Friday, January 24, 2014

Of living in the land of adventure // week 1

Somewhere between the overwhelming uncertainty and surprising loneliness of the utterly new + unknown, and the restful consolation of routine + familiarity there is a place called "adventure". In the land of "adventure" you have a sure-enough footing in something, whether it be the security of a GPS or a companion you trust albeit blindly, that your head isn't muddied by apprehension but is free to drink in the newness all around you. With wide-eyes, inquiring foot steps and a chest full of big dreams to be realized, discarded, or saved for another time, you venture forward. Pressing on, sometimes through unforeseen weather, you collect information and experience and memory and so, in your way, stake a claim in this previously unfamiliar place.

This evening is the one-week marker of my #newjerseyadventure and I have swung on the pendulum of the completely new, experiencing the staggering disorientation that comes from realizing that no one in the sea of people around you for miles and miles knows you personally even in the smallest degree as well as the exhilarating gratification of independent discovery. When no landmark is a gauge to you yet and every road has yet to be charted in your mind's map, you must explore! Starting from the location where you're putting down roots (whether that be a hotel room on a weekend trip or a new house in a town you anticipate living in for the next ten years) you set out with a goal to accomplish that, in an area you're acquainted with, you could typically manage to do with your eyes closed, but here, in this new land, will mean entering the alluring land of "adventure". Soon enough you'll get your barings and will be able to make it not just to "a" post office, grocery store or gas station, but "the" post office, grocery store or gas station you adopt as your own -- the place that habit will lead you again and again.

There is intense beauty in the mystery that cloaks ordinary streets and paints fresh color into the haunts of the locals. This kind of beauty is an acquired taste not immediately pleasing to the palette of anyone raised with an appreciation for the charming glow of an established sense of belonging in a community and the ability to greet each turn in a road or roll of a field with the confidence as of an old friend. It's okay to ease into it. "Adventure" is found down any road which you have never traveled, and there is at least one of those in any town. For myself, I'm delighted to be adventuring on the East Coast, only a handful of hours from a number of well-known cities full of less-well-known cafe corners and overlooked streets. This week I've already become familiar enough with the route from home to work and work to town (more specifically, shopping center), or any variation of the three, that I no longer need a GPS to show me when to turn. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in this fact, but too a bittersweetness in  reckoning those places now outside of the "adventure" land and into the more "homey" one.

Any adventurer knows the relief of something well-known in the midst of much exploration -- a friend's face or a coffee drink made perfectly to taste. The key to remaining an adventurer in a place you come to know well is to stay curious, to hold onto the bravery it takes to drive headlong down a road when you don't know where it will lead; to branch off the beaten path not heading toward a certain destination but an assured discovery. Getting stuck in a rut can feel like a luxury after the unsettledness of travel or moving, and really it is a luxury -- one we take much for granted, but to continue living in the land of "adventure" you must keep "leaving camp". It's a mission and a game all in one, with very little chance of failing.

// discoveries from this week //
the closest Chipotle - nearest Target - a fabulous grocery store - a central gas station - local post office - a church all my area connections go to - the preschool I now work at - four large shopping centers - two Starbucks' nearby - the Starplex theater that has cheap matinees - a small church I plan on attending - the charming downtown of East Windsor located on a tiny body of water - the whimsical main street of Chesterfield - rural roads I take home in Hamilton - a main highway - one corner of the University of Princeton - a very local Italian restaurant in Hamilton - an excellent bookstore in Princeton along with a handful of fun shops and cafes - the gorgeous river drive of Yardley I mean to return to someday

photo credit: my adventurous friend, Mikayla Michelle Photography

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