What Instagram doesn't tell you about adventure

We've all been there. 

You’re on your lunch break at work scrolling through Instagram while you knock back your third Chipotle burrito of the week, when suddenly it hits you: that photo of an attractive individual in an unbelievably beautiful place that you've never heard of. Before you can take your next bite you’ve clicked the location tag, fired up the google, and compared 3 different airlines for tickets to wherever Chris Burkard or Alex Strohl were this week. You’ve just got to go. It isn’t long before you've converted your bored co-workers into equally as stoked companions for this “opportunity of a lifetime.” If you’re lucky, and your trip idea doesn’t end up in the black hole that is a millennial’s forgotten spontaneous world travel plans, then you've got yourself a genuine adventure on your hands.

Drawing routes, saving for lenses we couldn't afford, and nervously watching national gas prices rise and fall. We were ready for this adventure.

A year ago, me and a few of my friends had that moment, and out of that late night conversation came a bold idea for adventure: a 35-day road trip across the western United States. We planned out the trip for 10 months. Drawing routes, saving for lenses we couldn't afford, and nervously watching national gas prices rise and fall. We were ready for this adventure. The night before our trip was filled with visions of glorious mountain ascents, treacherous backcountry excursions, and the amazing food and culture we were bout to experience. Essentially, our vision for what this trip was going to look like was a series of beautifully lit and perfectly timed Instagram shots.

After 35 days on the road, I can say that is not what our adventure looked like. While there was no shortage of incredible hikes, picturesque backcountry sites, and amazing experiences, there was a lot that happened that we did not expect. Car troubles, frustrated plans, lost passports, and full campsites were a daily challenge, and many times these things kept us from doing the things we had planned to do. Our “adventure,” it seemed, was being defined more and more by what was going wrong than what was going right. People were coming up to us after our trip and instead of saying “looks like you had a great time,” they were apologizing to us for all the bad things that happened.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I wanted our trip to be defined by adventure, not by all of these unfortunate accidents. Thats when it hit me. Maybe adventure isn’t what I thought it was. Maybe adventure isn't about the amazing places you go, but what you have to go through to get there.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I wanted our trip to be defined by adventure, not by all of these unfortunate accidents.

If you looked at any one of our Instagram photos from the trip, you would see what you expect. However, if you asked about those photos you would get an entirely different story than you would think. That misty photo of the golden gate bridge would be accompanied with the story of how our car window was smashed on our way back into the city and how we chased down the guy that did it. That dreamy photo of Zion in the morning wouldn’t be highlighted by the peaceful cup of coffee we had that morning but by the broken foot that our friend got on the hike back down. Our adventures were more memorable because of the challenges then they would have ever been without them.

So next time you want to plan that perfect adventure, do it. Plan it and go on it. It truly is worth it. Just be prepared to experience some challenges that in the end will be more memorable than getting that photo that inspired the trip in the first place.

Words by Steven Reese | Photos by Nick Stone