No Matter What, Life Can Be an Adventure

GREEN FIELDS passed me by, clouds of white and skies of blue. The train passed through open farmlands and beside the mellow sea, which, for the first time on the ride, evoked the coast of Portugal.

We passed through charming beach towns that reminded me of home in California — sparse houses close to the water, a wooden boardwalk, sea foam cresting glistening green water.

My heart beat with a sense of adventure. The music in my ears instilled my journey with an inspiring pulse; I could be nowhere but in Europe, on my way from Lisbon to the city of Porto, a gem in northern Portugal.

Near the end of the journey, a woman came through the cabin door with two small children. “It’s okay,” I heard her say enthusiastically over the sound of my music. “We’re going on an adventure!”

The boy and girl may have been somewhere around seven or eight years old. They must have gotten on the train at one of the recent stops. I wondered about their story.

She began speaking Portuguese to the passengers in sections with open seats. She was trying to find a spot with her kids. Something about this woman’s actions struck a chord in me.

The spirit of this mother — of any mom who’s trying — is beautiful. As a kid, I definitely couldn’t appreciate or truly understand what this meant. I still don’t, but this is my perspective, what I’ve noticed, what I’ve learned.

I suppose as kids, things are supposed to be a certain way. We expect the world to be good. But that’s not the way the world works. Surely, the world can be good, but things rarely go the way we expect them to.

Perhaps that’s what it means to grow up, to shift our expectations, our perspectives, the way we respond to what we can’t control in life.

A mom like this one, I imagine, a mom — I’m grateful to say — like mine, wants to give their kids what they expect the world to be. Perhaps this sort of mother wants to raise their kids in a world like those they see in the cartoons; maybe the world can be fun; maybe it can be an adventure, regardless of what we expect to happen.

But mom knows what life is — what it can be.

A mom knows you must work and even suffer, and often do whatever it takes just to get through the darkness. But, perhaps, a mother like this one doesn’t want their kids to feel that pain. They want them to feel like kids.

This mingling of worlds — of parents trying to find their way, of kids who just want to be kids, who just want to be loved — seldom happens in perfect harmony; for any family. Parents have their problems too.

Sometimes, that’s impossible to see when we are kids. But then one day we might realize we’re all just people, doing our best with what we know, with what we have, with the experiences that have shaped our reality.

It’s a complicated world. One day, we may grow up and see that forgiveness is the only path to an unburdened soul. We’re all just human beings, expected to be so much more.

The adventure that this mother speaks of, it’s not just for the kids. I believe, I hope, I can feel, it’s for her too; they’re a part of her world, and she seems unafraid.

To take a chance, to make a change. I didn’t know where they were going. But what I could tell, what I could feel, maybe it’s something only I could see because of my perspective, is that she’s teaching her kids a valuable lesson about life.

Maybe things won’t work out. Life will rarely go as expected. But it doesn’t really matter where you’re going. All that matters is you’re going somewhere, and often the best thing, the only thing worth doing, is shifting how we perceive the journey.

Life is an adventure, or it isn’t.

The mom switched between speaking to passengers in English and in Portuguese; she was willing to have the cabin look at her because I admit, she wasn’t quiet.

That’s something I would have been embarrassed about as a kid — my mom knows that. We laugh about it now. She was this mom. She still is. And that makes me smile.

The mom comforted her kids. She helps them be unafraid. She showed them that this is life, taking the train, going somewhere, anywhere, forward. Maybe I’m totally off, but all I can speak of is what I see from these brief encounters, these life-changing moments when you notice the way the world works, and you question it, and maybe you question yourself.

Something changes within you, and that can be so beautiful. I notice parents who let their kids explore; they let them face their fears; they show them that they’ll be there.

They’ll make it. But they must face the world.

This is an adventure for me, too. We’re in this thing together.

While traveling, I’ve seen so many parents with kids — on the train, dads bounce little blubbery babies on their knees. Parents stroll through the streets of Lisbon with children strapped to their chests.

Parents bring their kids on planes, and often they cry relentlessly until the wheels touch the ground.

As a kid, I’d do anything not to make a scene. Perhaps this is why this concept is so interesting, so important to me now. Who cares if a scene is made in the name of what’s good, of what’s human, of what’s natural?

Who cares if you embarrass yourself living your life, perhaps even trying to enjoy it.

A parent doesn’t wait until their child is mature enough to take them on the train, on a plane, into the world.

They make do with what they have, a kid, a partner, a life — life isn’t put on hold. It’s accepted and even embraced, no matter the season, and perhaps that’s something you can only realize when your time comes.

I’m so damn excited to one day travel with a family. Now, it’s just me. I smile in my seat as I watch the dad bouncing his baby with tired eyes; but his face is resilient too, the sweat on his brow, his partner beside him, his cargo shorts and all.

The mom with her kids, the dad with the bouncing baby, whoever is out there trying — we’re in this thing together.

I suppose that’s something we might not realize until we’ve been in the other person’s shoes — until we’ve been the one who is embarrassed — until we’ve been the one who lets go of the fear of what others think, no longer giving a shit about who’s watching.

Then you might see somebody do the same, and instead of looking away, perhaps you lend a hand.

Instead of judging, you smile. Hell, you might even join in on the fun.

No, I don’t know what a parent goes through traveling with their kids; I’m just writing about it now as a young man observing. No doubt, it’s not easy.

But I also see families, dads, moms, watching their kids playing in the park, under the trees of Lisbon. I see the smile on that father’s face as he pushes his kid on the swing.

That, to me, seems like a worthy reward. And you, proud mother, proud father, get to sit back and appreciate the moment that you’re in. For now, I’ll sit back and appreciate my own.

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