Seeing Adventure in the Unexpected

Author: Kate Schaber | | @kateschaber

My husband and I had just spent the night in Charles De Gaulle, one of Paris' international airports. We tried to sneak in a few minutes of sleep before our early flight to Dublin, laying awkwardly on rows of seats with armrests digging into our sides.

Groggy but excited, we finally made it to that gorgeous green isle. After enjoying our first Irish breakfast in an airport restaurant, we made our way to the car rental counter, very ready to start our 2-hour drive to our countryside cottage.  

I had reserved a car online and paid a fee, but was expecting to shell out more money once we got there. It turns out, it was going to cost MUCH more than expected, and there we were, sleepy, naive, and stranded.

After a few hours exhausting our every option, we scrapped our old plan and decided to take the bus to our cottage on the west coast of Ireland near the Cliffs of Moher, a place on the very top of my bucket list.   

It took us several hours and multiple buses to get to the little town of Doolin, where we still had a walk through the countryside ahead of us since we were now car-less and I had chosen a rental home in the middle of nowhere.  

We started our walk, with only a screenshot of a google map on my phone to guide us, our backpacks feeling more oppressive than when we had left Paris so many hours earlier. It was now the early evening, and all I could think was, "please, let us find this place before it gets dark."  

As we walked, we dodged cars on the narrow country road, laughed at a Hitchcockian encounter with a giant flock of crows, and watched the minutes far exceed the "15-20" we had been promised by our rental home host.  

Then along came Jim Shannon—a man my husband and I still raise our glasses to. We must have looked slightly out of place with all our bags, dragging ourselves down a secluded country road at dusk, because a car slowed down and a man peered out the window, saying "Are you lost? Do you need a ride?"

I've never been quick to jump in cars with strangers, but he did not have to ask us twice. We hopped in, and Jim proceeded to slow down at every cottage we passed, checking to see if it was our rental home. The kindness of strangers, I tell you.  

After a few more minutes of driving, we pulled up to the white, thatch-roofed cottage I recognized from the pictures online, and I was unlocking the bright yellow door just as the sun relented its final light.  

With no car, our stay in Ireland was not at all what we expected. There weren't any castle visits or long drives sight-seeing across the country. But we walked miles through the lush Irish countryside and gazed at the Cliffs of Moher every day; we fed horses in our backyard over stone fences, and waited for the cafe to unlock its doors with a sign that said: "Open when the scones are ready."

It is easy to tell this story now and see all the adventure and wildness and beauty and fun of it. I laugh at the funny parts of the story and sigh at the beautiful moments—I remember the smell of the air and the sound of lyrical voices and the ocean spray on my face. It is still one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.  

But in the thick of the experience, I struggled to move past the disappointment. My legs were tired from walking. We were out of money. We argued with and annoyed one another. It can be challenging to see your experiences through the lens of "Adventure! Excitement! Intrigue!", because while you're walking through it, it often feels more like "Frustration! Boredom! Disappointment!"  

Sometimes you don't realize you're having one of the greatest adventures of your life until you're on the other side of it.  

As with many things in life, perspective is everything.

When I train myself to look back on these stories in my life with new eyes, it breeds joy and gratitude, instead of disappointment and resentment. Clinging to an upsetting feeling I had in a moment that didn't go as planned will not only cause me to look back on my life with sadness and regret but is also creating an inaccurate memory.  

No, things did not go as we thought they would on that Ireland trip. But so many things did happen as we hoped, and we were surprised with experiences we wouldn't have enjoyed if everything played out as we planned.   

When I change my perspective on my past, how I see my present changes. I can recognize that if there was unexpected beauty I didn't see before, maybe there is an adventure to be found in my here and now. It helps my eyes to look for the positive, to search out beauty, to create something meaningful with the life and the circumstances I have right in front of me.  So train your eyes to see—there is an adventure to be found in the unexpected, and its delight belongs only to those willing to look for it.

Elisa EarwickerComment