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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Off the grid: Defining adventure

By Ammi Midstokke

Upon return from any extravagant adventure, I find myself desperately seeking out The Next Greatest Thing in a textbook method of avoiding Post Adventure Blues.

Much of my life has been a sort of rumbling-tumbling fall from fantastic dream to failure to spontaneous expedition to epic catastrophe merely to missed flight in an attempt to avoid stagnation.

I had not yet unpacked my bike bags from my latest packing trip through Baja as I rolled over and excitedly asked my husband, “Have you ever thought about going to Bhutan?”

He had not.

As far as vacation destinations go, Bhutan may seem a little obscure. Unless, of course, you love the Himalayas, dispersed population and hard-to-get-to places. Also, there’s a hike there that I really want to attempt. It only takes about a month.

My husband and I were friends for years before he asked me out to a meal that did not involve our children and french fries, so he’s been well aware of my penchant for buying plane tickets first and figuring out the rest later. I assumed that is why he married me (also, I make stiff coffee). So I was a bit taken aback when he didn’t leap at the opportunity to schlep a pack through high-altitude terrain behind his bride for weeks on end.

He’s a pragmatic man and offered a host of astute reasons why avoiding adult responsibilities and spending a fair bit of our retirement (or children’s college funds) on international travel might seem imprudent. I felt a petal of my blossomed sense of adventure wither and float to the level-headed ground where mature grown-ups with portfolios, life insurance and a sense of duty live.

I guess I have to go without him. And accept that he wouldn’t know an adventure if it smacked him upside the head.

It wasn’t a week later that he came home and told me he was buying a motorcycle (for approximately the price of a hike through the Himalayas). Not only that, but an Africa Twin. I don’t know anything about motorcycles, but if the word Africa is in the name, it has to be for adventuring.

This was perfect! I take a lot of flack for risking my life, but motorcycle riding is statistically as dangerous as being a whaler in 1718, so at least now I could point fingers back. Also, we’d need some better life insurance.

Some days later, he came home from a ride with cheeks aglow, heart pounding and a familiar peaceful smile spread across his face. I have seen that on him before when he returns from cutting trails on the property, felling trees or spending the day heaving rocks around to build steps into our terraced land.

It’s the same contented and pleased look I wear when I’m in the back country, summiting a peak, or winding my way through the mountain villages where children wear yak-wool sweaters and carry their pet chickens around impervious to mites or the necessity for shoes. Occasionally, it happens when I am gardening, sipping coffee on my deck or watching my children play.

Maybe a life doesn’t have to be geographically extravagant to be rich and full.

“So early in our relationship when you said, ‘I want to travel with you,’ you meant, like, to Phoenix to see your family, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” he said. He was already thinking about his next engineering feat: Installing an outdoor water heater for me so I can have a bathtub perched against the granite rocks with a view of distant mountains. Other princesses want dragon scales from a full-moon night. I want hot water between the tamaracks.

It occurred to me as I watched him traipsing around the yard, shaping his land to be just so, building an outdoor chess set for our son, putting bike racks on my car: I am his adventure.

Talk about risk-taking.

The miraculous and wondrous are right in front of us every single day. We don’t necessarily need to leave our homes to experience the world, albeit I agree with most of Mark Twain’s sentiments on the matter. If we can slow down, pause, for just long enough to look around, we’re surrounded by the marvelous, exciting and new.

Sometimes the grandest adventure is discovering each other.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at