Any time is a good time for an adventure, but spring and summer seem to bring up a thirst for new experiences.

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that my favorite definition of the word “adventure” comes from Wikipedia and not from one of the many well-known dictionaries available.  Most dictionaries, like Merriam-Webster, agree that an adventure is “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” However, per Wikipedia, “An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience.”

So many definitions stress the danger and risks involved in an adventure; it doesn’t have to involve either. The idea of what makes up an adventure differs from person to person.  An avid cyclist might consider riding in the 206+- mile annual STP (Seattle To Portland) race an adventure, whereas a family with small children might find a leisurely ride along a short stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail more than enough adventure for one day.

An adventure can be a new experience or even be seeing something from a different perspective.

There’s also the difference between choosing an adventure and being thrust into one. The following two books are good examples—plus, they’re great stories.

In My Side of the Mountain, author Jean Craighead George tells the story of twelve-year-old Sam Gribley who ran away from his family’s cramped New York City apartment to his great grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. We first meet Sam almost eight months after his adventure begins. Cozy inside his tree home, despite the December chill outside, he reminisces about his experiences since deciding to run away to the mountains. Despite his preparation for living in the wilderness—learning which plants were safe to eat from an expert at the botanical gardens, buying flint and tinder for making fires, reading a book about survival skills and buying a small hatchet—he spent a miserable first night away from home, cold, hungry and unable to make a fire. Without too many missteps, Sam learns to live off of the land quite comfortably through foraging and fishing and by hunting with Frightful, the peregrine falcon he had raised from a chick.

Unlike Sam Gribley, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet did not choose his adventure. While flying from New York to visit his father in the oil fields in northern Canada for the summer, Brian is forced to take over the controls of the bush plane after the pilot has a fatal heart attack. He crash-lands the plane in a lake in the Canadian wilderness. Injured in the crash, with little to eat, Brian’s first night in the wilderness is much more miserable than Sam’s.

The key to Brian’s survival is his hatchet, a gift from his mother before he left on his vacation. He learns to strike it against a stone to make sparks for starting fires, uses it to craft a bow, arrows and fishing spear to use for hunting, cuts wood for making a raft with it—it’s his only tool, in the beginning. He learns to forage, fish and hunt. He survives encounters with a porcupine, skunk, moose and wolves.

When a tornado pulls the tail of the plane closer to the lake’s shore, Brian decides to makes a raft and look for the plane’s survival pack. The emergency transmitter in the survival pack doesn’t seem to work, but Brian barely finishes preparing some of the freeze-dried food from the pack, when a plane lands on the lake. The transmitter worked after all.

Sam Gribley had a choice and Brian Robeson didn’t, but who is to say who had the greatest adventure?

Here’s to adventure—in reading and in life--may all of yours be good ones.

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