I think the flip switched halfway up Mount Whitney last summer as I gazed down on the glinting lake far below where I’d started hiking in the pre-dawn darkness.
A jolt of happiness and pride and confidence swept through me that day, the last of 15 spent backpacking the John Muir Trail in California.
I can do this, I thought — lots of stuff like this. It’s all up to me, and it doesn’t matter how challenging or impossible something seems. I might want to quit, but if I just keep moving forward, a little bit at a time, I can do just about anything.
A few months later, I declared 2017 my Year of Adventure.
I’ve always had an adventurous spirit. By most people’s standards, I’ve probably lived a pretty adventurous life. I’ve scuba dived with schooling hammerhead sharks, I’ve bike-packed across Colorado, I’ve jumped out of an airplane and I’ve swum, with a relay partner, all the way around Manhattan Island.
Still, this year feels different. My declaration stands as a formal reminder to myself to embrace life and all the possibilities it offers, and to appreciate the opportunities that have rained like firecrackers out of a July Fourth sky. It’s a lifestyle, not a bragging list. It makes me feel alive and curious, like sizzling jolts of energy beaming through my body, making it impossible to sit still while the sun’s up.
I’m in full-tilt boogie mode, as Maurice Anderson puts it.
Anderson, 72, was one of my dad’s closest friends. They experienced a few adventures of their own before my dad died of non-smokers lung cancer 2 1/2 years ago. To honor him, Anderson tucked my dad’s photo into a stack of rocks near base camp of Mount Everest a week before he left this planet, something that makes my heart sing with happiness. And I’m pretty sure my nerdy, mulch-spreading, Twizzler-eating, socks-with-sandals-wearing rocket scientist of a father is smiling away at my current Phaser-loaded assault on everyday life.
My dad instilled in me a sense of curiosity and wonder for the ordinary. Show him a spiderweb in the backyard and you may as well have uncovered the “Mona Lisa.” Share a dollop of wasabi with him and new stars formed in his stratosphere. He picked wine by the label and drove around with opera music blaring out his car windows. He found adventure in everyday life, but he also pushed me to discover and explore the world around me.
With him in mind, I’ve resolved to live my life to its fullest.
So far this year, I’ve gone dog sledding, snow biking and solo camping. I’ve jumped off the 10-meter dive platform at the University of Texas, thrown myself full-gale into photography, climbed to the top of Emory Peak at Big Bend National Park, started writing poetry with people who are way better at it than I am, hammock camped in the Davis Mountains, started writing my first book, scaled Navajo Knobs at Capitol Reef National Park, swum a naked mile under cloak of darkness at Barton Springs, paddled the Pedernales River, and participated in (and won the female division of!) a naked 5K run.
What’s on tap for the rest of this year? I’m not exactly sure yet, but a few things are already on the books: A multi-day paddle trip on the Devils River, trail running through Oregon and scuba diving in Belize. Also likely? A mushroom foraging expedition in the woods of New Mexico, a trip to an archaeological research facility in South Texas that just landed a National Geographic grant and a stroll up Mount Kilimanjaro.
But I’m looking for more suggestions. They don’t have to be exotic or far-flung. I’m all about injecting adrenaline into everyday life, whether it’s through my daily bike ride to the office or water-skiing before work on Lake Austin. My only rule? It has to be non-life-threatening. So, no, I’m not going base jumping just yet. And I’d like it even more if I got to do it with someone — you!
So far, I’ve gotten offers to compete in a pack burro race in the mountains of Colorado (yes, please!), ski jump like an Olympian (maybe!) and perch on the back of a bucking bull while it stands in a chute at a rodeo. Others have suggested whitewater rafting (absolutely!), paddling the Texas Water Safari (not sure I can handle sleep deprivation) or teaching an elementary school class (terrifying).
I’m full in on life. I’m never going to sit on the edge of the pool and watch everyone else jump in and play. Neither should you. Take a flying leap, splash hard, get your hair wet and smudge your makeup.
Skinny dip. Climb a mountain. Paddle a river. Write your life story.
YOUR YEAR OF ADVENTURE
Keep track of Pam LeBlanc’s Year of Adventure on Instagram (@fitcityaustin), Facebook (Pamela LeBlanc and Fit City) and Twitter (@FitCityLeBlanc). Want to join in? Use the hashtag #YearofAdventure.
In addition to taking suggestions, Pam wants to hear about your adventures. What do you have on tap for 2017 and beyond? What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced in your life so far? What’s given you the biggest kick in the pants? What scared you the most, gave you the most confidence, set your psyche afire with emotion?
Email your stories to email@example.com, or mail them to Pam LeBlanc at the Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704.