A black and white image of the Chicago River

On City Adventures

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Why City Adventures?

A black and white image of the Chicago River
Taken in Nov. of 2011 on a trip to Chicago.

It is perhaps incongruous that I start this blog with a post about city adventure given where I live and what I generally prefer. The eastern slopes of the continental divide are my backyard and Rocky Mountain National park is my northern neighbor. I came to Colorado in large part to play in the Rockies, and yet here I write of cities.

The thing is that, despite my predilection for solitude and wild places, I do not reject cities. I do reject suburbs, but cities are full of their own sort of adventure. They are the places in which humans have carved most deeply into the wilds to make our own unique space. Like in nature, proper cities are walkable, which allows you to move about at a slower pace, which I would argue makes it easier to discover things than traveling about in a vehicle does. Tall buildings mimic mountains, giving you a similar feeling of smallness. Humans make up the majority if the wildlife.

The suburbs are designed for cars, but cities seem to be designed despite them and very old cities pre-date them. We could get into the weeds when we consider what defines a city, but when I define it, I mostly consider population density. Places that have built up, instead of out. New York City vs. Columbus, OH.

It’s also relevant to note that most of us live in or near cities and are trying to live the lives we dream in that context. It’s how I’ve spent most of my life and now, even though I live in a rural mountain area, I still spend much time in cities because that’s where the jobs and resources are.

The 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado on a snowy night. I used to drive horse drawn carriages here.
I spent a winter driving horse drawn carriages here.

How to adventure in the city

When living in cities, I amused myself by framing tedious daily tasks as quests – “The quest for clean dishes” (the worst) or “The quest to determine how long I can park on my street before the city decides my car is abandoned (answer: 72 hours in Denver). I dreamt of climbing mountains, but filled my days with roller derby and took a side job driving a horse drawn carriage in the city. When I was in Denver, I made it to the mountains some weekends. In Kentucky, I sometimes managed kayaking. West Virginia was easiest as I could rather easily teach skiing or work as a raft guide on weekends. Ohio was the worst as I was surrounded by corn and football instead of opportunities for adventure.

You have to either get creative in cities or be willing and able to pull the weekend warrior thing in your free time. I found it easy to get depressed and instead get lost in video games or books. One of the things I loved the most about the original Shenmue on Dreamcast was that playing it felt like getting to explore Japan. I couldn’t afford to go to Japan, but Shenmue allowed me to realistically pretend. If the car was having issues or I couldn’t afford gas, I could run around Norrath or Hyrule. Not a productive use of my time, but pure escapism.

If you prefer outdoor adventure, it’s becoming increasingly difficult manage living near those activities in an even remotely affordable way. I’ve slept in vehicles and tents for seasonal work. Some companies offer dorm style housing and some resort towns are taking steps to address the issue.  I suppose there’s a promise to that, but if you aren’t a seasonal worker or trying to be one, but rather just want more time on your hands to actually do your activity, then your solution likely lies elsewhere. One thing I would do differently and am backing into now, career-wise, is to learn a skill that allows remote work. It was not really an option when I was figuring things out, but it is now, and I crave that freedom. To me, success is freedom. Society will push a definition of success on us, but we can choose our own. Not having to be tied to a location or a set schedule is to me freedom at the most basic level and is what I seek.

So, you can choose your own adventure – pick a city activity, be a weekend warrior, work a seasonal job, or gain a remote skill, but if you crave adventure, just don’t give up. I love gaming, but don’t let Hyrule be a substitute for the real world of adventure that still exists all around us.

Tall buildings in downtown Denver, Colorado loom over you like man made mountains.
Buildings loom like mountains.

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