The Beginner’s Guide to Adventure

When we lived in Texas, we took several trips to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. On one of those trips, we decided to go canoeing.  

I was a little nervous because coordination isn’t exactly my thing. (I even did a magnet program in high school so I could get an exemption from the PE requirement.) On the short ride to our drop point, we noticed a very athletic couple. Their clothing had more spandex and their bodies less fat than ours, and I grew more concerned that I was going to embarrass myself.

We all climbed into our canoes and set out onto the water. And you know what? Steven and I looked like we’d been canoeing for years. And our sporty friends? They kept paddling in circles.

Even six years later, I still think back on that trip. That hour or two taking in the sights in Southeastern Oklahoma taught me an invaluable lesson: the only thing stopping us from living life and chasing adventure is ourselves.

You don’t have to be an endurance athlete to go explore. We definitely aren’t.

You don’t have to have a ton of money to make memories. We definitely don’t.

Since we’ve added the boys to our family and made it an even bigger priority to seek adventure, we’ve often had people say, “I wish I/we could do that!” And our response is always “you can!” Then we usually get one of two responses: 1) “I can’t afford it.” or 2) “I don’t know how.”

Okay, yes, purchasing a 4WD vehicle or a camper may not be an option, if you are on a tight budget. But are either of those things necessary? No! We love our truck and our camper, but we were exploring before we had either of them. If you have enough money for a little bit of gas and a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then you can start exploring.

Which brings us to the “I don’t know how” response. I’m here to tell you, it’s not as hard as you might imagine, especially in the age of smartphones and Google. You can start small. Look at the map and choose a town you haven’t been to, then Google it. Almost every town has something it’s known for, whether it’s a natural landmark, a great local restaurant or even just beautiful, old buildings.

If you want to get a bit more adventurous, start checking out start parks, national parks, or a historic site. The South Carolina State Park system includes 80,000 acres at 47 parks, and offers a wide range of activities appropriate for beginners. Most of the parks we visit have lakes or rivers, short nature trails, education centers and more. The state parks are a great place to get your feet wet (both literally and figuratively.)

We’re lucky that we can drive two hours one direction and be in the mountains or drive two hours the opposite direction and be at the beach, but every state and region has its own awe inspiring sights to visit.

As you become more comfortable exploring, you might want to try longer hikes or try camping. Many of the campgrounds we’ve visited offer areas to tent camp. They usually also have bath houses with restrooms and showers within walking distance, in case you’re like me and not quite outdoorsy enough for primitive camping. A lot of parks also have cabins to rent, if glamping is more your thing.

You also can find some unique opportunities through social media. I found out about the spider lilies at Landsford Canal while looking at the State Parks website, but later that same day I saw an article about them on the “Only in South Carolina” Facebook page. If you are traveling with kids, the local mom groups/pages/blogs are a good place to find kid-friendly activities. Pinterest is another place to find inspiration.

So, pack your sunscreen, some water, and lunch and start exploring!

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