From the Coast of Virginia to the Cornfields of Iowa: Our Hearts Are Made For Adventure

2,200 miles. Seven states. Three hikes. Two state high points. One kayak exploration. The Field of Dreams. Incredible local dives. Renewed creative energy. And the deepening of friendships. Adventure.

From the Coast of Virginia to the Cornfields of Iowa

The spurts of adventure we occasionally experience provide a small glimpse into a more satisfied life, the one in which we were created for and so desperately desire. In fact, adventure is written into every man’s heart, even though most would not recognize it in today’s modern world of “responsibility.” The word “adventure” implies an exploration into the unexpected, and that was certainly the case on my recent trek from Virginia to Iowa.

As I cruised further and further away from my familiar surroundings, I had a bit of unease wash over me. I wasn’t playing it safe, and my mind was sure to remind me of it 10,000 times in case I had forgotten the first 9,999.  I’ve learned to discern the voice that attempts to hold me back from advancing up higher peaks, both figuratively and literally.

In addition, my final destination wasn’t exactly on the list of top American vacation spots – laying on the beach or waiting in endless lines at Disney World. My unique trek took me to the heartland of America, with a final destination amongst the cornfields of Iowa.

Adventure Incorporates Both Planning and Flexibility

I am a planner by nature, but I have adopted and developed a much more go-with-the-flow mentality over the years. There’s something thrilling about the unexpected trail that I have yet to explore. Still, I prefer to have a loose plan in place when taking off 1,100 miles away from home. Loose turned into complete overhaul right up until departure day.

My original plan was to hit the state high points of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania on day one. The weather had a different idea, sending heavy downpours with strong wind gusts, and thunder and lightning effects throughout those areas. Additionally, I intended to stay with a long-time friend in Ohio, Indiana High Pointbut those plans floated down the Mississippi River. Often times, the best-laid plans fail to materialize, and that is where we have to be willing to adjust. I chalk it up to being all part of the adventure.

Nonetheless, I was able to knock out both the Ohio and Indiana high points along the journey out to Iowa. While neither offers much in terms of great views or difficult climbs, my high point challenge is in-part about exploring off-the-beaten-path America that I would never experience otherwise.

Whenever we intentionally pursue adventure, we experience refreshment of the mind and nourishment to the soul, but adventure isn’t the full equation. We must wisely choose those whom we take along on the grand adventure.

Adventure Pursued in the Company of Friends

I appreciate so much the community here at Trail Reflections, and I was fortunate enough to connect with four people who are intentionally pursuing life: Dan Holterhaus, Jon White, and Steve and Jody Berkey.

All four have become good friends, and the most important aspect of my recent adventure was listening to and learning from each one of them. Dan has been one of my accountability partners for well over a year, and after spending several days with him last week, I recognize that he regularly pushes me beyond my own confidence level and makes me better in the process. We must have someone to go into battle with us, who will have our backs and motivate us when the battles rage.

Field of DreamsWhat trip to the Hawkeye state would be complete without a visit to The Field of Dreams movie site. Of course Dan and I ran around the bases like a couple of little leaguers. Having lived 45 minutes from Iowa’s most famous baseball field, Dan had never had an opportunity to see the plush green field nestled in the midst of cornfields. Yet, it reminded me that adventure is best shared in the company of trusted friends. After all, “If you build it, they will come.” And it’s often in the midst of adventure, we embrace the opportunities to share the depths of our desires with those in our trusted circles and cultivate depth in our relationships.

The Effect of Burying Desire

Men, your desire for adventure does not suddenly come to a screeching halt when you say, “I do.” It does not end when you “grow up” and “become responsible.” Sure, you can bury the desire for years, but you can only suppress it for so long. However, you lose the right to live the adventure when you fail to be the provider and caretaker of your family.

Ladies, your man needs adventure in his life. It is how we are designed by God. If you are preventing the man in your life from living out the adventure God has placed on his heart, he will not fully become the man/husband/father God has called him to be. He will be a shadow of his full potential – bored out of his mind.

The desire for adventure remains written on our hearts just as the sun rises in the east. It’s up to us to embrace its mystery and invest in those who are taking the same adventurous, fulfilling trail.

My adventure took me all the way to the Midwest. And embracing the unknown led to personal and relational growth and memories to last a lifetime.

What adventures have you taken lately? How have you grown from them?

Along the Trails – Stopping to Say ‘Hello’

“The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life.” -John Eldredge

Recently, my dad and I spent several hours trekking through the Great Smoky Mountains. (Tomorrow, I’ll share my adventure with you in both words and photos.) I kept noticing a common trend – everyone was so friendly, so free, and so engaging. With a wave and a genuine, “How are you?”, we acknowledged each passing hiker on the trails, and more often than not, individuals would pause long enough to engage us in conversation and vice versa.

Back in civilization, or cities made of asphalt, what do people generally do when you pass them on the street? How about when strolling past strangers at the mall? You know the drill. Don’t make eye contact. Look every which way other than directly at them so that they don’t think you’re some weird stalker. Actually, I try to make eye contact with others to see if they will give a hint of a “hello” or at least a head nod. It’s a interesting experiment to see how far someone will go to avoid eye contact.

Nonetheless, people are caught up in their own lives, the busyness of coming and going, keeping appointments, and living the “American dream.” Out on the trails, however, none of those soul-draining tasks matters. Our souls and senses are wide open to the world around us. We are stripped of our own agenda. The passion and freedom return, as we experience God’s magnificent beauty and find nourishment for our hearts. People have time to pause and engage with one another.

“The whole creation is unapologetically wild. God loves it that way.” -John Eldredge

Not only do we discover room to breathe, but we also rekindle our God-given need for adventure. Just like us, our fellow hikers were out on the trail searching. Some or most of them may not have known what they were searching for, but they were on a journey of adventure. They were seeking an escape from the rat race in order to find rest, to exercise, to be still, to spend time with the Creator, to experience a little risk away from modern comforts. Where else can we find such freedom, ruggedness, and stillness?

Who knows? Maybe it will cause us to stop and say “hello” a little more often.

In your life, where do you find people who are willing to stop and say “hello?”

It’s All About Planning to be Outside

Last week, I asked what kept you from heading outdoors more often, and I received some insightful comments. If you haven’t commented yet, please feel free to do so here. I want to explore some of these thoughts in some upcoming posts.

A couple of issues seemed to resonate based upon the comments – lack of time and planning. Most of us live our lives at such a frantic pace. I feel the constant tug of trying to just get one more thing done. However, being busy may make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, but it doesn’t mean that I’m really accomplishing anything.

Since I’m involved in creative endeavors that often involve writing and video editing, I sometimes have trouble breaking away from projects, even when the creative juices aren’t flowing. At some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I do myself a disservice by staring aimlessly at the computer screen.

To combat these diminishing returns, I consciously plan time to spend walking/running outdoors a few days per week, even if it’s simply 45 minutes around the neighborhood or at the local park. While I may miss a day here or there, this has become a non-negotiable in my schedule.

I’ve also set a goal for myself to hike or bike one trail per week. I haven’t always kept this goal, and if I miss a week, I pick it up again the next. Most of the time, I try to keep it manageable by keeping the driving time within 30-45 minutes and spending an hour or two on the trail. If I’m feeling adventuresome, then I might drive to the mountains and spend the entire day.

These outdoor experiences are invaluable to me. Without them, I would not be refreshed and re-energized. I am able to return with creative ideas and a clear mindset. You don’t have to concoct some grand plan. Whether just beginning or desiring more consistency, pick an activity you are passionate about. You’ll be more likely to stick with it. Consciously work it into your schedule for the next few weeks. After a while, it will become an ingrained habit and purposefully planned into your life.

What keeps you from getting outdoors more often?

This post is all about you. I want to hear your feedback. What keeps you from getting outdoors more often? I’m not talking about sitting on the back porch. I mean getting away for a few hours or for a weekend to hike, kayak, mountain bike, rock climb, ski, white water raft, or whatever your choice of adventure might be.

Is it because of…

  • Lack of time?
  • Fear of a bear eating you?
  • Lack of interest?
  • Lack of planning?
  • Don’t think you can physically try a particular activity?
  • Other fears of some sort?
  • Any other reason?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, as I hope to put together some future blogs based upon some of the responses. Thanks for joining the conversation!

Don’t Go-it Alone and My Lame On-Camera Attempt

The other day, I was hiking in North Carolina with Justin Lukasavige of Coach Radio. Check out his site – there’s some really helpful and interesting content there. He’s become a friend through our conversations about building a business over the last year, and he’s taken on a mentor’s attitude in his life and business. In fact, he was nice enough to let me in on his weekly “Trail Talk” segment. If you want to see why I stay behind the camera, here’s the link:

Rewind two or three years, and we probably wouldn’t have had a conversation, much less struck up a friendship. I had a go-it-alone mentality. I thought I was smart enough to figure life out on my own. I didn’t want to annoy people with my problems or bore them with was going on in my life. More importantly, I didn’t want to face the possibility of rejection.

Dan Miller, who authored No More Mondays and 48 Days to the Work You Love, often asserts, “One of the key characteristics of highly successful people is that they spend time with those who are already performing at the level they are shooting for.” By finding the right mentors, you set yourself up to learn more in a few conversations then you could possibly receive from a 4-year degree. More importantly, the encouragement builds a newfound self-confidence.

Aside from a mentoring standpoint, it’s also beneficial to find people on similar life journeys. If you read my recent blog about my wife’s ongoing illness, then you have a pretty good idea of some of the struggles that have occurred in our lives the last four years. It became apparent that I had neglected to build other relationships during our dating years and early in our marriage. In fact, I didn’t realize I had a need for the friendship of men until I felt alone in those moments of struggle.

Suffice it to say, life doesn’t work well when we try to do it alone.  Success in all areas often comes back to relationships.

There Aren’t Any Flat Screens in Nature

Today happens to mark the day of the most-watched event in America each year. With the Super Bowl being played in Dallas’ immaculate $1.2 billion dollar mecca, I am amazed how the fans inside the stadium are bombarded with stimulation left and right – LED boards flashing constantly, advertisements shown left and right, and a supersized jumbtron hanging from one 20-yard line to another. The game in-and-of-itself doesn’t provide enough entertainment anymore.

As I was walking on the trail today, I thought about why we are so afraid of silence and stillness. God, alone, isn’t sufficient for us anymore. We need grand orchestras and flashing lights in church. We need to be in constant contact with friends and family through Facebook, email, and texting.

Maybe we’re afraid to stop and hear God’s voice in the midst of distraction, afraid of what He will reveal to us. Ever thought about why God didn’t put Jumbtrons, flat screens, and constantly flashing lights in nature?

Maybe He created the quiet streams, the rolling hills, and the vast oceans to remind us of His constant presence. Nature is a refuge for us to enjoy, as we break away from the stresses and distractions of life. God desires to speak to us in the quiet moments, if we’ll let him. Spend some time being still before God. Unplug for a while and head outside to a local trail. He doesn’t need LED boards to grab your attention. The beauty and wonder of life become apparent, as we realize how small our worries and lives are in the midst of His creation. So turn off the phone for a couple of hours. It won’t hurt, I promise. Allow your soul to be refreshed in His presence. If you make this simple act into a habit,  you’ll be amazed with the ideas and creativity that flow from your mind, along with a heart renewed.