By Jack Steward
Have you ever looked at the ocean and been awestruck with curiosity at its beauty and wonder? How it's so vast and yet also so full of life? Do you ever stare up at a mountain and wonder what kind of creatures are lurking under the trees? These are the thoughts I get when staring into the unknown. It's curiosity that drives us to venture out and discover what’s lying just around the corner. This is the essence of adventure.
Heading into the unknown isn't always easy. The most obvious example to me is travelling through bear country. When we explore bear country there is a realization that we are not alone and are, in fact, strangers in a foreign land. This is a very necessary and humbling feeling because it instills self-awareness: there are animals out there that demand our respect and I am lucky enough to be in their home. I can't tell you how many times I have looked out into the distance on the trail and thought, "Ok...where is the bear?" We want to see these incredible creatures, yet are at the same time fully aware that you’ve stepped into their home – and they may not want you there. This feeling drives our sense of adventure and excitement, but it also keeps us and the bears safe. In order to be responsible stewards (as in caretakers – not my goofy family!) of the natural world, we need to embrace this feeling.
Heading into the unknown pushes our boundaries and allows us to overcome our fears. I have to admit – I’m writing this piece to gain some perspective on a predicament that I am facing right now. I have always had a fear of the open ocean. There is something about having miles of water below me that makes me uneasy; thoughts of stumbling across a giant squid or great white shark quickly start to surface. I feel completely at peace on the side of a mountain or in the desert but the open ocean terrifies me. I take pride in being a logical and level-headed person so I knew that I had to overcome this fear if I really wanted to discover the beauty that lies beneath the surface.
Knowledge is our best tool for heading out into the unknown. Right now, I am finishing up my open water SCUBA diving certification. The experience has already opened my eyes to a whole new world that is waiting for me! I was very nervous going into this experience but the more I learned, the more I felt I was in control of situations that usually caused me anxiety. I'm also discovering that I am actually pretty good at SCUBA diving! This experience is opening the door to a whole new level of thrill and discovery while simultaneously teaching me how to care for the underwater environment.
Heading into the unknown is how we learn more about ourselves and understand our place in the natural world. It is imperative that we seek the knowledge that will keep us safe but also understand the needs of the environment we wish to immerse ourselves in. The feeling you have when you dive into the unknown is unlike any other. The hairs on your arms may stand straight up but you know you have the tools to navigate this abyss in front of you. It is when I head into the unknown that I feel at home.