COVID-19: Time for adventuring beyond fear and desire

The COVID-19 global pandemic has revealed the false security of our modern economy and lifestyle for many of us. The pandemic eviscerated the house of cards upon which most are fully dependent on. The certainty craved by the mind has evaporated into thin air nearly overnight. Uncertainty is what remains and we need to become comfortable with it. Adventuring is simply moving into the field of uncertainty and risk for the purpose of gaining something. It is time for us as individuals to become more self-reliant and independent. It is time to learn to adventure beyond your comfort zones and go beyond the fears and desires of modern thinking. Learning and practicing the skills required for adventuring is central to personal survival, happiness, and effectiveness. The current pandemic is an opportunity to take the exit ramp of a life of dependency leading nowhere and find an on-ramp to a self-reliant lifestyle that is inwardly more fulfilling.

The adventure of a lifetime

I was fortunate to recently participate in a once in a lifetime adventure descending the 2,000 + mile Missouri River from its headwaters in Three Forks, Montana to its terminus into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri. Luckily, the architect of the expedition, Tom Elpel, is an experienced outdoorsman and successful author who has been able to articulate our adventure in his book Five Months on the Missouri River Paddling a Dugout Canoe.    

Margie and I created our Prepped and Frosty website to fortify our rationale and thinking about adventuring so that we could do more of it. We strive to Go and Do so that we can Share and Enable with others.  I recently received a copy of Tom’s book and am I blown away by Tom’s account of our expedition. Tom’s book is a physical and metaphorical account of our treasure discovered by adventuring into uncertainty and the unknown. It is a perfect example of what adventure looks like and feels like. Metaphorically, we let go of clinging to everyday existence, physically we flowed with the natural speed of nature, became in tune with her, rolled with the punches, and discovered the treasure we sought – our deeper, truer selves.

No way is the way: cobble your gear together

As Bruce Lee famously said, “Use no way as way”. Tom’s vision for the expedition was unique. His cumulative life experience and vast knowledge translated into an expedition filled with history, primitive living skills, botany skills, geology skills, birding skills, navigation skills, and people skills. It would be impossible to fully replicate our experience exactly, but you can get a sense of what a proper, robust adventure looks like through Tom’s book.

Tom’s book is a rich, overarching, implicit lesson addressing “why to” and “how to” adventure.  He points out that following our life’s intuition, the path is not always easy or logical. A leap of faith is required, in this case of “seeing where all the water goes”. Tom clarified, embraced, and then realized the “enduring appeal of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery”, actually discovering and documenting what is out there, not simply racing to the end.

Tom’s expedition was appropriately named the “Corps of Rediscovery”,  geared toward exploring and discovering the river rather than merely paddling to the end. His photos reveal a mind open to awareness and observation skills that escape most of us as we are in our default “lost in thought” mode.  His narrative wonderfully interweaves our experience, peppered with insights from exploring the history of the Missouri River and the colonization of North America.

Disconnected from nature

The entire book illustrates what Tom labels a “fundamental disconnect from nature” that most of us suffer from. Adventure in nature opens the mystery of our existence into our being and retards the incessant, compulsory thinking that forces us to participate in the “rat race to nowhere”. In Tom’s words:

  • “We bask in the glory of our accomplishment while missing nearly everything along the way.”
  • “We yearn to connect with nature, and not knowing how to do that, we treat nature as an adversary rather than a dance partner.”
  • “We pit human endurance against nature and seek to overcome her.”
  • “We don’t know the plants and animals in our neighborhood; we are largely blind to species we encounter every day.”

At Prepped and Frosty, we embrace Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey concept. It is this outline that enabled a quick decision and response to Tom’s offer to participate in his adventure with a vigorous “HELL YES, I’M IN” without a second thought. Tom’s offer to participate in the expedition was a call to adventure. Some of us were “prepped and frosty” enough to say yes to the adventure, embrace the uncertainty, and seize the window of opportunity offered by Tom. Everyone prepared as best they could in their own way. Launching on the river crossed the threshold into the largely unknown challenges to come. Mentoring occurred as everyone shared and discussed their knowledge. Magic, serendipity, and discovery fueled our progress for over 5 months learning the lessons the river had to teach. Flexibility, adaptability, and innovation allowed us to overcome challenges as a team. We survived and returned to the everyday world.

Finding treasure

The treasure we found is documented in Tom’s book. A summary of our experiences and lessons learned.  Adventure forces us to stop clinging to trivial mental notions, to let go of logic and trust the physical and metaphorical current of nature. We stopped clinging, let go and went with the current, and appeared to fly to onlookers. We oozed adventure.  Tom’s book is a work of art that reveals the magic and divinity found through adventure and is available to us all. Whatever mental or physical apocalypse is to come, the Missouri River floods of 2019, the COVID-19 global pandemic, or the upcoming challenges of climate chaos, we are all on an adventure and always have been. Tom’s book is a window as well as a guide to adventuring robustly and being fully alive.

Suggested next steps:

Missouri River Expedition

In 2019 Scott participated in a Missouri River expedition spanning 2,341 miles in 5 months and 2 days.

Scott signed up for this life-changing canoe trip padding the entire Missouri River.  The expedition was led by Tom Elpel and partially re-traced Lewis and Clark’s journey on the Missouri River from the 1800’s.  They called themselves “The Corp of Rediscovery”.  An almost magical window opened up and Scott chose to say yes to the trip.  To participate in the 5-month trip, Scott resigned from his job of 14 years and he actually felt free!   Scott discovered Tom Elpel via his year long apprenticeship course under Doug Hill’s Gone Feral: School of Primitive & Traditional Skills which was held in the Front Range of Colorado.  Tom’s books form a substantial part of Scott’s outdoor skills library. The expedition offered Scott a perfect window of opportunity to test his own kit, identify weaknesses, and evolve to another level of competence under Tom’s leadership.

Expedition Objectives:

  • 2,341 miles descending the Missouri River from its origins at Three Forks, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri.
  • A conduit for exploring the land and its inhabitants.
  • A wilderness skills immersion experience and nature awareness exercising botany, foraging and fishing; seeking a deeper connection with nature.
  • A media-centric fundraiser to purchase land along the Jefferson River for a public campground; local media will be invited out to interview the group.

The expedition lasted 5 months and 2 days. The crew was supported along the way through various Lewis and Clark enthusiasts, the Missouri River Paddlers Association; i.e. “river angels”, earth skills community, as well as strangers.

We posted over 1,000 photos on our Prepped and Frosty Facebook page and updates were also posted by Tom Elpel.  Scott put together a presentation for public speaking and can be found below.  Tom is writing a book about the expedition and it will be available in March 2020.

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Missouri River Presentation