I’ve decided to focus some time on writing about something many of us have experienced or are experiencing and may not be sharing. It’s called Starting Late. Many of us have had dreams of doing great things only to find that life and our own choices got in the way. These posts are an offer of encouragement and a call to action. Starting late does not need to equal Too Late. Here’s my story…
So I started late. I had dreams of traveling the world and exploring new cultures. I saw myself walking through the markets of Morocco and eating pastries in Paris. An outdoor cafe, corner table. I envisioned summers picnicking in the emerald green valleys of Scotland, strolling through ancient structures covered in vines.
None of that happened. I got married, had kids, got a mortgage, car insurance and student loans. And the years turned into many more years.
After my divorce, I thought, “Heck yeah this is it! I’m free to choose the life I want to live.” I didn’t consider that starting from scratch + being broke = stay home. My children and my student loans did not forge a clear path to freedom. But my dreams didn’t die, and I refused to accept this sameness day in and day out. I looked Sameness square in the eyes and I said “No”.
Now it’d be nice to say that I hopped online and bought myself a plane ticket to France, but I didn’t. I wasn’t ready yet. But I found a friend who was craving adventure and we planned a weekend away– a camping trip, just the two of us. Everyone told us that it was a bad idea. Two girls camping alone is a recipe for disaster. Anything can happen. What if this? What if that? Do we even know what we’re doing? We ignored them all. We were strong, competent, and good-natured. We’d be fine. We left their imploring behind and were on our way.
It turned out to be just the adventure we needed. It went something like this:
Our car, a Kia, got stuck in deep mud. Our guide to show us to the site stood by smiling as Krys swore to high Heaven and promised death on everyone who might be in some way responsible. We tried pushing the car out of its sinking hole, but as she gave it gas and the tires spinned on air, mud just kept flying directly into my face.
She cursed some more and I tried not to laugh. Finally we called it quits and unloaded all of our equipment into our guide’s truck and hitched a ride to our campsite. The Kia was shamefacedly towed to our site later. I wish I hadn’t lost most of the pictures from this trip because they were great.
Anyway, we got to work setting up the tent just as a truck of employees came by to haul the car and see what the big joke was all about. (Fyi: we were the big joke.) They seemed to think that they had arrived at just the right time. They would save us from having to struggle with our tent. They could do it in 2 seconds they said.
We were having none of it. That tent was ours and so was the mission. We told them to scurry on. I think we did a fine job.
Later. Later we were blown away by the minor fact that we’d forgotten to bring lighter fluid and we were miles (walking miles) from any civilization. We found a bottle of hand sanitizer and squeezed the hell out of it. We lit about 20 matches. They all extinguished themselves the moment they touched the wood.
The pride we felt when that hand sanitizer and matches fire finally stayed lit is inexplicable. I won’t even try.
Turning in for bed under a canopy of more stars than I had ever seen was lovely; waking up to the realization that we’d forgotten to cover up the now dew-soaked fire wood sucked.
Nevertheless, breakfast was made. Oatmeal, coffee, eggs, soggy ass waffles that didn’t survive a cooler filled with ice. This is how we learn, folks.
Then there was zip lining and cows mooing in the night and watching the sun rise and picking wildflowers for my journal.
Finally we were getting ready to head home. Word had spread about our unfortunate and inadequate car situation. One of the employees came round our campsite and told us about a back way to leave the site without fear of getting stuck in mud.
Just a few minutes into the drive, we approach a gate. I get out of the car to open it, and out of the tall grasses come two deer, a mother and her fawn, prancing along just as I’d always seen in movies. Imagine me jumping up and squealing. Imagine my mouth hanging open in amazement. Imagine. I know that deer are like squirrels to some people, but not to me. They just as well could’ve been unicorns. It was only the second time I’d ever seen one in person, and these two were right in front of me!
A few minutes later we come up on this lone cowboy and I start asking questions. Actually, he started with the question first. Most campers are never seen in that neck of the woods, but as soon as we started explaining he knew exactly who we were. Yup, word of us had gotten to him too.
Apparently, there are wild horses down the way and he needs to get them through the gate. I ask if I can help because what the hell’s the worst that can happen? Ladies and gentlemen, he says yes! Now imagine me having one of the best experiences of my life. Me being taught by a cowboy to wrangle an entire herd of wild horses.
This is one trip of many. It didn’t cost us much and it didn’t require a passport; not even a plane ticket. It was one step, a big and small step, to get me where I want to be.
We aren’t all 20 and childless. Neither do most of us want to be. But we have to remember that a life of adventure does not just belong to the young and free. We are free to make choices every day. We can choose to scroll Facebook or search for cheap travel tips. We can buy a latte everyday or save up for a weekend trip. And once you get a taste of that adventure bug you put in a jar years ago, I guarantee you will find ways to make it happen again. Start late. It’s okay. Just Start.
If you’d like to keep this journey going, here is Part Two.