Yesterday officially began our vacation when we flew out of Kansas City to meet some friends in sunny Florida, even though it turned out not to be sunny when we arrived. I’m up on the second day early listening to the rain outside. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t sound like the ideal vacation in Florida, but bear with me a little while as I attempt to explain the nature of adventures.
I have been learning about adventures for a few years now ever since we went to Taiwan to visit my son. From the beginning, things didn’t work out in Taiwan exactly like we planned. The car didn’t show up to pick us up and I later wrecked the scooter that was supposed to take us on the adventure into Taroko Gorge.
If you are like me, it helps ease your mind to plan out excursions like visiting Taiwan or traveling to Florida. Certainly I was happy to arrive at a couple’s cottage that we scheduled and it helped to know when our flights would leave our homeland and arrive at our destination. But often things don’t go exactly like we plan and we forget the very nature of an adventure is discovering things what we never could have planned for.
In Taiwan, the most captivating thing that came from our (mis)adventure was the Tea Shop. I later wrote a book about this experience that literally changed my life. It came about, not because of my rigid itinerary, but because of things that I didn’t plan for that altered my intentions. The things that makes a good movie are also what make a good adventure — the twist in the plot — the unexpected event — the new character that appears out of nowhere.
While the coffee was brewing this morning, I tried to imagine a movie that was like how I imagine vacations to be. The main character plans every detail of the trip, including where the family will visit and what they will eat almost down to the minute. The budget is established and adhered to and every character that will be encountered is imagined and/or known before beginning. Everything works according to plan, and even the twists are just variations on what already has a contingency plan. Part of me longs for this type of vacation, but I know the adventurer in me would never even watch this movie much less want to experience it in real life.
In the Tea Shop, I wrote that “adventures are unscripted,” yet I remember being slumped over in a noodle shop wondering if I had ruined the whole trip shortly after I crashed my scooter.
The adventure is not in the detailed planning, but rather when plans are subverted by unforeseen circumstances. The itinerary might bring some peace and order to the experience, but the real adventure starts when the itinerary gets subverted by real life.
So, today (the second day of vacation) starts with a loose plan to grab breakfast and explore the pier. After that, it’s hard to say for sure what will happen. Laura reminded me, “let’s just go and enjoy.” I immediately agree while having “she gets me” thoughts, but also realizing that a part of me will fight it all the way. Both of us might be apt to say, “So what’s the plan?’
Abort, abort, abandon the plan — chase the butterfly — introduce yourself to the stranger — look over the horizon — let the plot twist develop into an adventure!
As I’m learning to embrace adventure, my favorite phrase is one I learned as a kid, “What is that?”
As we engage the plans we imagined for today, I hope we try to imagine the adventure that we might be forcing into subservience to the to-do list. Even though, it’s perfectly fine to accomplish things and complete tasks today: it’s also acceptable to chase the rabbit and explore the unknown (even it’s disguised as a disaster or a problem).
When we can silently be aware of the unexpected plans evolving into memories, we not only experience adventures, but we notice every detail and enjoy it all the more!
Be where you are, be who you are,
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!