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May 13, 2013 | 13 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I'm halfway through college, and I realize what I want to do. I want to be an adventurer. To travel, to meet people, to gain experiences, to work, to suffer, to live.

And to have some really great stories.

I'd like to have 50 different jobs before I die. There's so much to do, and know.

My question, and fear: Is that selfish? Is that enough?

Taylor Zabloski
Amherst, VA


You got the right idea, Taylor. Somebody has to be an adventurer, we can't all be drones and mercenaries. I don't think it's selfish at all -- you will go off to South America, Africa, Asia, India, Nevada, anyplace ending in A, and you'll see astonishing things and file posts on Facebook, and your thousands of friends, classmates, cousins, will read these and feel envy, amusement, horror -- you will be a bright flashing light in their humdrum lives. I have a friend in Kenya who is a peace worker, mediating between rebellious tribes and the government, and her family, while they worry about her constantly, is terribly proud of her gumption and bravery and resourcefulness. I notice you didn't ask me HOW to become an adventurer: you sense, correctly, that I am not one myself. I travel cautiously and avoid dealing with unpleasant people and rent cars rather than hitchhike and never stay in accommodations that do not have a private bath. And I don't drink the water.

You'll be able to have 50 different jobs so long as you're willing to work for cheap, which, being an adventurer, you will be. (An adventurer does not have a mortgage or car payments.) And so long as you report on your adventurers, you are earning your keep and more. But don't go looking for suffering. It will find you soon enough. And good luck. 


Adventures: Near, Far, and Vicarious

The more you see,
The more you know,
But you need not always
Get up and go -
Adventures can be
found in books, and
with good cooks.
Even meditation
can be a form of vacation.
So seek your bliss
but remember this:
Learning is a lifelong adventure.
There's a Kmer saying, "One can live in a cluttered house. One cannot live with a cluttered heart."


I had/still have the same stirrings and the feelings began at a similar age. Go. Do everything that you can while you are young, single, and childless.

However, you will regret making some mistakes. Please finish college and go during the summers until you graduate. I was close to retreating from that challenge and I am glad that I finished what I started. Eventually, you will realize the value of the education from monetary and self-satisfaction standpoints. It is worth it.

Also, do not let a romantic relationship guide your quest. I made that mistake.

You are at the beginning of a long road that seems short as you near the end. It would be selfish to waste your time and not drink in every bit that life has to offer.

You might avoid a mid-life crisis if you quench your desires rather than ignore them. Thus, you will be able to skip the earring, perm, wig, hair-dye, 20 year-old girlfriend, and Porsche Boxster when you are around 42 years old.

Good luck and be careful.

Taylor, Aunti Mame once said "Life is a banquet but most poor suckers are starving at it". You won't starve at life if you approach it as an adventurer. I've been a part time one since I've had to work at stuff but...I've seen the Taj in a Monsoon, prayed at a Hindu temple (golden calf and all), trekked on a camel with no name in the Sinai desert, seen the jaliboots on the Saudi gulf, climbed Medjugori (before the church was built), got on a horse and learned to ride for the first time in my life at a Polo club in England at age 60 (no--I'm not wealthy, far from it, I just got to know one of the coaches), and have done two sweats (not new age, Ho Chunk), there have been other adventures--great and small.

Romantic relationships--I've had a couple. It's what experiencing life is all about. But you'll find that you'll be drawn to the same fire that you find in yourself.

I find that, all in all, I'm happy with the path I chose because at this point in the path, I've also found wisdom.

You'll find it too. And the road--you'll find it never stops. It might slow down, but it never stops.

Don't worry Taylor, when you run out of money you can join the rest of the Obama lovers who live off the rest of us who work.

If being an adventurer, without ties to hearth and home, is your burning ambition, go for it while you're young and healthy. Those days won't last! OTOH, if you want to "have it all" you'll need to rethink it or go into a career like trucking that has you wandering from place to place while earning a paycheck to provide for an eventual family.

I'm so jealous !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Taylor, I know Amherst, VA well... very well, in fact... my father's people are from there... my grandfather and all of his siblings were born in the white house, next-door to the brick Episcopal church... it is directly across from the Wells Fargo...

Amherst is a true gem of a small town, and I have such fond memories of times spent there at my family homestead... in fact, I dream of retiring there some day.

That being said, finish school... and go follow your dreams and explore the world and all of the beautiful possibilities it has to offer a young man. You will have a greater understanding of people, cultures, politics, and religions than the vast majority of mankind by doing so...

But... NEVER forget where you came from... and come home ready to use all that you have learned to make your world, and the world of those around you, a better place.

Best of luck to you in your travels and godspeed. :}

I am 36 years old, and I have spent the past 20 years wrestling between my "adventurer" self and my "responsible" self. I have gone to school in Italy, interned in NYC, worked for an NGO in Uganda and Liberia, traveled from Delhi to Jerusalem to Peru to New Zealand and across the continents of Europe, Africa, and North America. There is nothing like the sunset glow on the Delicate Arch, a bike ride up the fern enveloped roads of Rainer N.P. or an evening drive through the middle of a wildebeest migration. Through it all though, I would caution not to lose sense of a place you call home. You will make wonderful new acquaintances, but do not neglect nurturing the life-long DEEP friendships of your youth. In the end, a picture book of memories is not much fun if you have no one to share them with. Lastly, when you find that you are no longer awe-struck by a beautiful sunset or you lose the desire to hop on an overcrowded bus of crying kids and smelly chickens, have a kid or two. That is the greatest adventure of all; to see the world again through the eyes of an adventurer in the making. Just last night, my 3 year old came running up to me with 3 rolly-pollies in his hand. Daddy! Daddy! You HAVE to come see this! Adventure doesn't always require a plane ticket. Happy travels, and figure out early how to make a living at it! Once an adventurer, it sure is difficult to be happy in a desk job.

What a mean and unnecessary thing to say! I always wonder (and worry) about the motives that impel some folks to actually make the EFFORT to say something irresponsible and inaccurate. That takes a lot of negative energy! We work so hard, and we are proud of our president. And, besides, he has always said such nice things about you!

I discoverd canoeing in my late 30's and went out every month for 4 years with my club. Then I had a kid and the adventures really started. We had to wait until she was able to swim on her own before we took her on whitewater but now she is 21 and still catching snakes and the best tandem partner I know.
One of my boating friends refers to "the Misery Quotient." If a trip is totally fine, the weather benign, the food excellent, the river warm, a low misery quotient, it leaves a memory that is warm and fuzzy and not very definite. But boy, that hike through poison oak because there is no other way down to the beach - that has enough misery to make every leaf touched truly memorable.
Go. You will never regret the adventures and you will have some stories to tell, but write them down as soon as possible after as they happen otherwise they drift off and its hard to get the details back.

By the time you have a pretty good understanding of the world, even if you are wrong, things can get real adventurous real fast. As far as selfishness goes, I think we are individuals (selves), for a reason (variety?), and not just a big blob. That's different from not being generous.

Mary Ellen, you are hilarious when you are serious.

What an excellent answer...and I LOVE your use of the word, "gumption" is one of my favorite tediums of description also. "-)

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