The Road Not Taken
During our drive south through Baja, we came upon a turnout in the road. I knew where the road went, though I had not taken it before. It lead to a beach with an incredible wave that only breaks on really big swells and there happened to be a really big swell.
The turnout came up fast after a bend in the road and I had a matter of seconds to make a decision; take a right turn down this road with the possibility of scoring epic surf or continue on our way and stick to the plan.
I said out loud, “Should we take it? It is probably going off…”
For whatever reason, I didn’t take the turn. I felt a subtle ache in my gut as we passed the turnout and continued on. I had a feeling that I’d regret it later.
The possibilities of what lay at the end of that road continued to nag me for a couple of hours but I made up a story in my mind that the winds likely would have been wrong in order to feel better about my decision in passing it. But I knew someday, maybe months in the future, I would hear from someone about how good it was and kick myself in the ass for not choosing spontaneity in that moment. What I didn’t know, was that I’d here how good it was from someone the very next day.
Yes, the next day a camper van pulled up on the beach in front of our house. We stopped by to check out their camping set up and to say hi. We found a couple getting their boards ready to go out for a surf. We chatted a bit and I asked them where they were coming from and the guy mentioned a region near the surf spot where that turnout lead on the road that I had passed. I took a chance and mentioned, did you surf at ****(sorry I can’t tell you where)?
“Yeah! It was incredible! The conditions were perfect! It was working like a machine!”
I let out a groan and told him about my decision to drive passed it.
“Ah, you blew it man! It’s such a short drive! You should always check it out!”
Damn. There goes my story about the conditions not being good in order to feel better about my decision. That ache came back in my gut, this time not so subtle. Why did I not take the turn? There was no real reason other than a made up schedule in my head that no one else was enforcing other than myself.
I really hate missing good waves. It’s the curse of being a surfer. Sometimes you make the right call, other times you blow it.
I didn’t want to beat myself up over it, but I also realized there was an opportunity to learn from this experience and be better prepared in the future. I searched deeper as to why I made the decision that I did.
Was it the possibility of it being mediocre that lead me to keep on the known road? Or was it the possibility of it being epic that caused me to avoid it? I had a schedule made up in my mind that we were to arrive at our house that afternoon, unpack, and start getting some things done. Perfect waves would have derailed that plan a bit, but so what? I was the only one to create that schedule and there was no reason it had to be concrete. We could have easily broken our schedule and still got everything done without consequence.
It’s easy to choose the known route. Choosing the unknown can be uncomfortable. Being spontaneous means the possibility of things not going well. But it also opens the possibility of an epic experience. Remember, epic takes effort. I say this so much, that even my daughter is reminding me, “Dad, epic takes effort!”
When given the opportunity to take the road spontaneity or the preplanned road, choose to be spontaneous and take the road to adventure. Especially when there is no real consequence of doing so. The preplanned road will rarely be the one you remember in your life movie. It will be the times you acted spontaneously and chose adventure that you remember in the end. Even if that means sometimes there will be nothing worthwhile at the end of that road. If you keep choosing it, eventually you will score.
I want to be the kind of person that takes the unknown road, that says yes to adventure. I want that ingrained in my identity. You can bet the next time we are driving and come across that road during a big swell, that we will not hesitate to take the turn and choose adventure.