Thursday, January 31, 2013

Adventure's End

I think the worst part of an adventure is the final leg of the journey. I define 'adventure' loosely here; it can be as simple as a walk in the Glen or as extreme as a polar expedition. My interpretation of 'adventure,' at least in this instance, is one that provides an escape from daily life and is truly freeing. Mingled with every escape is the thrill of the unknown, the refreshment of solitude, the delight of freedom, and the invigoration of a release from society. I think one of the biggest struggles in an adventure is its final stretch, that moment when you're almost back to 'reality' (reality meaning daily life, because I am not saying that adventures aren't real). The hardest part is when you begin to switch out of whatever emotions your adventure inspired: peacefulness, fear, comfort, despair, exhilaration, desire, spontaneity, recklessness. Letting go of the consuming nature of an adventure requires an acceptance of the inevitable return to day-to-day life. My least favorite part of excursions is when those consuming thoughts begin to shift back to schedules, meetings, and seemingly insignificant concerns. The end of Krakauer's journey reflects this same tone. There's something downright depressing about ending an adventure. Even if one's goals for the trip are accomplished, there can always be that sense of longing to be back in nature. 
There's an interesting dichotomy between the fulfillment that accompanies completing an adventure and the sense of emptiness once it is over. There's the "euphoria, the overwhelming sense of release" (25) that accompanied Krakauer's return from the ice, but there's also the "unexpected melancholy" (25) that loomed close behind. For Krakauer, climbing the Devil's Thumb didn't prove to be the "glorious transformation" (26) that he was expecting; in this sense he was let down. However, even though Krakauer didn't accomplish what he initially sought, he did learn patience, common sense about nature's limits, and, retrospectively, he realized he gained maturity. So, even though adventures, however incredible, can have an accompanying sense of emptiness or loss, they are worthwhile. Besides the in-the-moment benefits and exhilarations, adventures renew perspectives. Adventuring, whether alone like Krakauer or with a companion like Stempf, requires definite self-awareness, independence, and self-reliance. Once an adventure ends, these qualities still remain, even if there are struggles of readjustment. Escapes can be planned or unintentional, and the realities of an escape and the knowledge gained from one can be surprising. 


  1. I think your post is extremely interesting, and I agree with it completely. I think that a common emotion for people returning from any kind of adventure - whether it be a simple vacation to the beach or an expedition up Everest - is the disappointment of having to return to "real life," as you stated. After all, why else would some people choose to drop everything from their old lives and move to a foreign country to open a surf shop (or something similar) as often happens if such a feeling didn't exist? Nevertheless, I think adventures are important because they give us a chance to get outside of our heads and the daily stresses of everyday life and to learn more about ourselves. I think that's why Krakauer's trip was in many ways a success; he learned more about who he was and was able to grow thanks to his experiences.

  2. SImilarly, I completely agree with the interesting dichotomy you express. From my experience, return from a vacation most often results in feelings of reluctance, boredom, and even sadness, for people frequently seek out vacations as a sort of escape from "real" life. On the other extreme, the completion of a rigorous expedition, such as both expressed by Krakauer, result in a combination of melancholy and relief; after a physically and mentally exhausting adventure, the luxuries of modern convenience offer a welcoming alternative. In between lies perhaps the most commonly experienced adventure--a walk in the woods, a trip down the river--that provides the simple pleasures of life distanced from overscheduled, overworked daily life. However, I feel the emotions experienced on such an adventure, from peacefulness to intrigue to excitement, can carry over back into the real world in a fusion of daily life and adventure mindset.