JUST EXPLORE

Just Explore

By: Ashley Smith

It's a feeling you get. That taunting desire that grabs at your emotions and makes you fixate on your next fix; much like an addict going through withdrawals, you'll do whatever it takes to satisfy its beckoning; the need for exploration. Not everyone inhabits this conscious; this fire inside, the eyes wide open and take it all in just to get some satisfactory piece of what living is. For those that have never experienced the sheer bliss of walking into and back through history, witnessed night be seduced by day, wandered upon untouched landscapes, triumphed against mother nature's frightful wrath, pushed yourself past limits you didn't know existed--this is for you. 

So often people tell me how brave it is to explore; how they could never do it themselves. And then other times you get told a lot of things; you're a dreamer they say, you're going to get hurt, you're a wanderer, it's not safe; you're not capable. Well, here's the thing; when you're an explorer, when you have the determination of a fat kid that needs cake; nothing is going to stop you. That's what true bravery is; the dedication to pursue something that lives inside of you; to take the chance on curiosity and all the gifts that she has to offer. Intimidation is a filthy adventure killer crawling into the crevices of impressionable minds; much like a bratty kid with a magnifying glass illuminating an ant's crispy exterior; it's menacing. I would be a liar if I said that I've never been touched with intimidation fever; the doubt making you ache, fear instilling shivers--the white flag of defeat burning a hole in your heart. Social media magnifies exploration and adventure; the stories on featured sites about these career explorers. The pictures of horizons made of nothing but mountain tops; people conquering unimaginable places; setting the stage for the storybook cover of what exploring is presumed to be; anything less is just that...nothing. 

Here's the thing. it's not true. It's taken me a long time to overcome the trials of adventure bullying; internally created by my doubts about what can be defined as adventure. The insecurity of how my stories would stack up against those that make a living in doing so; my mind interrogated by how I could keep my cards still in the game. See by definition to explore is to investigate, study, or analyze and you can do that anywhere; it doesn't have to be this grand gesture; it doesn't have to take much.I picked my featured image for this exact reasoning because I wasn't anywhere special but in turn what exploration gave life to was something amazing. Snow crunched against the hungry teeth of my MSR snowshoes. My heavy breath crystallized the air molecules with every hot exhale; my throat very aware of the cool air that swam into my lungs. It was quiet. You almost wanted to tiptoe as not to awaken what might be resting along the trail. My snow-poles lost circulation against the suffocating grasp of my mittens as I braced myself with every ungraceful lunge into knee-deep melting snowflakes leaving behind pinhole tracks and monstrous footprints. I have snowshoed these trails many times, and every time there always seems to be something alluring; like a siren seducing sailors to their death; it's forever changing, always revealing small secrets. 

On this day; I was given a gift. After trudging through miles of unkempt land; my muscles screamed in agony, and it was time to return home. I took a lightly traveled course on my return in hopes of not encountering anyone. When you snowshoe you sometimes get in the habit of looking down, and on this day I looked up. Tree limbs bent in agony against the skies recent precipitation; branches misplaced due to Jack Frost's gust; it looked like Narnia. I had to recollect this place; this moment of solidarity; so I took the shot. To explore is to allow curiosity to take over. Don't allow misconceptions of what it is "supposed to be," cloud the "what could be." My Dad once told me, "Dare to live your dream. Be bold in your pursuit. Don't let anyone stop you." Don't ever stop--just go. 

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