Thoughts of ‘the Adventurer’

Joshua Gervais - Senegal


January 15, 2020

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of “adventuring”. If I’m being honest, this has been something I’ve borderline obsessed over since before I even arrived here in Senegal. So much so, in fact, that for a Global Citizen Year talent show, I wrote AND performed a poem I entitled “To Be An Adventurer”. The irony of which– considering how I had hardly ventured outside of Texas at the time– didn’t dawn on me once during the performance. Talk about artistic liberty. Anyways, in the aforementioned poem I made all the usual references to the quintessential adventuring experience; that is, travelling to unknown lands, triumphing over evil, blah, blah, blah, you get the picture– the things you could write a Homeric epic about. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still firmly believe that those are all wonderful and noble things, but, I mean, outside of say Elon Musk, or some other exclusive few, who can truly live up to this elitist definition? This question of what constitutes an “Adventurer” has been on my mind for the entirety of the past 4 1⁄2 months, and I think the best way for me to begin exploring this topic is by sharing the story of what made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about “Adventurers”.

Beams of golden yellow and columns of autumnal orange spill across the gentle waves of the sea, flooding across the distant horizon like milk poured into freshly made tea. A gentle summer breeze carries with it the calming fragrance of the early morning, and beneath my feet the beach is soft and cool– the sunshine dancing across its sand. I breathe deeply, trying to store the serenity of the early morning within myself. Then, I opened my eyes: The ineffable technicolor of the dawning sun gives way to the peeling yellow of my bedroom walls; the cool, refreshing touch of the pristine beach becomes the feeling of sand  that has fallen between the slits of my tin roof and peppered the concrete floor; the whimsical musings of a coastal paradise give way to reality. I come back to find myself sitting on the edge of my bed, desperately grasping for the ephemeral calm I had imagined for myself.

The day had begun like any other: I woke up and, after hurriedly grabbing my breakfast –a baguette filled with “Nebbe” (A mix of peas, onions, and seasoning)– that my host mom had prepared for me, I rushed to my apprenticeship at the local school. Afterwards, I planned to return home for lunch, quickly begin the hour long trek to my language class, navigate my way to the local garage, before finally returning back home. I had my entire agenda scheduled down to the minute, yet I forgot to factor in one absolutely crucial element of life– the cosmically-endorsed chaos that is entropy. 

Long story short (a first for me, I know), that day was filled with everything from uncomfortably awkward social blunders and frustrating public transport encounters, to heartbreaking interactions with local poverty and sobering insights into global suffering. So much so, that the only thing I could think to do was sit on the edge of my bed, conjuring up a mental refuge from the weight of the universe that had somehow found itself solely atop my shoulders. As ridiculous and dramatic as it sounds in hindsight, I genuinely found myself questioning everything from the world’s great injustices to my own decision to take a gap year. As these thoughts whirled around my mind, I felt, above all else, embarrassed. Embarrassed that my experience wasn’t exactly how I imagined. Embarrassed that the 8 month adventure filled with language fluency, unparalleled growth, and 24/7 enjoyment, was becoming nothing more than naive sentiments of an overly optimistic poem. Embarrassed at my desire to change the world– dismissing it as nothing more than a product of my own global inexperience. I felt as though there must be something wrong with me for experiencing anything other than absolute bliss while undergoing my first “real adventure”. Months of uncertainty, self doubt, and unrealistic expectations came crashing into this moment like a tidal wave of melancholia– that is, until I came upon a realization. 

In this epoch of doom and gloom, I realized that this moment– as potentially overly-dramatic as it seemed– was the very definition of adventure. I had entered into an unfamiliar moment, was grappling with its meaning and solutions, and ended up becoming more self aware because of having experienced it– sounds like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel to me! Moreover, that day– that lousy, tedious, excruciating crucible of a day– taught me that an adventure is something that exists solely within your own definition. The word itself originates from the Latin “advenire”, meaning “to arrive”– a definition I would like to interpret to mean going somewhere that you haven’t before. With this in mind, it's obvious that whether you’re travelling somewhere new, questioning the nature of life itself, or even just finding the strength to get out of bed in the morning, you are “arriving” somewhere new– a sentiment that has not only comforted me during my harder days, but one that has inspired me to adventure on to all the places I have yet to arrive at. 

Thanks for reading, and cheers to the next adventure.

— Joshua “Samba” Gervais



Joshua Gervais