Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Where the wind leads us

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This is another ramble written in a single sitting and without thinking.
You’ve been warned.
Because you see, we were talking about adventure, with my friend Lucy.
She’s a scuba diver and a cyclist – the sort of person that goes on the road with her bike as a form of vacation, cycling for miles.
I write about adventures. Make believe adventures.

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I was all set, I studied geology and paleontology because I wanted to go out there – deserts, jungles, far off places…
I ended up in a lab and a classroom, first, and now in a small cold house in the middle of nowhere.
I should have been smarter, I’ve been told, I should have sought a post at the post office, or as a bank teller.
Everybody told me so, ever since I was 10, ever since I started saying I wanted to go dig dinosaurs or climb volcanoes.
End they were right.
Or were they?
After all, my chat with my friend Lucy started because there’s an organization out there handing out the European Adventurer of the Year Award.
What would our families, our teachers and our successful white-collar friends say, should they ever find out?

Adventure, I am convinced, is a state of mind.
I can have an adventure tomorrow morning walking the 500 yards to the post office to buy a recharge for my smartphone.
I can have an adventure improvising a dinner for my brother and our friends with what’s at hand, and in limited time.
I can have an adventure missing my bus, and having to walk home in the rain.

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It’s a mindset – the willingness to be open to chance, to enjoy the unexpected, and face it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the deepest jungle or in a supermarket aisle.
But yes, let’s admit it – the jungle would be nice, once in a while. Especially if it was the jungle you were aiming at from the start.
But OK…

This “ground burning under our feet” sensation is something Carl Sagan mentioned

Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.

It used to happen to me, back in the day.
During the summer, most of all.
I’d be sitting in my comfy chair, reading a book about some real or imagined adventure, and suddenly I’d be grasped by this sense of emptiness and a tiny voice in my head would go…

You’re wasting your time reading about it instead of doing it!

Don’t you hate it too, that little voice in your head?

Because I guess I’m not the only one tormented by that tiny voice, and herein lurks another angle to this story, too, and it’s as follows: the society that told us dreamers of adventure that we should really comb our hair and put on a tier and take our place in the line for “a proper job” is the same that is marketing package adventure “experiences”.
adventure-badge_23-2147512453Walking the Inca Trail looking for pre-Colombian wonders is a sanitized pastime for anyone with “a proper job” and an income sufficient to pay for the package tour.
And this is because, probably, while “a proper job” is still good and fine, there is in their heart or in their spirit or in the backwaters of their brain a longing for adventure and exploration, for doing what our ancestors are – and the mindset’s not there, so they can’t get an adventure in the aisle of a supermarket or taking a walk in the rain, and they need the whole set up: exotic location, distant land, strange flora, stranger fauna, no toilet paper and sleeping on the ground.
And adventure narratives – as books, comics and movies – are clearly a bait for this sort of experiences.
So I, too, have been feeding this Moloch.

So, what now?
I still long for adventure, even if I’ve learned to keep an adventurous mindset. And really, a package adventure is not what I’ve been missing.
At the same time, I am worried by a society that promotes risk-free, all-inclusive “adventures” as a form of release from what is, obviously, a spirit-killing lifestyle.
Heck of a situation, what?

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Where the wind leads us

  1. I Too wanted adventure but was persuaded by careers advisors not to do archaeology but to be more realistic. Hence a 20-year dead end as a secretary. Whenever I’m going on holiday people always say “oooh on your own? Risky!” Instead of “awesome! Have a great time!” I wish I’d known back then what I know now – 95% of what anyone says is usually bollocks 😉

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