It all started the other day while reading Men’s Health. Yes, that’s right, I frequently peruse a magazine intended for a male readership, justification for which I would love to provide, but that will have to be another time. Halfway through the periodical, I came across a little article in the Advantage section titled “4 Wild Weekends”, among which was “Solo Adventure”. One of the perks mentioned was that it can spark spiritual growth and creative thinking. Sounds great, I thought. But why not just take a yoga class followed by a stroll down Venice Boardwalk? After all, I reasoned, yoga is great for the mind, body and spirit, and checking out the boardwalk scene along Venice Beach—often home to Christmas trees erected and fully decorated in August, doggy-and-me skateboard clinics, and street performers like the man who perches on one foot atop a ladder while balancing a stick on his head and holding a snake in each hand—can surely get the creative juices flowing, right? If not, a night or two alone in the woods probably won’t do the trick either.
So if not to benefit the soul and creative mind, why? It was the second line of the blurb that intrigued me: “It’s dangerous.” Maybe it’s my Alaskan roots, or the genes I got from my adventurous parents, but I have a penchant for a little danger, a little thrill, a little rush from time to time. Riding roller coasters, bungee jumping and rappelling Table Mountain, roughly 3,500 feet up? Check, check and check. Now I’ll admit that I don’t think there’s enough money in the world to get me to don a special suit and be taken 24 miles away from the Earth’s surface only to free fall back down at speeds of more than 800 miles per hour (my hat is most certainly off to you, Mr. Baumgartner), but I’d like to think I’ll give pretty much everything else a whirl. Don’t worry, Mom, heroin is not included in my thoughts of “pretty much everything else.” Suffice it to say that every now and again I love throwing caution to the wind and tasting a little bit of life just on the other side of sane.
Despite having camped numerous times—in the humid, mosquito-infested, soggy jungles of Colombia; at the campground where the last reported bear attack in Southern California occurred; and in Arizona, in the snow, due to failing to check the weather prior to departing—I have never done it by myself. Sure, I have never wanted to do it by myself, nor do I now. But a life without risk, without a little bit of healthy fear, would be pretty boring. Not that I would know too well what that kind of life is like.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had numerous awesome experiences over the course of my existence. I’ve traveled to six continents, I’ve looked into the unblinking eye of a great white shark as he rammed the steel cage I was in that was strapped to a boat in the frigid Atlantic Ocean, I’ve jumped out of a small plane with an Australian named Mutley on my back and a parachute on his, I’ve dragged myself huffing and puffing up to 16,200 feet in the Andes, I’ve seen the Alaskan sky dance in rainbows of green and pink and purple, I’ve marveled at almost blindingly-bright and colorful fish while SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef, and I’ve watched a golf ball-sized bruise form on the inside of my knee mere seconds after dismounting a wild and crazy donkey I rode in Santorini, evidently quite intensely.
I’ve done and seen a lot of really cool things, and yet there are so many more adventures I want to have, so many more places I want to visit, so many more things I want to experience. I want to walk along the Great Wall of China, and swim with manatees. I want to write a novel that gets published by a legitimate publishing company, and have a pet dog. I want to watch the Super Bowl live, preferably with the Packers in attendance, and see emperor penguins in their native habitat. I want to meet Tom Hanks, and donate large amounts of money to help the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. And hopefully, with good genetics, proper planning and a little luck, I’ll live long enough and have enough time, freedom and resources to fulfill those dreams and goals.
As much as I like spontaneity and randomness, I equally like order and planning. I’m a Libra; it’s all about balance. More so, I’m a firm believer in science and Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. To appease the planning side, I decided to write down my Men’s Health-inspired goal of spending one night alone in the wilderness. To make it more likely that I would actually do it, I chose to give myself one year, which seemed enough time to gather the courage but not too much time that I would never get around to it. To make it even easier, I gave myself an extra week and made the deadline September 24, 2014, the day I will turn 30. I then figured that since I came up with one goal to accomplish by the time I turned 30, why not more? Oh, wait, how about 30 goals by 30?
Add things I want to do to things I feel I should do, and voila, this list was born. Most of the goals listed were from my own head, though friends and family members did contribute, as did random people out in the blogosphere. Turns out this “30 by 30” list was not my original idea, which is okay, because if we’re allotted only a certain number of unique ideas, I’m content knowing that the song I wrote when I was six, “Sparkling Guitars,” was one of them. Even better, and possibly more unique, was my ode to boogers in ditty-form. But I digress.
In addition to wanting to add to my life experiences—do things that frighten me, elate me, force me out of my comfort zone, help me learn and grow—I love a great challenge, whether it’s self-imposed or a friendly dare. Fifty bucks to jump into and swim across a Venetian canal in my dress? Why not! My new nickname Swamp Girl kind of has a ring to it. Drink a concoction of curdled milk, fish guts, pig lips and crickets in the name of competition? I’ll gladly guzzle it down! Well, not gladly. And not that exact mixture again; once was enough. Five years later, milk still occasionally repulses me.
Finally, I love lists. Reading them (thanks for feeding my addiction, BuzzFeed), making them (daily task lists, books-I’ve-read lists, even crafting the perfect grocery list gets my engine turning) and most gratifyingly, crossing things off of them. (Have you ever made a list where one of the items was “make a list” just so you could cross it off a second later?)
Will some of these challenges be more, well, challenging, than others? Without a doubt. As adventurous and “Alaskan” as I’d like to think I am, the idea of spending one night completely alone in the wilderness—not at a campsite with neighbors ten feet away blaring rap through their Bose speakers (welcome to camping at Malibu Creek), but really alone—scares the hell out of me. Conversely, getting properly fitted for a bra won’t take much more than a visit to good ol’ Vickie’s Secret, now that I have a little something to measure—thanks, puberty at 23. That said, life is comprised of big challenges and small, and I intend to take on as many of each as possible.
Will my life be over if I haven’t accomplished everything on my list come September 24, 2014? Of course not. Will I be overjoyed if I do manage to cross everything off by then? Most definitely! Do you think I can do it? You bet.
Seriously. Bet me 🙂