The old saying about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence is a concept most of us can identify with. It’s a simple fact of life that sometimes, anywhere else seems more exciting than wherever “here” happens to be. Unfortunately, abandoning our real lives (and all the responsibilities that are part of it) to hunt for ancient treasures in remote jungles or ruins buried beneath desert sands usually isn’t a realistic way to start the day.
According to Jeffrey Lehmann, the winner of multiple Emmy and Telly awards for his popular television travel series Weekend Explorer, finding avenues of adventure doesn’t necessarily have to involve foreign maps or expensive plane tickets. The key, he explains, is adopting what he calls a “traveler’s attitude.”
“When I started the Weekend Explorer,” says Lehmann, “our tag line was ‘Adventure is an attitude.’ That’s because I feel that if you have a traveler’s attitude, you can find as many adventures in your own backyard as many people can find traveling the world.”
Developing a traveler’s attitude begins with opening your mind to new ways of seeing what’s around you, Lehmann points out. As a resident of coastal southern California, he says he’s constantly amazed at the number of residents he encounters who have never even considered trying the most Californian of activities, ocean surfing.
“Open yourself up to new experiences,” he advises. “Try something new: Go to a foreign film festival. Take an animal tracking class. Try a new sport; kayaking, mountain biking and paragliding are just a few of the countless examples that are available. The important thing is to take yourself outside your comfort zone, to an unfamiliar place.”
And, he adds, those unfamiliar places can be very close to home. Volunteering to help out at a local zoo, butterfly garden or shelter can expose you to people, animals and plants from exotic, faraway places. Interacting with them can open your eyes to a different way of viewing the larger world.
“Be ready to ‘just say yes,’” he continues. “I find in travel and in life there are a lot of opportunities to do something new. This includes everything from helping crew a million-dollar yacht to volunteering to help the poor. I’ve done both, and I’m richer for the experiences—especially the latter. I so often hear friends comment that they can’t understand how I know so many people and how so many great opportunities drop into my lap. I believe it’s because I’m not afraid to try new things. If someone asks me if I want to try something new, I’ll almost always say yes.”
Lehmann explains that by viewing life itself as the ultimate journey, and not restricting yourself to equating adventure with distant locations, you expose yourself to a world of unexpected adventures. But, he says, learning to say yes is just the beginning. The next step is to “just ask.”
“When I was 14, I travelled Europe by myself for the summer with a few hundred dollars in my pocket,” he remembers. “I was on the Gota Canal in Sweden, where there are locks that allow boats to traverse from lake to lake. I was sitting there watching a small family in a sailboat pulling into a lock, and I thought I wish I were on that boat. I got to talk to them as the lock slowly filled up, and then I asked if they’d mind me joining them for a few miles. They thought it was a great idea, and I enjoyed a fun-filled day and an experience I will never forget.”
A few years later, Lehmann took his girlfriend to Catalina Island for the day. They were snorkeling just outside Lovers Cove, when a sailboat passed nearby. His girlfriend turned to him and said, “I wish I were on that sailboat.” So, he immediately called out to the people on the boat and asked if they could come aboard. Shocked, his girlfriend asked him to stop, but the people on the sailboat replied with an invitation to board.
“We spent the rest of the day having the time of our lives,” he says. “Afterwards, my girlfriend thanked me for not listening to her when she told me to stop. The people we joined on the sailboat said they’d had much more fun than they would have had without inviting us to come aboard. I realize, of course, that these kinds of things can really put most people way outside their comfort zone. Even to this day, after doing it hundreds of times, it’s still outside of my own comfort zone. But, I’ve had so many unique, amazing experiences both at home and abroad as the resulting of asking—using common sense and caution, of course—that I continue to do it anyway.”