Roads Less Traveled

I try to avoid being uncomfortable whenever possible. As a result, I’ve arranged my life carefully so that I’m never too far away from food, shelter, or loved ones. I always have fresh food in the fridge, a backup bank account, and a list of houses I could crash at in the incident of a fire or flood. This system has worked really well so far, and I rarely spend a day without a large number of modern conveniences.

Then I went to Europe. For two weeks, my comfort level was no longer in my own hands. Instead, it was in the hands of airport employees, bunkmates, and pickpockets. Any person in a hostel room of sixteen had the ability to keep everyone up all night with loud coughing or shenanigans. Any pickpocket in the city of Barcelona could have taken my wallet, leaving me completely reliant on charity until my friends arrived from Ireland. All of my meticulous flight planning went out the window after one broken suitcase and three delayed flights.

My safety nets, while still firmly in place, were located halfway around the world.

My life felt, for the first time in a long time, like it had an element of risk. If I were to get injured, lose my phone, or miss the last metro bus, I could end up in a bad situation with unclear solutions. While I had friends with me for part of the journey, we were only one wrong turn away from being completely separated with no means to communicate. My decisions had consequences, and those consequences affected people I cared about.

Strangely enough, it was exhilarating. My senses were sharpened, and I was able to remember names, places, and details at an unusually high rate. I was grateful just to have my wallet and backpack at the end of every day. Even if I had been rained on for hours and had blisters on my feet. For a beautiful two weeks, I was energetic, attentive, and grateful.

I was Clark 2.0.

So now I’m home, and I’m trying as hard as I can to retain Clark 2.0. Honestly? It’s really hard. I’m already finding myself falling back into old patterns where I get grumpy over small things like bad parking spots or misplaced checkbooks. Fortunately, I can no longer pretend that I’m not capable of more. My new year’s resolution to be uncomfortable was well placed, and I need to continue my pursuit to find new challenges and ways to grow.

And now it’s time to find my next adventure. I don’t think it’ll involve 30 hours on a plane this time around, but it will require some travel. I’ll have more details soon, but for now, it’s time for me to start scoping out new cities and saying goodbye to Missoula. I’m scared to leave the state that raised me, but I’m more scared to settle for a life of risk aversion and unfulfilled potential.

I want to leave Montana before I resent the slowness and simplicity that lends it so much charm. A year ago, I left a job that I loved, and now it’s time to make an even bigger departure.


  1. I once read that there is risk in everything (from very small to very large amounts) and if we live daily with that understanding, we should stop being afraid to take them. Driving is risky, and drinking milk a week past it’s due date is risky. But we still do it and most don’t feel “afraid” to take those risks.

    I look forward to hearing about your daily risk taking (next week if I’m not mistaken?)