When I was a child, one of my favorite movies was Without A Clue, a farcical spoof of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Dr. John Watson and Sir Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes. In the film, if you’ve not seen it, the roles are slightly reversed. Under the public’s watchful gaze, Watson serves as Holmes’ companion and biographer, but behind the closed doors of 221B Baker street, Watson is the genius detective and Sherlock is merely a drunk actor playing the role. I first saw the film while in 6th or 7th grade, at the same time I was discovering I loved to read and that some people made their living as writers. Had you asked me at the time I still would have told you I was going to be a paleontologist like my hero Bob Bakker, but I daydreamed at some point I might try my hand at writing, too, just as Bakker did with his novel Raptor Red. Early in the film, Caine confronts Kingsley about his most recent article for The Strand, in which Watson records Sherlock having made a mistake. Watson’s reply has always stayed with me: “A writer must write of which he knows.”
There was a time in my life I took adventures. College was an adventure for me. I wasn’t the stereotypical quiet kid in school, but I wasn’t outgoing, either. I didn’t, and still don’t enjoy many things people use to get their heart going like climbing, skiing, and white-water rafting; basically anything that requires more than casual exertion. After high school, I stuck around home and worked a simple home-healthcare job. I decided I didn’t like working and so made my way to college two states away in Illinois, just outside Chicago. It was new and exciting. I can’t say I took advantage of everything college and Chicago had to offer, but I had fun. I poked an eye and finger out of my shell and realized it wasn’t so bad out there. Then I took a leap and spent a semester in Europe. Every weekend a new city or country: Rome, Paris, London, Budapest, Geneva, Florence, Normandy, Munich, Salzburg, Milan, Vienna, Zurich, Naples, Interlaken… It was everything it could have been. It was a bona fide adventure. Three years later, my job would take me to The Netherlands, Wales, and Tanzania. Then, after Tanzania, nothing. For the last 6 years, no travel, no airports, no adventures beyond the occasional weekend road trip. Where are the new faces and new places to feed my soul?
A writer must write of which he knows. A writer cannot write in a vacuum. True, I have grown more as a writer these last few years than ever before, but I feel I have drawn off everything my experiences had to offer. I am depleted. I need more. I need adventure.
But it frightens me. I’m older. I’m out of shape. What if I’m not as resilient as I used to be? What if I find my adventurous spirit ends at the jetway? What if I’m not up to adventure’s demands?
Life is a serious of steps. Some are baby steps. Some take us over the edge of unimaginably tall cliffs, and there’s not always a safety net. Some cliffs we tumble over blindly, while others we strap on a parachute and dive headfirst and smiling. Adrenaline junkies say they feel most alive when closest to death. When was the last time I felt alive?
I’m working temporarily at a data-entry company. I sit at a computer. I read. I type. I click the mouse. I breathe recycled air. I eat my packed lunch. Suffice it to say, it’s not an adventure. When the job is over, I think I’ll be due some adventuring. I’ll have earned it.
I have a friend going on an adventure in September. She’ll be gone for 11 months, during which time she’ll visit 11 countries. As happy and excited as I am for her, I can’t help being a little jealous. I know how hard it will be for her, but I also know the rewards are worth it. I am proud of my friend. She inspires me. Because, no matter the fear, I know I need another adventure.
We all need adventure. It doesn’t look the same for any of us. My brother and his wife are beginning a new adventure soon: they are expecting their first child in October. For others, adventure might be changing jobs, moving to a new city, buying the house of their dreams, climbing a mountain, or losing weight. My adventure is travel.
We live in a big world. I’ve been to a few places and seem some amazing things. But there’s more. More to see. More to do. More people to meet. And the more I know, the more I write.
The world and its stories are waiting for me. It’s not polite to keep them waiting.