When I decided I wanted to do something with my last summer before college, I started asking older people what crazy adventures they went on in their summers. Even better, I asked them what they wished they did.
The answers were awesome. Many mentioned backpacking Europe. Some did big camping trips out west to rock climb or ski. A few dreamed of sailing the Caribbean, and one had wanted to fly a small plane around the US.
These got me dreaming and I went through a whole list of schemes. The best was borrowing a motor boat and taking it down to Florida before attempting a crossing into the Bahamas. Then we’d buy groceries in town and camp on the beaches of empty islands.
And then, as it always does when you put your mind to it, a real adventure fell into my lap.
There was a tiny airport just across the highway from my house. I used to bike over there and help the old guys out- I’d clean hangars, push gliders around, and, if I was lucky, help fix an engine. The older guys started to love me, and I was getting enough lessons that I could handle a small plane on my own.
I got offered the opportunity to fix up an old 1946 Cessna 120, and then fly across the country that summer.
1400 lb useful load, 95hp, wooden propeller, fabric wings.
I was in love. The plane was perfect for my adventure. It was small enough I could push it around solo, rare enough that other pilots would talk to me about it, and just big enough to carry me and a tent through the Rocky Mountains.
I detailed some of the process at www.n77360.wordpress.com. This helped me gather a small following of pilots who would give me advice and a place to stay along my journey. I even got myself in the local newspaper, and they quoted me saying “Don’t wait until you’re out of college to live your life”.
That Spring, I exploded into activity. Each morning I was in the shop taking apart the aircraft piece by piece for cleaning and inspection. I’d catch up on schoolwork in the evenings, and on the weekends I’d practice flying with my local glider club.
Having a large project like this is exactly what I needed in life. I became focused; I started waking up much earlier, eating breakfast and working out; I raced through my schoolwork and cut out distractions.
I spent every extra minute gazing up through a window, wondering if the weather would keep long enough for me to get out of the building and into the sky. I was focused on a goal- and nothing would stop me from achieving it.
Until something did. But that’s another story.
What’s important is I took the initiative to choose a project and I worked on it every day. I learned that anything I want out of life, I have to stand up and chase it. I learned that a project can be entirely worth it, even if I fail.
At that point in my life, my greatest failure was also my greatest adventure and learning experience.