Saturday, February 13, 2016

Are you adventurous?

Are there only two answers, "Yes" and "No"? Or is it okay to reply "I dunno... sometimes... it depends..."?

Some people are undoubtedly and unabashedly adventurous. A mere couple of hours in the company of six other travelers on our tour to Mt. Etna were more than enough to identify the one true adventurer among us: the young, good-looking Norwegian guy who introduced himself as Thomas. I won't give you his full name nor the link to his Facebook page because I haven't asked for his permission. But this guy has traveled wherever the wind (and the airlines) took him; rides a snowmobile even though he once had his head literally* smashed in a snowmobile accident; went deeper into the dark, clammy, treacherous lava cave than most of us; and didn't yet know where he was going to spend the night, having checked out of his hotel and not made any alternative arrangements. He'd also recovered from a horrendous childhood car accident, a recovery which I attribute (off the top of my head, not through expertise) to luck, incredible tenacity, excellent medical care, and strong survivability. What, you think there's no such word? Just because Merriam-Webster et al say there isn't? Okay, so I made it up.
Giulia explaining Mt. Etna's activities. Note buried [two-storey!] house.
I, for one, am not adventurous. Which doesn't mean I can't be tempted or persuaded, once every few years, to travel to active volcanoes -- providing I've been assured that they aren't expected to act up in the next few weeks; or to climb benign mountains such as Ben Nevis on a sunny day along a well-trodden touristy path, or certain amazing snowy bits of the Canadian Rockies -- Whistlers, Bow Glacier, Athabasca Glacier, to name a few -- as you can see in my two Flickr albums of that trip. (Canadian Rockies Part I and Part II). Yes, I even drove a 25-ft RV along fairly empty roads during our trip to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and other such thrilling  places. Truth be told, if it weren't for the photos, I might think I dreamed the whole thing up.

In my limited experience, having one's kitchen or bathroom remodeled is no less nerve-wracking than climbing tall mountains or walking on a frozen lake. In both cases, you feel you are not on solid ground. Which is a feeling I dislike.

My chief occupation -- translator, editor, scribbler -- does not entail any hazards. Excepting, of course, nasty encounters with horribly-written texts and the occasional encounter with an exasperating client. But some of my colleagues have a far more adventurous spirit. They might -- and actually do -- fly small aircraft, run marathons in several countries, dive the Blue Hole in the Red Sea, go rafting in Africa, trekking in Nepal, Kong Fu training in China, ski, snowboard, or enter politics.

Some of you don't have to ask themselves whether they're adventurous. They simply have no fear, and love the thrill and excitement. And some of us would rather sit at the computer and take online quizzes to tell them whether they're adventurous. Here's what one such test told me:
"You need a moderate level of excitement and stimulation - not too little, not too much. You could probably handle a minor adrenaline rush, but not to the point where you're fearing for your wellbeing. This allows for just the right balance of excitement and relaxation on your adventurous escapades." 
Well, duh!
I did try two other quizzes, but found the questions either stupid or totally irrelevant to me. Too culturally-dependent, and I guess I belong to a different culture than that of the quiz writers.

So, to make a long story short, I did not actually climb Mount Etna. I made do with the basic tour at the first level, which is where the coffee shops and souvenir shops are, and where we walked, with our charming, knowledgeable guide, Giulia, around the rim of a couple of small yet slippery craters. I didn't even take the cable car up to the next level at 2000 ft. I suggest that you do, though. It's a very pretty view.
A crater we walked around, with a slippery slope

Dark hole is entrance to the lava cave

Mt. Etna on a sunny day. Looks innocuous, but it isn't.
* I'm an editor; I don't misuse the word "literally". When I use it, I mean it. Thomas' head and arm carry all the physical evidence of that accident.

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