The Desire for Adventure Transcends Generations: My Dad’s Trip and Mine


Brandon Steffan, Contributor

Armed with a suitcase and two friends, my dad hopped in his beat-up Chevy truck, converted with the help of friends into a camper, perhaps unaware of what was next to come. What would end up being a cross-country journey, a culmination of unique experiences, was not in his immediate focus. Over the course of the next few years, Greg, my dad, would find out what life had to offer, unbounded by any ties or anchors.

I grew up under my dad’s guidance, his constant helpful remarks. As a child, I was also curious about his life before me, when he was much younger. I remember a family photo album, filled to the brim with memories of another life, memories before the noise of children. There was one photo, in particular, that is ingrained into my memory. It’s the image of my father, my role model in life, standing on the side of the road, framed against a tree, stark naked save for a leaf covering his groin.

It has been an amusing image since I was a child. It’s still funny to think about. The man that I always looked up to, portrayed in his wild youth, had a youthful sense of adventure that I hadn’t seen. And I loved that. I loved to see his old personality shine through. This picture, and many more, led to alluring stories, always beginning with, “back in the mountains,” or, “we used to…”

It all started with that adventure. My dad and a few of his friends set out to go to Florida. Coming from LA, the group would have to trapeze their way across the country, driving the entire way. They had no sense of rush, no set plan. The goal was to get from point A to point B, doing whatever they wanted, wherever they chose to, along the way. This included stopping in random Southern towns, going spelunking in the middle of nowhere, spending humid nights out in a parking lot. It was all part of the adventure.

The term adventure is, by definition, “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” My father’s definition could probably be interpreted a bit looser, a bit freer. He was able to truly experience those “unknown risks” at a time when one could simply go wherever they wanted in the country, free of pretty much every burden. You can’t do that now. Parents worry, work piles up, society pressures you into doing something with you life. With those risks came the payoff of discovering what you actually want. My personal understanding of adventure is a bit different.

I want to travel. I’ve heard about adventures all of my life and I know that that’s what I want to experience. I’m writing this now on the way to a foreign country that I’ve never been to. I have little clue of what to expect when I arrive there, but I know it will be different. And that’s all that matters right now. I want to try out my options in a way, and see what my best fit is.

Having come back home now, I can reflect back on my trip as a whole. I was on the school-sponsored trip to Greece and Italy, meaning there were around 60 high schoolers with me, as well as a few chaperones. Our meals were scheduled, our tours were scheduled, we had tours constantly. Being shuttled from one bus to the next was not my idea of an adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, the trip was amazing, but it was not an adventure. Our days were planned out, our activities listed in order. Most of the trip was scripted. It was a vacation, not even that, more of a tour-intense break. Of course, I knew this before going on the trip, but I wanted to gauge my tolerance for the schedule.

My little trip to Europe was highlighted by the day we had in Florence, Italy, where we were free to roam for around six hours of the day. This was the time to be on an adventure. Finally, I was able to explore different areas of the city, with friends or by myself, at my own pace. I could find a restaurant that seemed intriguing, an out-of-the-way cafe that boasted local food. Hell, I could’ve gone into another museum if I had wanted to. The point is, this free time I was given was where I caught a glimpse of what my father was chasing.

The school trip, in stark contrast to my father’s journey, is not what I want for myself. Set expectations take away from actually being in and experiencing all that a place has to offer, so I want to make sure that I get the balance right.

All of the logistics to account for in my own adventure are the most difficult parts. Hotels, food, budgeting, plane tickets, all of these are things you have to plan and prepare for. There is little room nowadays for a real, true, spur-of-the-moment adventure. It would be difficult to say drive down to Mexico, work odd jobs there to pay for the trip, and kind of find out where to go as you travel more of the country. This is essentially what my dad did, venture around different areas and cities, get jobs if you needed money, meet new people. Just wander.

This of course was the sentiment at the time, the hippie era, ’70s rebellious children.. Adventure in this sense was more of a discovery, a look into yourself to see what you enjoy and like to experience.

Our country has become so advanced in comparison to fifty years ago, both technologically and socially. Everything is interconnected. When my dad was traveling around, there was no Airbnb. There was no online catalogue that listed what to do at every stop of your trip. There is now a convenience in the modern world that I plan to take advantage of, a convenience that lets me map out and plan an entire adventure, all from the comfort of my home.

In a time where a break from things becomes infrequent, and especially at an age where I am beginning to find my place in the world, finding the time for a chance to better know myself and the things around me becomes key. Especially now, with a global pandemic that is starting to lessen, where many people have become hermits in their homes, taking a break from things and going on a Greg-inspired adventure sounds like a pretty good plan.