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Just Add Adventure

Flying leaps into the unknown—above or underwater—are the spice of life

author sits under small waterfall at Blanco State Park

For a nanosecond, as I sailed over the side of an 18-foot rubber raft churning through a swirling rapid at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I second-guessed a personal mantra I adopted a decade ago: Get your hair wet.

Maybe whitewater rafting through waves as big as school buses on a 15-day trip organized by friends wasn’t such a good idea. Then I caught a rope on the side of the boat, managed to hoist myself ungracefully back onto the bobbing yellow vessel and saw that my pal Jimmy, who’d also been pitched out, was getting a kayak tow to shore. That’s when my belief was reaffirmed.

Yes, it’s way better to take a flying leap into the unknown than it is to sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else have fun—as long as you’re wearing a life jacket and helmet.

I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I don’t take unnecessary risks. But for me, living means doing things that make me a tad nervous. It’s why I scuba dive, backpack and try new things. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I look like an idiot, but I always feel my heart beat and my mind expand.

The go-for-it mindset stems from my upbringing. When I was a kid, my dad took me on pint-size adventures. We explored the woodsy canyon at the end of our street, hopped cedar fences to gaze at dinosaur tracks, took a long drive to scout out a Volkswagen-size boulder balanced on the side of the highway. My dad found wonder in the simplest things, a trait I admire.

A few years ago, after returning from a 15-day backpacking trip on California’s John Muir Trail with my husband, who has also clung with me by a metal hook to an ocean reef while hundreds of hammerhead sharks schooled overhead, I declared it my year of adventure. For 12 months I did things that scared me—from jumping off a 10-meter platform into a swimming pool to rappelling down a 38-story building while dressed as Wonder Woman and running a naked (except for a cowboy hat and shoes) 5K.

Injecting adventure into everyday life doesn’t have to be extreme. It might be as simple as exploring a new neighborhood or swimming in the dark. It just takes a little creativity.

Search out a park you’ve never visited. Eat a food you’ve never tasted. Get on your bicycle and start pedaling. You might end up with a scraped shin or a bruised ego. I’ve suffered both, hundreds of times over.

But I’ve also logged some of the most memorable experiences of my life, including that dip in churning water in the Grand Canyon.