I’ve realised I’m not that great with the unknown. It can be scary not knowing what’s around the corner or on the other side of that bank of cloud when you’re high up on a mountain.
When faced with the unknown or uncertainty when we’re out on an adventure, we often instantly jump to the worst-case scenario: imagining we might be stuck on a rock face with a 30m drop below, getting lost in the woods and never finding our way home, or falling off the side of a mountain when visibility drops.
It’s our natural flight or fight response based on self-preservation.
But we tend to focus on all the bad stuff that might happen (note that the word ‘might’ is defined as “expressing a possibility” meaning there is no guarantee) and forget that there is just as much of a likelihood of good things happening.
Indeed, this can play to all areas of life, not just adventures. And just sometimes, living in the moment and embracing the unknown, rather than worrying about ‘what ifs’, can bring opportunities or experiences you may not have been expecting but that warm your soul.
Take, for instance, my recent trip to the Cheviot Hills to climb volcano number nine in my #40by40 quest. We hadn’t even set off on the journey proper into the Northumberland wilderness when we were treated to an experience I certainly wouldn’t have predicted.
We could have stayed at the campsite to eat two-minute noodles for dinner and had an early night. Instead we decided to go to the pub.
We could have stayed for one drink and then retired to the campsite in preparation for the big walk the next day. Instead we decided to stay for one more at the pub and share a bag of salt and vinegar crisps.
I admit, I felt anxious. Staying late at the pub, drinking on virtually an empty stomach, when we had mountains to climb in the morning; for the control freak in me, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable.
But if we had left early – or indeed, not even ventured to the pub – we would have missed the OAP ukulele band. That’s right, who would have thought the town of Wooler would have an OAP ukulele band – and they were brilliant.
There we were sipping on our pints, boogying in our seats to Elvis, The Monkees, The Beatles and Johnny Cash, as these grey-haired musicians (and a token youth) strummed their ukuleles and belted out the songs.
It was a good hour or so of quality entertainment.
When things don’t go to plan
Of course, even without the unknown or unexpected, bad things can sometimes happen or things don’t go to plan when you’re on an adventure. At times like these, it’s easy to get in a hump and believe the world is about to end.
But we get so caught up in the inconvenience of the unplanned something, we forget that there are often hidden opportunities, experiences or silver linings waiting to be revealed.
This was exactly the case for me this time last year, when the boyfriend got the car stuck in a paddock in Snowdonia.
All hopes of mountain climbing were stymied while we spent around three and a half hours trying to push the dratted car out of the paddock. I was understandably annoyed as we wasted the best part of a stunning winter day.
But after some muscle power from a couple of friendly welsh walkers, the car was rescued and we decided – albeit reluctantly – to give Mt Snowdon a go.
In many ways it was a bit late in the day to have embarked on such an ambitious walk, and I was wary of the snow and the limited daylight hours. But we pushed on and we got to the summit just as the sun was setting, turning the sky orange and the snow rose gold. It was magical – and it wouldn’t have happened if the boyfriend’s driving had been better.
The moral of these stories is that good things can come out of bad and the unknown doesn’t have to default to the scary or hold us back. Just sometimes the unexpected and unplanned mishaps can be a blessing in disguise; an experience that’s special and unique to you; something to be relished and savoured.
And sometimes that’s exactly what makes it more than just a bog-standard adventure.