Adventure for Life: (how adventure actually saved mine)

Returning to the Wind River Range 22 years later

Adventure for Life 

Adventure is when you don’t know what is going to happen next. Life is uncertain, full of surprises; you never really know what’s around the corner. So, therefore life is one big adventure, right? Then why does it not feel like that all the time? Why do we sometimes feel that our daily lives are packed with “to do” lists, obligations or work and not enough play? Ok, I’ll speak for myself. Believe it or not, I put this pressure on myself quite often and I forget to just enjoy the ride. It seems I have always struggled balancing between adventure + play and growing up + being responsible, especially in my early 20’s. I still do grapple a bit, but have carved out a niche in Adventure Therapy that makes my spontaneous adventures and wanderlust for travel a purposeful journey that does good for others beyond myself and that is something I really enjoy!

What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure Therapy sprung up as a distinct form of psychotherapy in the 1960’s. Influences from a variety of learning and psychological theories have contributed to the integrated form of education, counseling and philosophy called adventure therapy. According to Wikipedia, existing research in adventure therapy reports positive outcomes in effectively improving self-concept and self-esteem, help seeking behavior, increased mutual aid, pro-social behavior, trust behavior and more. Adventure Therapy began, primarily, for the treatment of adolescent problem behaviors in groups but has evolved into an approach that is humanistic, existential and ecologically minded and more frequently offered to individuals and families.

I offer Adventure Therapy as a holistic mind/body/spirit approach, encouraging people to explore and discover new ways of experiencing their lives in the now. I created the vision and curriculum for Wellfit Girls with the spirit of adventure behind it. Adventure and challenge are opportunities for expansion, growth and self-discovery. My prescription for healing psychological, emotional and cognitive wounds and imbalances almost always involves prescribed time in the natural world. When we get grounded in the earth’s energy and connected to the vibration of the nature around us, it is difficult to feel isolated and alone. Nature is unconditionally available to anyone and everyone. Nature is the great equalizer and teacher of non-attachment, letting go and moving on. Just like that old adage, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes (or hours or days) and it will change.The weather, JUST like our moods or our distressing conditions, is not permanent. We can choose to get out of our own way and make time for adventure and play.

How Adventure Saved My Life 

So, it may sound dramatic, but it’s true; nature and my time spent exploring, climbing, surfing and camping for weeks in the backcountry saved my life. There was a time I was so low I didn’t know where to turn or with whom to connect, so I walked outside for hours and days and days and hours alone. I mean alone. My most significant turning point occurred in the backcountry wilds of Wyoming in 1994. I had left my college in Maine at which I was so unhappy (correction: extremely depressed) and moved out west to work for the Audubon Society before transferring to a new college in Arizona. I held onto a lot of guilt about leaving this prestigious college and disappointing my parents as I embarked on a less conventional career path and non-traditional lifestyle.

It was bear country and hunting season, but I was determined to face the fear of being alone. As a teen survivor of rape, this was my version of taking back my days and nights. Before embarking on my solo backpacking adventure, my biggest fear was the men I would encounter out there. Knowing I was undefended, yet not naïve, I guarded myself with unconditional confidence (or sheer determination). I simply convinced myself no one would hurt me. I believed it to the core. I had to do this for my emerging sense of self, for my empowerment–not simply to prove I could do it, but to find a reason to live. 

I guided myself for days. I slept alone in the dark and cold. I wandered, walked and explored the vast landscape, mine and the wild Wind River Mountain range, and for some reason in the smallness of my being among the vastness of my surroundings, I discovered the deepest sense of connection and knowing that I am never truly alone, that I do belong in the Universe of all beings. My heartbeat was just as vital (and valuable) and pure as the elk, bighorn sheep and bear I encountered out there and my potential, truly, my potential was just as high as the snow-covered peaks around me. It was an a-ha moment. I had valued animals more than myself and never judged their worthiness. It was time to give myself that unconditional love and consideration. I was 21 years old and finding myself, the true essence of self-love: worthiness.

I came back to the Audubon Society Education Center, where I was working for the summer, a different person. I birthed my freedom and set my compass for a lifetime path and purpose on that backcountry “vision quest.” * I went to college a month later committed to the life I lead today: as a seeker + guide, adventurer + facilitator, as a safe space for the messy and unseen work that makes life juicy and rich.

I see everyday as an adventure. I removed the word vacation from my vocabulary a while back. I simply do not vacate my life, ever. If you feel compelled to “vacation” from your daily existence, I invite you to shift your vision of the life you are leaving and seek more adventure in living. There is opportunity for more adventure in every one of our lives, in every moment of our every day–we don’t always have to be on some wild trip!

In loving-kindness,

Jill

@WellfitJill

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* A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. The ceremony of the Vision Quest is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose. A Vision Quest can provide deep understanding of one’s life purpose. A traditional Native American Vision Quest consists of a person spending one to four days and nights secluded in nature. This provides time for deep communion with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies of creation and self-identity. During this time of intense spiritual communication a person can receive profound insight into themselves and the world. This insight, typically in the form of a dream of Vision, relates directly to their purpose and destiny in life.

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