worm to its home (put the rock down first, then place the worm next to it and let it find its own way, so you don’t smash it with the rock). My daughter had already explained to Chris why monarch butterflies aren’t tasty to birds, why viceroy butterflies mimic monarchs, and that salamanders need to keep their skin moist in order to breathe.

My daughter reads animal books and encyclopedias cover-to-cover, over and over and over again. She was thrilled to have someone who spoke about animals with the same passion and level of detail as she does. At one point, she was hiking back with me while Chris was up ahead leading the group.

“Mom, I’m going to go up and walk with that lady,” my daughter announced, already moving past me along the trail. “She’ll tell me more new things.”

My daughter was afraid of the campfire and, although she loved the s’mores, was terrified of toasting her own marshmallow. My son liked the fire, but was incredibly disturbed by the sticky, gooey marshmallow on his hands. He cried until I washed his hands and cried harder when I suggested he just lick the marshmallow off of his fingers.

Self-portrait

I feel like I need a massage, a shower, and about twelve hours of sleep to recover from our one night outdoors. But walking across the dewy grass and watching the sun rise over the trees on the other side of the meadow, I felt the closest to belonging here that I have since we moved to Massachusetts three months ago.

And because there was no rain overnight, this campout marks the first time I have ever, ever camped when it hasn’t precipitated. Once it even snowed.

Did you know that sheep love watermelon rinds? And that they drool copiously while eating them?

“Can we go camping again next summer?” my daughter asked on the drive home.

Sure, honey. We might even go camping once more this fall before the freezing temps hit and after we find out what to do if there’s a thunderstorm while we’re in a tent held up with metal tubing. And once we find a campsite near really good restaurants so the only thing we need to cook outside are s’mores.

The pond where we saw two beaver tail slaps at dusk.