Archives For adventure

Remember Lewis and Clark?

I, like most of you in the United States read about them in American History classes growing up. I was taught a basic overview of their journey, primarily because I lived in the midwest where they traveled. It was as if they were bullet points in a textbook and I learned the following:

  • They covered a lot of ground in a boat
  • Met some Native Americans
  • Made it to the Pacific Ocean
  • Recommended to the President we go west.

Simple enough but there was little story, only bullet-points. In truth, I thought of them more as a punchline as used in the opening of the movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) in the ridiculous Pig in a Polk quiz show opening scene.

Ten years ago, I read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage (Simon & Schuster, 1997), the epic narrative about the American explorers Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. I loved studying history and even minored in it in college, but I had never read any book that was written more as a story prior to this one. It was as if the Lewis and Clark’s almost mythological story finally made sense and I could get the accurate picture of these two explorers as if they were in a movie. I could visualize their adventure, share in their ambitions, trials, frustrations, hunger, fears, joy, and even sadness. History became alive to me in their story.

Their story resonates with me today and is pushing me to ask my question,

“What do I need to discover?”

Last month I read a BBC article titled What Adventures Are Actually Left?. It was about how we may be approaching the end of “discovery”.  According to the article, genuine firsts are hard to find these days. The mountains have all been summited. With GPS, it is hard not to easily discover remote islands in the Pacific or visit Antarctica in the winter with modern technology. It seems as if the ocean and space are the last frontier and are largely undiscovered.

While there less “firsts” for man to discover, the battle for discovery of the heart is at stake for each individual. It is the never-ending adventure of man. We as man are not meant to give up so easily because we are made to reach for the next thing. Discovery-adventure is needed to grow culturally and spiritually. Each person has their own reasons and they real what is true to their heart. Here is one of my favorite.

March 18, 1923 issue of the New York Times. The headline was “Climbing Mount Everest is Work for Supermen.”

Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” This question was asked of George Leigh Mallory, who was with both expeditions toward the summit of the world’s highestmountain, in 1921 and 1922, and who is now in New York. He plans to go again in 1924, and he gave as the reason for persisting in these repeated attempts to reach the top, “Because it’s there.

We may never know exactly what was at stake personally for Hillary but his tenacity to achieve such a feat shows that something deep within him was stirring.

I can come up with excuses all day long about why I don’t have time for this adventure and how there is never enough money. My wife and I don’t want to live life with any regret. I think that is why the Pixar movie, Up (2009), resonated so much with me. You watch the main character as a boy growing up to become an old man in the movie. His life, much like yours or mine was not easy and complete with all sorts of unexpected twists. It shows that all we have in life are excuses unless we move our lives into the intentional mode.

My wife and I have realized that if we don’t show our two daughters how to be adventurous, we will all get lost in life’s busy shuffle.

Lewis and Clark, Mallory, and the movie Up, all remind me to not to just “do things” but to do them with a purpose bigger than me. Do them because it matters. Not just to cross it off like a simple bucket list but for the purpose of a story to tell that matters for the ages. After all, God knows what true adventure is and his adventure flows from his story in The Bible. Our real adventure is with Christ and without his purpose, all of this is meaningless, a mere earthly thrill.

What is the adventure in your life?  

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs about adventure. My daughter’s faces were lit up when first hearing the song, Learn Me Right, by Mumford and Sons (featuring vocals by Birdy) in the movie, Brave (2012), It later became a sister song called Not With Haste in their new album, Babel, as well. I may even add it to My Funeral Mix.

Sometimes in life we are blessed to witness greatness.  I remember 10 years ago this month I had the privilege
of being part of a feat that few have accomplished.

Have you ever met someone who ran a marathon a day for 2 months straight?

Well I did.

They all ask, “Why would someone in their right mind do that?”

Well I shall tell you about the great Neil Garrod.

First, a short history lesson.

In 1451, King James II of Scotland persuaded Pope Nicholas V to grant a bull authorizing Bishop Turnbull of Glasgow to start a university.  That act initiated what became Glasgow University.  Flash forward 550 years to 2001.  It was a goal of mine to graduate early from college so I could live and work abroad.  Scotland was a love of mine since visiting a few years earlier and I began preparing for what I could do there.  The possibilities were endless.  I secured a 6 month work visa, packed my bags and moved to Scotland on New Years Day.  I found a job doing finance research for Professor Neil Garrod who was dean of Glasgow’s faculty of law and financial studies.  Soon after working for him he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The conversation went something like this:

Dave: “You want me to do what with you?”

Neil: “Right, drive a camper van with me through Europe for a few months. I’m going to run from Rome to Glasgow.”

Dave: “What?  Wait…Why?!?”

Neil: “Because this is life. Let’s go.”

Dave: “Okay, why not?”

Neil was a serious marathon runner and wanted to find a unique way to celebrate the 550th Anniversary of the university.  He would run the possible path of  where the bull would travel from Rome to Glasgow.
It sounded exciting to me so I embarked on this journey with the British version of Forrest Gump.  I was in charge of driving the camper van so I flew to Belgium to pick it up.  It would take three days to drive down to Rome where the race began at St. Peter’s Square.  I drove through Belgium and made a quick stop to visit Bastogne.  Next, I drove to Dijon, France and then another leg across the Alps passing Mont Blanc and to Genoa, Italy, which rests on the Mediterranean Sea.  It got interesting when the camper van was broken into while I was away eating dinner.  My passport and a credit card were stolen but thank God they didn’t take my Credence tapes (Big Lebowski fans out there?).  I had to quickly repair the driver’s side window with plexiglass and limped my way down to Sienna where I would meet up with Neil Garrod and his family. I was exhausted from that experience so it felt like the ultimate retreat in Sienna.  There we would eat amazing Italian food, drink the best wine and enjoy conversation with people from all around the world.  I think Neil thought I handled the whole robbery situation with calm but the truth is I was freaking out in my head the entire drive from Genoa to Sienna.

On the day the run began in Rome I was able to receive a new passport from the American Embassy and was on my way.  The first few days were spent trying to escape the population centers and get to open road.  The most memorable days were running through Florence/Firenze and then through wine country (Chianti) when Neil ran about 50 km (over 30 miles) in one day.  We went through amazing towns like Sienna, Castellina in Chianti, Donato, Bologna, Firenze, and Aosta.  Somewhere along these roads I cracked the van’s rear bumper and broke yet another window running into the side of an extended gas station roof.  It’s amazing I still am given insurance to this day.

The daily routine would be to wake up at 6am, eat a big breakfast and Neil would run 5-7 miles.  We would stop, eat, and I would ice Neil’s knees.  Following that, Neil would do a couple of afternoon runs.  Every night we would finish it off with a bottle of wine and eat some of the most tasty pasta one would ever dream of.  The routine was difficult but incredibly rewarding.  Observing Neil and his discipline for running only motivated me to run with him. So I joined him most days and built up stamina to go 5-6 miles.  When we reached Aosta near the French border, I left the team and went back to America for my friend Heath’s wedding.  I handed off the baton to another young student who helped Neil finish the race to Glasgow.  It was sad to leave but Neil always made me feel part of the team.  I heard later that the day after Neil finished the 1500 mile run, he flew down to South Africa and ran a 100 mile, 2 days race.  To this day I’m convinced that he is not human.

I could write for days about the experience.  Neil kept an extensive diary during this trip and you can read it all here.

During the Mega-run I grew up a bit.  I made the effort to embrace adventure, took some risks, and understood how to lean on God when I was lost.  What changed me most of all was learning to embrace “spontaneous experiences” that God puts in front of me.  I had the choice to stay in Scotland but the Mega-run was definitely one of those experiences to seize.  Before moving to Scotland I wrote my bucket list and running a marathon was a priority item to attain.

The year after the run,  thanks to the inspiration of Neil Garrod, I finished my first marathon in Chicago.

Thanks Neil.

Be spontaneous my friends.  Chose your own adventure.  Ultimately it is God’s adventure in you.  

Have you ever been asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

If you have been asked this question in an interview or casually been by a friend, it is much tougher to answer than you think.  It stumps many who haven’t thoroughly thought through it. I’ve always been intrigued by it and recognize that it is extremely challenging to answer during some seasons in life.  Most often I think in context and began looking back at my life. Most of the time it didn’t turn out exactly how I thought.  But, I believe that many answers are found in the past. With the World Cup going on, let’s take a look at the last 20 during those years the World Cup occured.

Recently, I re-read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  In the book, Miller shares how when we look at our lives as is, it really isn’t that interesting.  But, if you think through it as one would in writing a screenplay for a movie, many of the parts pieced together can be quite an interesting and at times adventurous story.  In those parts of life, the drama and action are brought to life for the observer, reader, or watcher.  So, I started to think through my life as a story just as Don analyzed his very own.  I cannot remember every single thing like when I drove to school on day 267 in 1996 or on day 145 in 1999 when I debated whether or not to see one movie versus another.  Pictures do help, though but unless you have a detailed minute by minute journal of your life, you just won’t remember those things.

It is the memorable scenes that stick out.

Brooke and I on top of Mt. Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany

Here are my memorable scenes from the past 20 years:

1990…West Germany won the World Cup: I was 12, Saddam invaded Kuwait, I quit football and took on golf and soccer as my main sports, I remember my sister being on Student council, and I can’t remember much else.

1994…Brazil won the World Cup: I just came through a rough 1993 as a Freshman in High School, moved from Kansas City to St. Louis, discovered the amazing story of To Kill A Mockingbird (reading it in KC and STL), found friends at Young Life and they found me, I found Christ, and am still great friends with those with me in Young Life to this day. 1994 represented my “character arc” in many ways.

1998…France won the World Cup: I was a Sophmore at the University of Evansville, locked Stan Musial’s keys in his trunk while working at a country club in St. Louis(good times), I remember trying to ditch my Christian legalism and really try to understand grace in that year.

2002…Brazil won the World Cup: Great friends like Heath Hildebrandt, Rick Ewing, Josh Lang, Mike Schwacker, my father and others watched the World Cup games in the middle of the night and got to see USA make it to the quarterfinals.  The world was getting used to being “post-9/11.” I worked for a film distributor in St. Louis and was getting used to life post-college.  I also met Brooke and we began a friendship and the following year became more.

2006…Italy won the World Cup: Went to Spring Training to see the St. Louis Cardinals and they won the World Series later that year, Brooke and I celebrated our first year of marriage, we traveled to Germany for the World Cup to meet up with our friends Tobi and Curtis, saw my cousin returning from fighting in Iraq, and also traveled with my sister and brother-in-law.  During the group stages of the World Cup, we watched games in city squares with thousands of other people.  There is nothing like it in another country.  I also remember desperately trying to find a bathroom in the German Medieval town of Rothenburg. Oh the things that stick out.

2010…We shall see who wins.  This year has been interesting reflecting on what has happened since the last World Cup.  I got married in 2005, we have had 2 wonderful girls, moved across town, and I started a job in publishing, which I love and can see myself doing forever.  The year continues to surprise me.

Watching Germany play in the World Cup at a crowded market in Munich

So, what will the scenes of 2014 look like for us?

For me?

In 2014, I’ll have won my second Oscar, saved children and puppies from a burning house, win the US Open in golf, while finding time to cure malaria or some other disease.  Good pipe dreams but you never know what God can do.

In truth, I’d like to be in Brazil for the World Cup, see my oldest daughter graduate Kindergarten, be back to Hawaii with my wife (we spent our honeymoon there and we love it) finish writing a book, and plan out a round the world trip for the family for when they can “remember” it a few years later.  Who knows?  But it’s fun to look forward to what’s next.

In 2014…

Where will you be?   What will you be doing?  Who will be with you?

Envision it like a scene in a movie and describe it.