You wouldn’t really know it just from looking at me, but I’m an adventurer.
I’m guessing those of you who know me personally, and who have seen my quirks, are chuckling to yourself and saying “Joe. You are not an adventurer. You won’t even eat fish. Also, have you ever even been out of New England?”
Sure, I probably don’t fit into the traditional “adventurer” box. I don’t strap on armor and go fight dragons (not in real life, anyway). I don’t travel to far away places like some of my friends, or try exotic foods. But I would argue that I AM an adventurer (and that means you probably are, too), because adventuring is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.
What makes one an adventurer? The dictionary definition of “adventurer” is “a person who enjoys or seeks adventure”. Pretty simple criteria to fill, right? It doesn’t have to be adventurous to someone else, as long as it’s adventurous to YOU. What I do tends to be adventurous for me, hence calling myself an adventurer. Logic.
I enjoy adventure in all forms. When I was a boy and my family had no money, that didn’t stop me from seeking adventure, or enjoying it. While Marvel’s Spider-Man was swinging through New York City, trying to put a stop to the dastardly Ringmaster – I was there with him, swinging along right behind him. When the young pig keeper named Taran was taking care of the oracular pig Hen Wen, I was there with him. The assistant to the assistant pig-keeper. When Mario and Luigi bounced through the Mushroom Kingdom in a quest to save Princess Peach, I was right there – a part of the action. These books and comics and games were my outlet for adventure when real life wouldn’t allow it.
When real life WOULD allow it – I traipsed through the woods, pretending I was a soldier or a bandit or a knight. I didn’t just find adventure, I created it in little pockets accessible during very trying times.
Today, adventure takes many different forms for me. Being an adult, I have certain responsibilities (as we all do). While those DO need to be taken care of, there has been plenty of time for adventures, actual adventures, in my life. While I still may not seem as adventurous as some, remember that my own brand of adventure may be different from your own. You might like going to study with monks in Tibet. That might be YOUR idea of adventure. Mine is exploring my back yard, or finding the adventure in the mundane. It’s not easy to do, but it’s there, and it’s rewarding.
I hunt ghosts. I had my own ghost hunting group for a while (Ghost Gumshoes). A website, a photographer, other investigators. We made excursions into some of the creepiest and darkest corners of the state. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, paranormal investigation is very exciting. You’re on edge, you’re in the dark. You’re hearing things, you’re recording things via photography, video and audio recording, and the written word. You might see something, you might not – but each time is different. Every investigation is a chance for excitement.
I once took a road trip to Virginia. It was for my honeymoon, but even though I shared that trip with someone else – it was still an adventure of my own. We went to Colonial Williamsburg. I was able to walk inside the home where Thomas Jefferson was tutored. I stared in awe at the dusty old law books, old bifocals, quill pens. The glass in the windows was original. Outside, I was able to witness a working tobacco plantation and taste a mint leaf from another part of the gardens. I was able to see the smokehouse and how meat is smoked. I was able to thresh some wheat, the old-fashioned way, as an old-timer re-enactor instructed me on how to use the threshing pole. I walked Virginia Beach, taking in the sights, smelling the salt, watching the waves. To me, Virginia may as well be as far away as Tibet for how often I get there. I’d never been anywhere that far away before then.
In 2010 I ended up in Maryland while my then-wife had veterinary training seminars. For two days I explored what I could. I drove, by myself, to the battlefield of Antietam. I walked the once-bloody fields and explored them in reverent silence. The heat was palpable, yet I stayed there in the sun and the grass all day, reflecting on how far the country had come since then, and how much further it still had to go. I walked the Bloody Lane, trying to pick up on the energy that may have been left behind by the violence. I cried. For me, Antietam was a spiritual journey, and I’m glad I made it. Aside from that, I explored what I could of Baltimore. The city was fun, and I was surprised with myself for having made the journey there. (I even managed to get my photo taken next to one of James Brown’s outfits that was hanging on a wall in a Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore).
I went to Limestone, Maine, to the Loring Air Force Base and I was a passenger during a rally cross event. During the day, the clouds swirled and danced across a perfect blue sky as the roar of car engines filled the silence of the surrounding countryside. At night, as we sat around a fire near our tents – I could have sworn that we’d been transported into the cosmos because the stars were so bright and all around us it seemed we had left Earth behind and were floating in a nebulous vacuum.
I paid my way (hotel room, gas) to see one of my now ex-girlfriends graduate from boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey. We traveled through New York City, stopping in the Bronx. The night before I saw her, I walked to a nearby beach and sat in the sand to think a while. I remember thinking how soft the sand was there in Cape May, and how, despite the cold, I almost fell asleep to the sound of crashing surf and whistling breeze.
I’ve been to the top of Mount Washington, gazing down through the clouds at the specks of people so far below. I’ve been to the Desert of Maine, watching beetles make track marks through the hot sands as the temperature needle poked its way into the high nineties. I’ve been to Funspot, the largest arcade on the east coast – where I re-lived my childhood. I rode my bike through the scenic parts of Biddeford, Saco, and Kennebunkport, soaking in the sun and watching the wildlife as the scenery unfolded before me.
I’ve attended many different conventions. AWP and Boskone, two conferences I attended with my Stonecoast friends. PortCon. Super Megafest. Portland Comic Expo. I’ve stepped into the shoes of Jareth from Labyrinth, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode III. I’ve been able to meet celebrities and people I admire from my pop culture interests. Todd Dezago, the cast of MST3K, Bob Camp, Lee Weeks, Ernie Hudson, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sargeant Slaughter, Ray Park, Rick Parker, Mort Todd, Marissa Jade, Ron Jeremy, Joe Quinones, and so many others.
I helped win first place in a film festival about mustaches. I was in a band. I’ve been asked to come on stage during a band’s performance of a cover of “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, along with two of my friends, and we danced on stage to the song while dressed as the characters from the Beastie Boys’s video. I danced on stage for hours during a Girl Talk set in Portland, until I was sweaty and exhausted.
The short film about mustaches.
The video of me and my friends from the above photo dancing on stage to Sabotage.
I walked the Battle Road Trail from the Old North Bridge to the Lexington Green and all the places in between. I toured Boston and Cambridge with friends, and explored the Bunker Hill memorial site, which moved something within me.
I visited the graves and former homes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau. I moved among the remnants of their lives, trying to re-live what I could through what remained of their existence. I stood barefoot in Walden Pond. I touched Hawthorne’s writing desk. I walked along an old trail Hawthorne himself used to use to think. I looked for answers from these dead writers.
I explored Vermont with friends. I explored Salem, Mass – a yearly tradition by now. I explored Wells, and Bar Harbor, and Acadia. I’ve created art, and have written stories, and most of all – I’ve lived. I haven’t had to travel far, but I’ve tried to live. I’ve tried my best.
I’ve done all these things, and I’ve done more – and there is even more to come in the future. Whatever shape your own brand of adventure takes, don’t feel afraid to call yourself an adventurer. You’ve probably been on more adventures than you realize.
So go out, find the adventure in the mundane and remember to live your life.