If you check out travel magazines, you’ll find an abundance of offerings for those seeking the ultimate challenge. “An Extreme Adventure reveals exactly who you are, demanding the most of your physical, psychological and perhaps even spiritual selves,” reads the copy on Abercrombie & Kent’s Extreme Adventures site.
Just as rock climbing and whitewater rapids test our ability to navigate the outside world, travel in Plan B Nation tests our inner resources. No, we don’t come away with gorgeous vacation photos or tales of exotic locales, but when the journey is successful, it leaves us with something more: An appreciation for our strengths in the face of real-life adversity. You might say it’s the sort of journey for which the others are preparation.
And yet, for all Plan B Nation has to teach us, it hardly has the cachet of a backpacking trip in the High Sierras or a solo ocean voyage. Why is it so hard to see its potential gifts?
For one thing, it’s not something we choose. We like to see ourselves as autonomous, masters of our fate. Plan B Nation can be an unwelcome reminder that this isn’t always true.
For another, Plan B Nation is all-too-often linked in our minds to failure. Those over-the-top vacations? In case you didn’t know, they cost lots of money – simply embarking on one makes clear that you’re doing pretty well and your safety net is ample. Plan B Nation, on the other hand, tests that safety net. For observers, as well as us travelers, this can be pretty scary, especially when you have no idea how long the risk will last.
But for all the obvious differences, Plan B Nation continues to be for me its own sort of adventure. It’s brought me amazing traveling companions whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and the opportunity to view vistas I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Like any adventure, it has its highs and lows. It also has its stories, the ones that I’m telling here.
© 2012, amy gutman. All rights reserved.