Lately, sorting through piles of old photographs and letters, I’ve begun to see how my love for adventuring became a foremost life goal and passion. I was born clutching a bucket list, ready to go forth checking off destinations. My mom once told me I refused to breastfeed. “You kept squirming, turning your head to look out the window, to see what was going on outside.” Yep, that sounds about right. While I don’t remember self-weaning in my infancy, it certainly jibes with my earliest childhood memories.
By age three, southern California’s forever summer weather and outdoor lifestyle willingly drew me toward unlimited opportunities to explore our working-class neighborhood, local parks, vacant lots with trap-door spiders and tarantulas, viney shrubs dominated by monster hornets, and hillsides filled with fragrant, shaggy stands of giant eucalyptus. Except for droughts, there was usually a lawn sprinkler blasting away in someone’s yard for cooling off in between explorations. The sturdy tricycle in the photo above was a birthday present, greatly extending my range at the tender age of three.
Since my mom worked on weekends, childcare fell to my dad. We piled in his pickup and took off for San Diego County’s “back country,” hunting quail in dry oak- and manzanita-rich gulches. We scrambled up granite boulders to higher view points, hob-nobbed with folks living on one or more of the eighteen Indian reservations in the region, and poked around for ramshackle cabins for sale. A predisposition for these field trips was engrained in my dad, who grew up in a migrant family of “Okies” and “Arkies,” working odd jobs from Oklahoma to Arkansas before settling into steady construction jobs in California. Although my mom basically domesticated my wanderlust dad (they were married for nearly fifty years living in only two small houses), the short weekend trips fed his--and my--fundamental urge to hit the road.
Fast-forward, my favorite travel companion these days, Timothy Wyant, light-heartedly sums up my outward bound nature when he says, “there she goes.” My impulse to strike off seeking adventure, be it on a brisk four-mile walk around Peaks Island, Maine, where we live or on an exploration of Amazon rivers and forests in Colombia, is powerfully linked to a love for life-long learning, especially during adventures beyond my familiar.
An adventure trip for me begins days before departure, as ramping up for the journey is part of the joy. Our guest bedroom is converted to “expedition” headquarters. I use detailed packing lists (see List It! Pack It! under Travel Tips), dividing gear and clothing into gallon-size rip-stop zippered bags (Google Eagle Creek brand), which then go into jumbo duffels. With my full focus on the trip, there’s usually a last-minute tweak or two to the itinerary, and a few emails sent to confirm an airport pick up or add a day tour just discovered from a travel blog. Willie Nelson is critical to adventure prep. Nothing beats pumping up wanderlust enthusiasm like Willie's “On the Road Again.” By the way, I’m a textbook Zodiac Aries—energetic, determined, self-reliant, enthusiastic, spontaneous, and, my favorite trait, a fan of comfortable clothes! (www.astrology-zodiac-signs.com/zodiac-signs/aries.) The very thought of an expired passport causes cold sweats.
Timothy calls the Weatherfords, my side of the family, “moving targets.” Indeed, seventy years after that first tricycle, this Weatherford target is still moving!