I stared across the table at my generous Turkish host, Yusuf, currently deep in thought. Sensing a desire to do something out of his ordinary routine, an adventurous spirit lying dormant if you like, I had just asked if he would like to cycle with me for a few days. Sadly, I knew there was no risk of him agreeing; he had a full time job and no bike, but more importantly, it is far easier to say ‘No’ and wonder ‘what if’, than to bravely step into the unknown!
But, to my surprise, with a sudden release of pent-up energy, he seemed to come alive, his eyes burning a little brighter, the corners of his mouth spreading outwards exploding into a wide grin. To my shock, he said ‘YES’. He had just received a little prod in his back, and that was all he needed to chase the kind of adventure he desired.
A day later, he had found a bike, panniers, tent and sleeping bag to borrow and was ready to take the daunting plunge into the unknown. Any of Yusuf’s nerves were well-hidden, probably more so than my own, as I wondered if he (and I) would be able to get over the ‘impossible’ mountains ahead, and more importantly, feeling somewhat responsible about whether he would enjoy it!
I thought I had my answer when, after climbing just 250 vertical metres, I heard a breathless gasp from behind “Are we nearly there yet?” I’m sure many of you are used to hearing this in the car with children, and understand the accompanying sinking feeling as you realise it is going to be a long journey; I couldn’t find it in me to tell him we were only a fraction of the way there.
Challenges were abundant, easily sufficient to test the mettle of a cyclist, a real baptism of fire for the non-cyclist. Despite the obstacles, Yusuf ploughed on unstoppable, demonstrating grit and perseverance, never once losing his cheerful childish excitement at having a great big adventure. Suddenly at the top of the mountain pass, I no longer had to ask whether he was enjoying it. His every action radiated energy and enthusiasm as he soaked in the powerfully positive and fulfilling emotions you can only understand when you have just pushed yourself through your comfort zone, and beyond where you thought your limits lay. We had just spent the last 50 kilometres climbing continuously, from sea level to nearly 2,000m, and we were victorious. In that split second, for a brief moment, I’m pretty sure I was with the happiest person in the world.
I feel there’s a lesson to be learnt here. Yusuf’s sudden spontaneity proves intense training and meticulous planning is not a requisite requirement for such an adventure. Nor do you have to be superman. Instead, what is important is having the courage to say ‘Yes’ to opportunities as they arise, and doing so even if that means pushing your comfort zones, or risks failure (not something to be afraid of). I can’t help but wonder how much we all, me included, miss out on through not seizing these moments from life.
Not everyone wants a huge adventure. But, just as a small poke in the back finally compelled Yusuf; hopefully this post does similar for you. Go, chase your dreams. Say Yes. There are no guarantees it will be an easy path, but you can do it.
And it will be so worthwhile.
This is a rhetorical question designed to make you think about your attitude to taking opportunities, but please, join the discussion below, and let me know your thoughts. Would YOU say yes?
Yusuf plans to quit work next spring to go on a bigger, international adventure – I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with how he gets on!