Friday, March 12, 2010

Delicious ambiguity...the nature of adventure.

Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Life is about not knowing, having to change,
taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity…

- Gilda Radner

The good folks over at Kayak Yak, just south of us here on Vancouver Island, keep us up to date on all kinds of news in the world of kayaking and beyond. I read there that Hayley Shephard has had to abandon her solo attempt to circumnavigate by sea kayak South Georgia Island. As many will know, SGI is remote - really remote. When a good friend and I circumnavigated Salt Spring Island last year, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. Although it was an awesome three-day-adventure, Salt Spring is a "stones throw" from where we live. Had serious weather or a pod of rambunctious whales threatened us, we could have, literally, called a cab to take us home, albeit via a ferry. And this is not to diminish the nature of our time on the water and in pristine and primitive island campsites. It was truly excellent, and in every way, an "adventure". Believe me, were we not both rather busy in our daytime vocations, we would have have quite enthusiastically welcomed a few more weeks of uninterrupted paddling!

Indeed, South Georgia Island is remote and inhospitable. The only inhabitants are a couple of British Government officials and staff of the British Antarctic Survey. The South Atlantic Ocean is on one side and the Scotia Sea is on the other and yes, you guessed it, Antarctica isn't that far away. In short, the sea state there doesn't get much more wild and unforgiving anywhere else on the planet! The ocean there is more than wild.

Hayley had to abandon this expedition for a number of reasons that you can read about on her Oceanmaid Ventures blog. Did she "fail" in her circumnavigation attempt? Well, it's true, she didn't complete her solo paddle around South Georgia Island. What was infinitely more important, however, was that she made an attempt at something most of us could never imagine doing. As Gilda Radner would have said, "she took the moment and made the best of it". She invited "delicious ambiguity", demanding or expecting no certainty in her endeavour. Surely, that is the very nature of adventure.

So often, we have a need to write the full script of our lives. We want to know where we are going and where we will end up and what to expect along the way. We like to have guarantees in place which will serve as safeguards in the event that we get off course. We attend seminars and workshops to help us to plan for our security and to assist us in warding off the possibility of surprises along the way. Like a train on the tracks or a electric streetcar wired to an overhead power source, we seem content to limit our "travel" in life.

How much more exciting it would be to see life as an extraordinary adventure, where we can only guess as to the nature of what's around the next corner. Of course, we need to be prepared for some stormy weather and life's occasional "rogue waves" and clearly Hayley was. But more important, she was open to change and to the unexpected, to the serendipitous content of each moment in time.

Although sometimes tempted to embrace certainty, when I think about it, I don't really want to know where I'll be this time next year or in five years time or a decade from now. To know that is to have already travelled to the future and to be content with a script that has already been written. That makes it difficult to live in the moment or to savour the incomparable thrill of anticipation. I like surprises. I want to wonder what's around the next "corner". I want to dream and then dream new dreams that are grounded in the personal growth that comes from adaptation to change. Sure, sometimes that adaptation is hard-earned and painful but that's the nature of an "adventure" and surely that is the very essence of life. It's the delicious ambiguity.

Bravo to you, Hayley, you are a great example. It wasn't exactly what you had thought it would be but, as you said, "it is what it is" and that reality will undoubtably launch a plethora of tremendously exciting new directions for you! And you might well inspire the same in those that admire your accomplishment.



  1. Hi:
    I'm one of those who want to know where they are going and where they will end up. I like guarantees and safeguards. Don't get me wrong. I too like surprises, but I'm a coward at heart.

  2. I'm with you J...I like to know what lies ahead but I can understand that life would be rather boring if we really did know our future. Seeing as Duncan likes surprises in his life think we might have to plan something!!

  3. Hmmm...not sure I like the direction this is going. I don't disagree with either of you, J and L. I like a "general" sense of direction too! And as for surprises, well, oh my...