Have you ever wondered why some people push their lives to their limits while others prefer routine and predictability?
I used to watch Evel Knievel doing one of his impossible motorcycle jumps or hear someone’s story about skydiving or bungee jumping and say, “No way! I’m not an adrenalin junkie.”
Birth of a Thrill Junkie
But something changed 5 years ago when my life wasn’t working. I rebelled, giving up the prescribed nesting and pampering as a way to heal my soul. Instead I took on a formidable challenge—learning to ride a full-sized motorcycle and leaving 30-days later on a 2,500-mile road trip along North America’s coastline.
I enjoyed that adventure so much that I learned to downhill ski and scuba dive that same year. I thought I knew myself. But in my late 50s, I was discovering a new Linda—a thrill seeker!
Giving Up without Adding Back
As I socialize and do business, I hear many boomers describe how they’ve given up pleasurable activities. I used to ski, used to jog, or used to go camping, they would explain. “Okay, but what did you replace them with?” I’d ask. “What makes you want to get out of bed each morning? What are you passionate about now?”
Yesterday I went to the local BMW motorcycle dealership, Bob’s BMW, to hear a program by Allan Karl, a fifty-two-year-old photographer, writer, and speaker whose recent 3-year solo motorcycle journey covered 62,000 miles, 35 countries and 5 continents.
Thrill Seekers Amongst Us
Before the program I joined a group of other guests. As we chatted I was surprised to learn that the matronly woman in her mid-50s on my right had taken a week-long dirt bike training program in the Nevada dessert so she could take adventure motorcycling vacations in remote locations. She still had road rash healing from falling while learning.
Yermo, a software entrepreneur standing to my left had taken his eighteen-year-old motorcycle to the end of the world in Alaska. He was told by experts he had the wrong type of motorcycle for such rigorous terrain. But that hadn’t stopped him. More important, he made it in spite his equipment limitations.
When I shared my Blind Curves motorcycle story, they understood my need to step out-of-line and redefine how I would live the second half of my life. Finally, in this crowd I felt normal. It’s the same affiliation I find when I meet other skiers on top of a difficult slope or get ready to fall into a dark ocean for a nighttime scuba exploration.
What’s Gained by Living on the Edge?
The next day I received an email from Yermo saying the presentation had left him hungry for his next road trip. I share his hunger.
In my travel memoir, BLIND CURVES, I explain the partnership between fear and triumphant joy I discovered on my northwest road trip. Due to the safety issues of riding and challenges of keeping a heavy bike balanced, motorcycling forces me to:
- Remain present and focus on what’s happening. There is no room to replay scenarios from that past or fantasize about the future. All attention is demanded by present riding.
- Chunk down the difficult into doable pieces. I’ve often said the whole ride, day or next hour was overwhelming, but by focusing on the immediate, it becomes possible.
- Utilize all senses and internal resources. My over-used mind becomes a team member to other often ignored assets—intuition (or gut feel), sight, smell, sounds, touch, muscle memory, and reflexes. Everything becomes heightened.
- Develop mental discipline and focus because I can’t afford to let boredom or worse yet panicked internal voices distract me.
- Understand that failure is a part of learning. It’s not a reason to retreat; it shows me what’s working and what’s not.
- Discover the tremendous joy found on the other side of fear. Every time I confront my fears and travel forward, I find tremendous satisfaction and increased self-esteem on the other side.
- Treasure life and not waste it. When there is the illusion of endless time, it’s easy to squander it on boring TV or junk food. But when pushing life to its limits, I recognize the volatility of all life, and each second becomes priceless.
For the past two year’s I’ve been turning my passion into writing a book, cultivating a new speaking business, and developing this Blind Curve blog community. It consumes my passions as much, if not more, than my recent physical adventures. In these new ventures, I’ve fallen down, experienced dark-night-of-the-soul moments when doors slammed shut, and savored joy and celebration as each new product is birthed.
The Gift of the Possible
Life goes through different phases. As we find ourselves losing interest or ability to pursue past passions, it’s important to ask: “What can I do now, that I couldn’t do before?” We need to continue to re-create the elements in our lives that feed us.
On my bucket list I still have a back road motorcycle trip through Turkey, but I also have less physical endeavors like learning to use an SLR camera on a mode other than automatic, publishing my first book, and the 6-day Argentinean Tango Boot Camp that starts tonight. (Check back for future blogs about how this venture progresses.)
The skydiving . . . ? I still haven’t decided. But if not skydiving then it will be something else that gives my soul a reason to celebrate this precious gift called life.