My youngest son, Nicholas, is 25 years old. He has a good job, a comfortable apartment, a lovely girlfriend, and many friends with whom to share social outings. I look at Nick and think he must feel very content with his life. And he does. But he also has a longing for adventure, for “something different,” and that fuels a desire to expand the boundaries of his life. In January, Nick decided he would take a short trip once every month to a place he’d never been. He would step out of his comfortable life and into a new experience. He would explore. He would challenge himself to become more than what he already was.
Perhaps this is simply the restless discontent that sometimes comes with youth, but as his mom, I have to say I understand the desire. As a fellow traveler in this world, I am jealous! I want to explore and have adventures too. I want to feel free and live in an open-ended world with fewer constraints and obligations. I want to be more than I am. Before you say that is simply the restless discontent that comes with being a writer (or a writers’ colony director), let me suggest it might be more than that. It might be our heart telling us not to settle for what we already know, but to reach for what we could know but don’t know yet. It is the voice of curiosity and exploration calling us to follow.
It’s July, and Nick, so far, has stayed true to his word. He’s traveled from Hawaii (work trip) to England (trip with friends), from Austin, TX (trip with girlfriend) to Charleston, WV (trip with me!). He’s taken hundreds of pictures and sipped coffee at dozens of coffee shops. He’s lived in a way that challenged his status quo and brought him an awareness of the world that he hadn’t previously had. He gained this by making a decision, by deciding to act in a different way than usual. He’s growing as a person because of it.
I sometimes think I get stuck in a rut here at the colony. In July, the rut looks like this: mow the lawn, weed the garden, clean the farmhouse, repeat. While the repetition of chores may be necessary for the summer months, I try not to let my writing lay dormant in the same old dry ground. I try to shake it up occasionally. One thing I’m doing right now is joining a new writing group. My resolve to produce new poetry has been less than successful so far this year and I think new eyes and new feedback might be inspiring. I’ve also tried my hand at some CNF essays. Expanding ideas on the page has been cathartic, even though I don’t feel like I’m very good at it yet.
Here’s a truth about exploring: You don’t have to be good at it! As long as you move toward the newness, the change, the diversity, you’re doing it correctly. Here’s another truth: Exploring doesn’t have to mean travel, although goodness, if you can travel, why don’t you?! Exploring can mean changing your internal landscape of habits and routines, moving from “known” to the daring possibilities of the “unknown.”
What do you want to explore this year? As we move past the halfway point in 2023, it seems to be a good time to set down the usual and pick up something different. A new delight. A new experience. A new adventure.
And if you need some adventurous travel tips for the rest of the year, I know a really great 25-year-old you can ask!