Enrich my life!
January 19, 2012 12:32 PM   Subscribe

what "life adventures" are easier to achieve than people would think? What are the practical steps one must follow to experience "awesome stuff"?

There are some things I have accomplished in my life that people are very impressed by, but that weren't nearly as hard as they think.

I tend to not take initiative on things unless they are familiar to me, and I would like to lose the fear of the unknown by hearing from people who have done cool stuff (in academics, travel, adventure, business, etc.) For example, I am particularly fearful of continuing my education in the US, definitely because I know nothing about how academia works here. I wonder what other things I could try that aren’t as bad as I imagine.

I have found myself explaining unbelieving people how easy these things were...

- Wrote an essay on free trade and traditional agriculture and scored a free trip to Japan.
- Got sent to London for a couple of months by scoring A on the FCE exam, this I achieved thanks to all the English vocabulary I acquired by reading Harry Potter
- Survived 8 months in the Amazon, had a bug lay eggs under my skin, and removed the eggs with a knife and scotch tape. (the bug thing was not intentional or cool, but it’s an awesome story and it wasn’t nearly as painful or traumatizing as people think)
- Lost 30 pounds (this wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be)

My purpose with this question is double:
- I would like to demystify the unknown
- I would like to hear ideas of cool things I could do all along , when I thought I had to be wonder woman/have an IQ of 300 to do. Any input, from snowboarding to getting into grad school will be appreciated.
posted by Tarumba to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 153 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I thought it'd be difficult to see lava. It wasn't.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I got to be an "official blogger" at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 because I was in Boston, I applied just when they were looking at their list of applicants and saying "Oh man this is basically all young white men" and I had a blog that had some level of popularity, even if it was nichey. This allowed me to meet a ton of other interesting people like the Daily Show people and Barack Obama and Howard Dean and political bloggers and get some press coverage which led, in turn to the Wikipedia page about me not being deleted because I had achieved "notability" by their definition. All (mostly) because I wrote a letter at the right time. I feel like there are a lot of things in "internet culture" where there is occasionally some real-life crossover, like yesterday's SOPAstrike thing, and suddenly both sides of the whole thing realize "wow there's a whole world in there"
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Teaching English in a foreign country. I called on a Monday, got interviewed on a Wednesday, got my placement the following week and was off and away about 3 weeks later.

From a buddy, he concepted a card game, spent about 4 sleepless, drunk days writing the cards, playtested for a week or so, got Kickstarter funding and a month later had a best seller on his hands. Still cant keep it in stock.

The key is, I think, just deciding you want to do something. Take the first step and take it seriously and the rest just kind of. Happens.
posted by GilloD at 12:54 PM on January 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I went on a six month exchange program to France by just filling out the paperwork before the deadlines, which qualified me for a scholarship and a subsidized loan that meant I was not even out of pocket. I had always planned to do this but it seemed like so much effort that I never got around to it. I suddenly realized that it was this semester or never - decided that the least I could do was actually apply, and it all happened like magic.
posted by jacalata at 1:00 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being in a full on fight, and preferably winning. Get into and MMA, kickboxing, or boxing class where people actually hit and fight each other for practice (no cardio kickboxing). MMA especially has a lot of female practitioners. Then when you feel ready, find an amateur fight and sign up. For the rest of your life you'll be able to say that you went toe to toe with someone who was trying to knock you out, and you stuck with it. You might even get to say you won. But just telling people that you have been in a fight where punches were being thrown full force is usually enough to get peoples attention.
posted by Tehhund at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I recently got into motorcycling just by taking a free MSF course offered by my state. The first day, I got on a bike and thought "there's no f'ing way I'm going to ever figure out all this!" but by day 2 I was zipping around the parking lot. Now I've got a bike of my own and can't wait to ride (curse you winter!).

The trickiest part was registering for the course - we had to watch the signup page every day for registration to open.

There's probably a similar free or cheap program in your area. Highly recommended, even if you don't go on to get a bike of your own.
posted by Wulfhere at 1:15 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Learning to fly small planes seems pretty easy to me. Except for the money and goverment mandated flight time, its all pretty simple, I think.
posted by Jacen at 1:17 PM on January 19, 2012

Best answer: You can take the graduate classes at the Iowa Writers Workshop without being accepted to the grad school through the summer session. Only a manuscript is required. You get actual MFA credit.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:19 PM on January 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Worked as a fixer for the BBC for a fortnight. I had specialist knowledge (was a journalist in the Falklands just before the 25th anniversary of the conflict) but not much idea of what being a fixer would entail. In a random moment of boldness I sent off an unsolicited email to a general address at the BBC, expecting nothing, and got a call back from a cameraman asking if I'd be free to drive round Brian Hanrahan for two weeks, and inviting me to name my price.

So yeah, odd jobs that you think you'd never have a shot at but have the balls to ask at the right time.
posted by penguin pie at 1:24 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Special collections in libraries are awesome. If you're going to be in a city, look up the local University's library or the city/regional/national library, and find out what they have in their special collections. For instance, you might find that they have historic manuscripts, or letters between historical figures, or old patents signed by US Presidents (they used to do that). There are lots of neat things hidden away in libraries that very few people know about. I have handled and read actual letters written by people like Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Hume, Franklin, Adam Smith, etc, etc. Some of these have not been digitized, so the only places you can read them is the library that is holding them. (It goes without saying that you should always show the librarians and documents respect by handling the documents carefully, or you spoil it for everyone.)

Hume's personal letters are very funny, by the way. He fancied himself quite the lady's man. There was one letter where he bragged about how captivated the women at a party were at his philosophical ramblings. I think he was serious.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:32 PM on January 19, 2012 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I went backpacking for a year a while back, and am doing it again soon, this time on a motorcycle.

My main hangup was not knowing the languages of (most) of the places I was going. Turned out not to matter, minus running into a few nationalists in Turkey. And in general people are friendly and money and/or a friendly demeanor will get you through just fine.

I think the typical hangups are a combo of:

a) getting over the risk perceptions involved with safely overseas
b) the perceived risks of quitting your job
c) dedicating your income to travel vs. cars/houses/status items
d) leaving behind the comfort of your support system.
posted by MillMan at 1:57 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like to keep in mind that one person's crazy novelty is someone else's normal.

I lived without plumbing for two years. Most people in the world do. No big deal. But it really boggles people who haven't known anything but flush toilets and hot running water.
posted by griselda at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Participating in your local government.

There are many low-level elected positions that require little more than time, ideas, commitment and enthusiasm to get voted in. There are even more positions on various boards and councils, often by appointment, where you can have input into the shaping of, let's say, library policy, business development initiatives or public safety.
posted by drlith at 2:24 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There's a theme here of "Well, I wasn't sure, so I went ahead and tried it and it worked out!". Which is awesome and a real key to success, but I think for anyone reading (Or if you wanted to show this to someone) it's important to note that for every "Hooray! Dumb luck!" post on here, there are probably a dozen "I sent an e-mail and never heard back" stories. The key is just to look for an opportunity and never turn one down. Be persistent.
posted by GilloD at 2:51 PM on January 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Military style boot camp class with full-on obstacle course. I thought I'd never be able to do it, but I did. I saw improvement in every session and by the end of the training (3 weeks), I was able to climb walls, swing on a rope, climb one of those rope ladders and hurdle, etc.

Never thought I'd be able to do it. And I did. :)
posted by vivzan at 3:00 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’ve found, in general, some of the most awesome things I’ve experienced have come about as a result of a) leaping at opportunities other people weren’t keen to take up and b) being willing to go to some far flung places that most other people don’t want to go to and c) giving it 150 per cent when I was there.

Take a risk, put your hand up for the out-of-the-way opportunity, don’t be afraid to do things other people scoff at, explore the less populated peripheries of your city, your country, and the world.

And when you’re in the midst of things, give it your everything. You’ll have an interesting life filled with interesting experiences, guaranteed.

Oh, and on preview, seconding GilloD. Not everything will work out. But it's been my experience that if you look for opportunity and adventure where others *aren't* looking, your chances of things working out are much higher.
posted by t0astie at 3:03 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've gotten free entry into big conferences just by saying I'll blog about it.
posted by divabat at 3:18 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came in to say the learn to fly a plane thing. So, I'll second that comment above.
posted by meinvt at 5:06 PM on January 19, 2012

Best answer: Along the lines of Philosopher Dirtbike's suggestion, you can often see objects that are in a museum's collection but aren't out on view, just by asking nicely. I work at a pretty big museum and I've walked regular Joes through storage rooms that could be out of Night at the Museum and gotten them up close and personal with rare 15th century prints.

Research what's in the museum's collection, call the general line and ask to speak to the department that what you want to see is in (e.g. American Art, Contemporary Art), and then ask very very nicely to the person who answers the phone if you can make an appointment to see X. It helps if you can demonstrate some knowledge of X and talk about how much it would mean to you, and if you are flexible in your schedule. But generally, people who work at museums are excited to show you all the cool stuff they have!
posted by LeeLanded at 5:36 PM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Alternative to learning to fly a plane, learn to fly a sailplane. Or just take a ride. It's awesome.
posted by Kevin S at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2012

Best answer: Math.

No, seriously - hear me out.

I'm a 42 year old woman who went through public school, and always had a horrid time with math. This, along with non-encouraging teachers and their prejudicial attitudes instilled in me two damaging myths: that men are inherently better at math than women, and that math is a talent, not a skill - if you're not good at it from the get go, you'll never be good at it. Consequently, I stalled out with a D in Pre-Calculus, and got a BA in Film, instead of pursuing what I *really* wanted to study, which was Computer Science.

Three things happened to change that forever: 1. I tried taking programming classes to increase my career, and I'd always fall on my face when I hit the math. But I want to learn programming.

2. I came across a copy of Overcoming Math Anxiety at Goodwill for a buck. 'What the hell' I thought, and I bought it. For the first time, it gave me some inkling that I wasn't some monster for not liking math at the time, and that the damaging messages from the past were just that. They specifically discussed women and math, and how the messages that 'math is for men' are harmful, and I agree.

3. Turns out I have ADHD, and I got that treated.

Now, I'm working through Khan Academy, and am having fun, actual fun, learning math. At the end of the day, I work on it for an hour or two, and I look forward to it. I'm only at the algebra level, but I'm learning it, enjoying it, and I want to see how far I can go. I can honestly say that I can't wait to try my hand at Calculus and beyond, and to take classes in these.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2012 [20 favorites]

When making choices, choose the one that will make a better story. This is either very brave or very stupid.

I fell off a 2-story cliff last week and survived.

I have a lot of stories.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:02 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sky diving - I did a static line jump where you are attached to the plane by a strap that pulls the cord for you. - 1 day of classroom instruction, a seminar at the field and then up in the plane. I had a helmet with a radio that didn't work so they had these big arrows on the ground to direct my landing.
Scuba diving - I took a resort class in Mexico with a morning session in the pool and then out into the ocean in the afternoon. You don't really have to be a very good swimmer either because you have a life vest that you can adjust to regulate your buoyancy and the breathing part is taken care of.
posted by BoscosMom at 8:16 PM on January 19, 2012

Best answer: Came back in to suggest getting registered to perform weddings. I did that 10 years ago or so for some friends, and I thought that was it (and that was enough). Then wow, yeah, what t0astie said.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:02 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing all the ones that amount to "travel to a place you aren't at all familiar with", both the logistics of getting there--lots of programs that make it cheap if you're willing to teach English, live on what's in your backpack, etc. and plan accordingly--and actually dealing with unknown context. I mean, it can be a little overwhelming at first, but it's a lot easier than I initially thought. Even picking up a language (especially picking up a language, actually) once in the context of "sink of swim, do or die" immersion. Everyone always goes on about how much they want to travel and never do, but if you REALLY want to, and prioritize accordingly for it and plan ahead, it's totally doable for most people I know. They just don't actually want it that much, not enough to plan or whatever. More like a luxurious dream to tuck away. But the reality of it is suprisingly doable.
posted by ifjuly at 11:58 AM on January 20, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and as for physical activities...I was never a jockish person growing up (though I did grow up with lots of wilderness and outdoor activity, just not team sports or things that took lots of coordination), and when I got to be an adult I sort of gotten into a mindset that I was a bookish, not physical person. Most of my friends were similar. Now, about 5-10 years later, we've all taken on physical hobbies we enjoy and were surprised we were good at--lifting weights with proper form through a full range of motion, rock climbing, doing half and full marathons, boxing. If you've pegged yourself as the type that lives in your head mostly finding out a decade later actually your body is pretty rad and capable of equally amazing things as your mind is pretty fantastic and demystifying.
posted by ifjuly at 12:03 PM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I love, love, love your comments!

I remembered something that happened to me a while ago, too.

I wrote an email to a museum curator at the Smithsonian, asking about his work, etc. Months later, he came to my country, and hired me as a guide for a couple of weeks. I got to travel for free, plus I have the Smithsonian in my resume.
posted by Tarumba at 12:19 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I sailed across the Pacific. I had never sailed before, I was pretty sure I got seasick, and yet when I had this crazy idea, I had more than one person offer me a crewing spot on their yacht.

It did enrich my life because it was an amazing adventure and it was something that initially was very hard for me, so sticking it out and getting all the way across felt like a real achievement.

But it was easier than people think in that it isn't necessarily difficult to get a crewing spot and it doesn't have to cost very much money. It is then both easier and harder than people think - we didn't have too much bad weather so no, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking I would die. But other people have this vision of 'cocktails at sunset', and it is a lot more work than that.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:41 PM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You know, Tarumba, that's a good example. I work in a pretty cool place in a pretty cool city, which gives me lots of opportunities to meet interesting folks who come through for a visit. But I do often initiate these meetings, or they come about through meeting someone who knows someone, or via an email I sent someone years earlier inviting them to drop in if they're ever in town. I've given tours to the advisor of a robotics club featured on the front page, and to a photographer I met in Hawaii, and to Jessamyn and many, many other MeFites. Plus, all sorts of fascinating folks are associated with MetaFilter; go to a meetup, and you might be invited to do something wacky, just because a friend-of-a-friend is involved.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:42 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's something which is on getting admittance to selective colleges, but has much to say on your situation:

posted by curuinor at 1:57 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: As it turns out, all it takes to ride a bicycle across the USA is getting on your bike and going for a bike ride every day.
posted by aniola at 3:48 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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