The Oxford Dictionary defines adventure as “an unusual and exciting or daring experience.” While that originally sounded pretty accurate, after a second read, the wording lost its validity. Adventure should be unusual, exciting, and daring, all at the same time. When an adventure is daring, its completion is that much more rewarding and honorable. When an adventure is daring, the threat of failure is half of the thrill.
I woke up one morning last summer and decided that I wanted to go run through the woods. I was never really excited about running before; not for lack of effort, but bad knees from catching through twelve years of fastpitch softball left me less than enthusiastic about the concept. I had chosen strength training over cardio every day of the week. Something struck me on this particular morning, though, and I was willing to give running a chance. I always wanted to be one of those cool outdoorsy women who came back from their excursions sweaty and covered in dirt, beaming with this organic, glowing smile. I wanted legitimate reasons to shop at REI. I wanted Instagram pictures with obscure, woodsy locations that would make people ask questions. Thus, I put my lifting sneakers in the closet, beat the cobwebs out of my running shoes, drank six glasses of water in preparation for the torture I was about to endure, told my family I loved them, and headed to Talcott Mountain to run the two heavily inclined and rocky miles to the Hublein Tower.
I parked my red Ford Taurus amongst the sea of Subarus, all stamped with cool bumper stickers that said things like “26.2” and “No Farms, No Food.” I tried to look like I knew what I was doing. Stretch the quads, the calves, can’t forget the hammies…should I start by walking? Yeah good idea, let’s walk a bit…wait, did I just lock my keys in my car…oh no they’re right here, thank God…okay, let’s go. Hello there bearded man with skinny legs. What’s that you’re eating? Kale chips? Yummy. Getting your daily allotment of iron I see…Yeah you go ahead, this might take a while. I’m sure I’ll see you sprinting the other way in about eight minutes while I’m dry heaving on the other side of the trail. Alright enough walking. C’mon Katie…start running…NOW…no…okay one, two three, NOW…okay, try again…GO, RUN, NOW.
Perhaps it was when I flew down the hill at the end, or when I saw the breathtaking views at the peak, or when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw an organic smile beaming back at me, that I realized that I had found a new passion. Streaked with dirt and covered in sweat, I felt like I could have run it another three times. I was without injury, hadn’t thrown up, and ran the entire way. I found my version of adventure. This was going to be the start of the new trail-crazed Katie.
Fast forward three weeks, and I am lost in the dense woods; I have absolutely no idea where I am or where I’m going.
I was out running a trail in a land trust in the northernmost part of rural Canton, Connecticut, the town I am lucky to call home. It was beautiful out; sunny and dry and I had time to spare before I needed to get ready for work. With a soggy, sweaty trail map in hand, I decided to extend my run by an extra mile, and take an additional red blazed loop before heading back to my car. I hadn’t hit the dreaded “runner’s wall” yet, and I was in awe of the location. The picturesque New England woods were filled with centuries-old stone walls and Mountain-laurel, and the thick maze of trees trapped in the scent of rich earth and wildflowers. The pine needle floor provided excellent footing, freeing me from the constant stress of picking my steps around rocks or roots.
My sense of direction, however, had completely failed me. Running decelerated to purposeful walking, then slow wandering ensued. I had plenty of water, food, and my phone, and although I had questionable cell service, I was never really in any danger. I knew the general route I needed to take to get back to the road. Yet this nagging sense of frustration kept biting me: that red blazed trail was my adventure. It was there somewhere, and I was daring enough to run it. Not finding it was not an option.
Yet when I stood there, staring down at my sweat-logged map, with no inkling of which way to turn, I realized how serendipitous it is to get lost. It is a collection of perfectly timed mistakes, wrapped up in an elegant bow of carelessness, with a glittering dash of “eeny meeny miny mo.” I looked up from my map, took four deep breaths, and allowed myself to be struck by my surroundings instead of my growing concern. The light filtering through the trees spread a sheet of crisp green over everything. A creek trickled somewhere in the distance, and the birds chirped and dove overhead. I was glowing.
More importantly, however, I was completely alone; something that our social media-driven society quickly takes for granted, or even avoids out of fear. I realized that at that moment, while being certifiably lost, I was in fact, exactly where I wanted to be.
Being alone in the woods and tackling an extra mile just to waste time was a massive victory for a college girl so embedded in the humdrum of daily routines. In this single chapter of my kickstarting a more spontaneous lifestyle, I had failed. The failure, however, was a result of my daring to adventure. I took a full turn and looked harder, saw some red paint on a tree, proceeded to do the Rocky double-armed victory fist pump, and took off. Getting lost was my adventure. When one is daring enough to get lost, what is found in that moment is far too valuable to fear.
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Katie is an Emerson College journalism student from Connecticut. She loves sports, outdoor adventure, and writing/reading about both.