Mapping out the grand adventure or, How to live a better story

by Gerhi Feuren on 28 June 2012

I have hinted in a couple of posts and tweets that I am going on a grand adventure soon. This is the post where I will now reveal exactly what we are going to do and how it came about.

It all started with a book

Where else? Most change in my life start with a book. This time it started with Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Donald Miller comes to the conclusion that you can only live a better story if you edit your life. No, that is not a spoiler, it says so on the cover. But reading the book drives it home in so many ways.

I had these ideas tumbling in my head when I got a email from some old student friends who said they are doing a get together. I replied and said I’m sorry I can’t make it. But it bugged me because I really did want to make it and so many times over the last couple of years we past up on opportunities, because we can’t make it.

And then my son (Mister Button) gave us his view on what he saw in his future for the holidays and that sounded very gloomy. Thinking of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years I wanted to give my son a different story for his life and the idea for an adventure was born.

But, because Mister Button is only seven and because we have a limited budget the planning unfolded to fit our means. The first step was to sell the car.

There is a first time for selling a car

Our car was getting old. I drove a 1991 Toyota Corolla for thirteen years. I wanted a change and the car was the first thing to change. My adventure started thinking about Top Gear and their trip across Botswana and I thought that we could sell my car, take half the proceeds to cover our adventure costs and the other half to buy us an adventure car.

There goes the Toyota Corolla

There goes the Toyota Corolla

Because I am not mechanically inclined and I don’t have a support crew that idea got shelved when I realised that R10 000 does not buy much in terms of transport. I am now working on plan B in terms of purchasing a new vehicle. More details on that later.

The adventure template then changed from Top Gear to the Amazing Race. We will be going by bus.

I know, by bus. How terrible. Why don’t you fly?

Well, let me tell you what my son said. He said that when I first told him about the adventure he was excited. But now that we are going by bus, Mister Button is even more excited. And that is the main aim, because his excitement counts for much more than my own trepidation.

The grand adventure

We are making three stops on our grand adventure. And what we do when we get there is pretty wide open – which is what adventuring is all about.

Our first stop is the Grahamstown Arts Festival. I’ve been there before. Once as a student just visiting and once as part of a student production. Both these trips were carefully planned ahead of time with places to sleep planned and shows pre-booked.

This time we are pitching with a tent and nothing booked. We will have to find a place to pitch the tent and then we will see what we can see in any random order we can see, buying tickets at the door for most shows and doing anything that strikes our fancy. Unless we are given a challenge.

The second stop is Pietermaritzburg. Mister Button was born there. He calls it his hometown and he always says that he gets homesick. We are going to visit his birth buddies and my old workplace at the Tatham Art Gallery. We also still own our house in Pietermaritburg, but it is on the market and I want to go see the estate agents to check on progress.

Then we go up country to Pretoria. We will be staying with my parents and I will meet up with my old student friends. And according to plan B we will also spend the time here looking for a car.

If we get a car we will drive back down to Stellenbosch and what may happen on this trip we will have to wait and see.

Because we are starting of with backpacks I am not taking any computers with and our only technology will be a Blackberry. This is my last long post and my updates on the trip will short snippets. But if anybody want to suggest a challenge for us to make our adventure more interesting (Think Top Gear/Amazing Race) and keep in mind we are a 44 year old and a 7 year old without any survival skills and we will see what we can do.

The itinerary

The grand adventure starts tomorrow night. Friday. That is if you do not count packing and pre-travel shopping as an adventure. Here is the somewhat exact schedule:

  • Friday 29 June, 18:30 we board the InterCape bus in Stellenbosch to arrive in Grahamstown on Saturday 30 June, 8:40
  • Saturday and Sunday in Grahamstown at the festival. Scheduling open to whim, possibly some dice-living
  • Monday 2 July, 8:35 we board the Greyhound bus in Grahamstown to arrive in Durban at 21:30
  • On the same day at 22:00 we board the InterCape to Johannesburg but we get of at Pietermaritzburg

Due to a glitch it turns out to be cheaper to go to Johannesburg than to Pietermaritzburg even if you are taking exactly the same bus. One day somebody must explain that to me.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday we hobnob in Maritzburg and meet as many people we know and can fit into two days
  • Wednesday 4 July, 23:10 we board InterCape again to arrive in Pretoria on Thursday 5 July at 6:40.
  • Our get together with Varsity buddies is Thursday night and we stay until we have a car or we get tired or homesick and then we travel home – by whatever means available.

The big why

My favourite quotation is from Pliny’s letter to Tacitus:

“Happy are those who can do things worth recording, or write things worth reading; most happy those to whom it is given to do both.”

When I started my writing adventure four years ago that was one of the cornerstones I whacked into the ground. And then it got lost a bit in the struggle of finding out how to go about writing. What got lost most was the living part. The doing of things. The taking action.

Like an un-oiled sprocket I wound myself to a standstill, scratching my head, while staring at a computer screen. And the less living happened tho more difficult the writing became.

I woke up and realised that I do not like my life and the story I am living. And taking Donald Miller’s cue I know that the only way to change that is to take action. And with that I was also unhappy with the story my son was telling himself about his life. And I want him to get a better story to tell.

And that is our grand adventure, in a nutshell.

How can you help

Follow along, I’ll be tweeting and blogging and facebooking about our activities as much as I can.

But more than that, challenge us (comment below, direct message on twitter or by postal monkey). Give us something to do that will be fun and stretchy and out of our comfort zones. If your challenge seems like a good idea we will give it a go. Just don’t suggest a strip club or giving all our money to the first face we see. We have to be sensible here.

The Amazing Race

What do you get? You get to be part of our adventure.

But we will also be recording everything that we do. The wisdom we might stumble over, the common sense that might hit us in the face. And what we do will become a book. There might not be a point to the book because I don’t know if there is a point yet, but there will be a book.

And if you support us on our adventure you will get a free copy. Even though I still have to figure out how you’ll get it. But that is technical stuff to be worried about later.

Now I need to wrap up stuff so I can start packing. Tomorrow is not very far of.

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