[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was a hot day in Pune, India. It was March; it hadn’t rained in five months. Beneath my bare feet the earth was brown and cracked, and the grass on the campground was yellow, rough like straw. But I was soaking wet, my grown-out pixie cut that was fast becoming a mullet plastered stickily to the back of my neck, my face and hands and clothes covered in red-green-yellow-blue powder that had blended to a smear of brown.

It was Holi, the Hindu festival of spring, and my friends and I were chucking clouds of colored powder at each other by the handful, shrieking and covering our eyes and slipping on the ground made slick by our Super Soakers and buckets of water, which we dumped suddenly and without mercy on anyone who appeared to be drying out. The latest Bollywood hits blared from a set of speakers set off at a safe distance; the music was so loud that we had to shout to be heard.dunking on holi

We were all about to leave. At every other moment we were conscious of it—coming up next was our last event; our last welcome ceremony; our last expedition to Laxmi Road; our last chance to work together as team and make the Sangam spirit come to life. Our last few weeks to live together as a family. We were efficient and productive, planning with purpose—old hands, by now, at this event thing—but we were tense, too, on edge, a little over-hasty, our smiles a bit too big and eyes a little too wide. We were sick of the same meals and the same songs and each other but we were ferociously in love with all of it at the same time. We had anticipated Holi for weeks and now it was here, and for a moment it seemed so built up that it was bound to disappoint.

But it didn’t. We jumped and danced and laughed and screamed and somehow we forgot the fear and the frenzy and the need to grab it all with our bare hands and lock it up tight. Instead, we played. We ran. We took blurry photos with the waterproof camera and smeared sticky hands against each other’s faces and stuffed ourselves with dosa and banged on drums in the drumming circle, thwacking the plastic buckets as hard as we could to let out the fury of imminent homesickness. The clock ticked on and the day passed by and we made the most of our dwindling time together by forgetting there was such a thing as time at all.

[divider]Allie, 24[/divider]

allie_profile_squareOur bags were packed, the lease was signed. I was ready to settle down for a summer in Colorado, where I’d just spent a magical winter. Come for the winters, but stay for the summers, they said.

Yet as time grew closer to our summer move, my boyfriend and I began daydreaming about adventures. Long ones, short ones, international ones. Still, we decided they’d have to wait. We were mature, responsible. We were moving in together. Trading our vagabond, gypsy lives for routine.

We’re naturalists. We teach kids about the world outside their windows. Each week a different place, different students. We live where we work, or in our little red truck on the weekends. We love chaos, noise, variety.

So as we drove down CA-1 in late May, we made a last minute change. We called our landlord and told him we wouldn’t be coming. We ate the deposit. We needed that money, but we needed our summer back even more.

We blew past Colorado in the little red truck and went home to New Hampshire. We cut down an ashwood tree and built a canoe in 10 days. Maple seats, ash thwarts and gunwales, and the richest most  beautiful black walnut deck plates from a piece of wood that had sat in the rafters for decades, finally relieved to have a purpose.

We hit the lakes of New York that June and paddled to the northernmost tip of Maine. After 740 miles, 36 days (25 of them with rain), more than 100 portages, 15 moose, 40 bald eagles, and a new friend named earth muffin, we finished our trip, and our summer.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

WLDP leading for a greener future welcome ceremony

In October 2011, not long after graduating from college, I moved to Pune, India to work for Sangam World Centre. Run by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Sangam introduces scouts and leaders to women’s empowerment in the context of international development. Like the other four World Centres, Sangam offers members of all 145 national Girl Scouting associations (including Girl Scouts USA) the opportunity share their experiences, cultures, and traditions with sister Scouts from around the world. Uniquely, though, Sangam is affiliated with twenty local NGOs; its mission is not just to foster friendships and offer experience abroad, but to help young women “become the change they wish to see in the world.”

jess 10 million girls session

How? By immersing them in one- to two-week madcap whirls of Indian culture, Scouting traditions, and global development. The day-to-day running of these events was undertaken by the Sangam Volunteers, of which I was one. It was our responsibility to lead tours through Pune’s crowded streets, showing off temples and slums and high-rise towers in the same breath; to organize games and act out skits and lead small-group discussions about the Millennium Development Goals, Girl Effect and ONE Campaign videos, and WAGGGS handbooks and toolkits that outlined techniques to tackle issues like gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, climate change, and educational inequality. We helped our guests plan and carry out service projects at our community partner sites—refurbishing classrooms, planting gardens, running game days on the campground for kids who barely had a home, let alone a backyard—and then encouraged them to develop advocacy and community service plans of their own to launch back home.

advocacy plan

 

Every morning at the flag ceremony we taught a new Hindi phrase of the day, and in the afternoons there were sari-tying sessions or Indian art classes or Bollywood dancing lessons, but in the evening there would be an international fair or a campfire, to encourage everyone to share songs and dances and Girl Scout stories from back home in Rwanda or Lithuania or Argentina or New Zealand, and to swap badges late into the night. And when we SVs were done for the day, we retreated to the staff lounge where we did the same thing, albeit while draped across each other on the couch watching Master Chef Australia and scarfing down gulab jamun and kaju katli from the sweetshop on the corner. Over the course of my six-month term I lived and worked with women from Australia, England, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Malaysia, and, of course, India. Though all of us were Girl Scouts, none of us spoke English in the same accent or had studied the same things at school. Even our Scouting traditions differed, to tell the truth. We would be singing a campfire song or teaching some Indian kids the hokey pokey and suddenly discover that the verses varied or the gestures were different. (Perhaps the best version of this occurred to some other volunteers, who ended up in front of an Indian church service singing two completely different Christmas carols that happened to share a name on opposite sides of the Atlantic.) In February, when a care package revealed that Skittles flavors in the U.K. were definitely not the same as those in the U.S. or Australia, I decided to organize the Great Skittle Taste Test. We sent requests back to the States and Oz for a couple bulk-sized bags; and for good measure I bought a pack from the international grocery store witha label in Arabic, and dubbed them the Saudi Arabian Skittles.

Skittles Taste Test

At the next party, I passed out bowls of the multicolored candies and asked everyone to shout out their flavor guesses for each color. Green was split between sour apple and lime; purple was grape or blackcurrant; all the yellows were lemon. But red? Guesses ranged from cherry to strawberry to watermelon to mango. It all depended on what the sweetest fruits were in the countries we called home.

SVs poolside

Despite these differences, we were united—not only by the teamwork our job required but also in our discovery of India. We flocked to a cheesy funfair with the same zeal that drove us to visit ancient temples swarming with pilgrims. We rotated through our favorite restaurants whenever we had a meal off, and explored the city by rickshaw and by foot; watched Bollywood movies in the cinema without the benefit of subtitles; and got our noses pierced en masse. Ellen and I sent ourselves on the same “Pune Challenge” that we gave to event guests, and got lost in the Red Light District. Philippa and I managed to squeeze New Delhi, Agra, and a twenty-two hour cross-country train ride into three days off. Net and I would stay up until 2 AM in the lounge, listening to the night watchman make his rounds and talking about the meaning of life. All six of us who were there in February—Phlip, Steph, Bron, Em, Emily, and I—went on a road trip together to Aurangabad, home of the “Poor Man’s Taj,” and the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, which were nothing short of breathtaking. We climbed a fort filled with bats and crazy monkeys and laughed ourselves silly over the Indian tourists taking pictures of us instead of the view.

svs + elephant

But mostly we worked, and every day was an adventure. One afternoon we spent four hours sitting outside the office crushing hunks of clay into fine powder. Another day involved fashioning a poolside movie screen out of a sheet, two wooden poles, and some rope. We took turns waking up to greet guests flying in at all hours of the night, and we all turned out at the gate to sing the Sangam farewell to each departing rickshaw. The Program Office, which was crammed with more crafting supplies than I had ever seen in one place before, was our event-planning headquarters, where we divvied up sessions and coaxed the copy machine into good behavior and played the same songs on YouTube over and over again (it took too long to load up more than a few videos a day). Most nights ended well past ten o’clock. When I washed my hands before meals or bed I could see the streams of dirt sliding off my palms and down the ceramic of the sink. I had never been so tired, or so happy, in my entire life.mostly, we worked

 

[divider]Veronica, 25[/divider]

veronica_profile_square-RecoveredI was a Sea Turtle conservation volunteer in Gandoca, Costa Rica. I knew that I was going to be living pretty much in the jungle for 6 weeks, but the adjustment was still brutal: taking showers in river water while frogs and roaches jumped on my head, patrolling beaches for six hours a night in full black body gear, and waking up at 5 AM after a shift that ended at 4 AM because it was simply too hot to sleep after the sun rose. After the first four-day hump, I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be clean until I returned to the U.S., so I habitually shook the million bugs off my mosquito net, popped an anti-malarial pill, and went about my day. I grew really strong. Every day we had a beach cleanup moving debris, rocks, and large pieces of wood so that the nesting turtles and the hatchlings had nothing between them and the open ocean, and every night we walked in groups up and down seven miles of beach to make poachers think twice before trying to dig up the nests. I went from being unable do a single pushup to rolling dead trees uphill with my bare hands.

What started as a resume-builder very rapidly turned into a mission to save several species from extinction. I didn’t sleep, and I didn’t want to. I needed to exhaust every waking hour to take care of animals that the rest of the world didn’t care about, because all of a sudden that became the most important thing in the world to me. The 12 other volunteers and I saved and watched 1,100 sea turtle eggs hatch, and it still wasn’t enough. Only 1 out of every 1,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood. We cried when we came upon an empty nest that had been dug up in the middle of the night.

In order to have a real adventure, you need to let yourself and everything you thought you know go, and completely immerse yourself in a different mindset. You have to focus on something important and not let anything else (especially yourself) get in the way. You know it’s been a great adventure if you don’t want to leave once it is over.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

Unsurprisingly, most of us at Sangam kept blogs. I was a bit fanatical about mine, revising the entries several times before posting them and almost always uploading (and painstakingly captioning) dozens of photos to go with every post, but then, I was the one who wanted to be a writer. I tracked my site statistics vigilantly and got a jolt of excitement every time someone commented. I had a pretty sizeable readership beyond my circle of friends and family, even catching the attention of staff back at the WAGGGS World Bureau in London. A few months after my term ended and I had gone back to the States, an event participant confessed to a friend of mine who still worked at Sangam that she had read my blog all the way through, and that it had convinced her to come.

Regardless of the effect my blog had on others, it certainly made an impact on me. I had never been a diary-keeper when I was young, and my Livejournal obsession in high school had more to do with Harry Potter fanfiction than introspection, but my Sangam blog had forced me to consider myself objectively, to question the reasons behind my gut assumptions and fierce emotions, to observe myself growing into a new person. I had every intention of continuing to write in it after I returned to New York, especially when I landed a communications position at an international women’s health NGO, arguably the coolest follow-on to Sangam that I could have found. Between my new job and my lofty goals for revitalizing the global opportunities at Girl Scouts USA, I was certain I would have pages of blog material.

But my last post was April 24, 2012, a month after I returned from India and two weeks after I started work. And I didn’t stop writing because I was too busy, or too stressed. In fact, the opposite was true. I was living at home again with my parents, commuting by Long Island Railroad to midtown Manhattan. I could have scribbled blog entries in notebooks while riding the train and uploaded them at night. Or I could have written them in the evenings, after dinner, while my parents watched TV.

Instead, I joined them on the couch, or tidied my room, or tried on my saris with the door closed so no one could see how homesick I was for India. It wasn’t just the reverse culture shock that was slowing me down and sending me into a stupor—my yearning for Sangam could easily have swung the other way, and kept me writing for the audience I had cultivated over the last six months. The problem was that I had nothing to write about.

The adventure was over. I was back in New York, living in the same suburban house that I had grown up in, schlepping to and from work in the rain. It was one of the wettest and coldest Aprils in memory, and I had not lived in a cold climate in five years. I had cut my hair short again and my ears were freezing. I worked from nine to five behind a computer at a desk in a cubicle and then I went home—no one to see, nothing to do. None of my clothes seemed to fit. My relationship with my boyfriend sputtered and stalled and finally came to a stop. I had run out of fuel. I felt like I was in hibernation.

So I closed the blog, and when my friends asked after it, I laughed it off and pretended I didn’t care, that it was too time-consuming to keep up. Better to lie, I decided, than admit that I had nothing left to say.

[divider]Ellen, 25[/divider]

ellen_profile_squareThere wasn’t much of a plan—

Step 1: Move to New York.

Step 2:

I had landed in the USA 72 hours earlier, earthly possessions stuffed in luggage gifted to me the year prior for graduation. My clothes still smelled faintly of Thessaloniki: the plaster powder shaken loose when any door in my apartment slammed; pollen and dust that floated through open windows from the pomegranate and cedar trees; my roommates’ cigarette smoke hazy on our balcony where we talked about our students, coworkers, and upcoming travel plans; grease from gyros, horta vrasta, and giantes; and, perhaps imagined, the tang of salt and oil blown in on the harbor breeze. The year had left me torn: tired of wandering, lonely for old friends but just as averse to committing to one job, one place, to getting stuck. I figured I’d head to Charlotte where my boyfriend was working, but with no job prospects or strong ties to the area, everything looked murky and gray.

But that was the weekend the call came in: Dylan’s company was consolidating offices in New York, and suddenly yes, that felt right, New York, magnetic, challenging, living within a storm of people, elbows jostling, eyes meeting and flicking away, scribbling notes, acting, creating, evaluating, analyzing, calculating, helping—doing.  Living in Greece, I’d planned shoestring trips to Istanbul and Berlin, trusted that whatever I’d ordered would probably taste good, absorbed phrases and insults in Greek. Now the adventure involved learning words like “guarantor” and “no-fee,” staring at a map of five boroughs praying we’d like the new neighborhood, hoping my romantic, Southern understanding of winter could withstand the Northern climes, investing hard-scrabbled cash in The Couch and The Table and beggaring old silverware from our parents, moving in with a fellow I’d mostly only seen on a Skype screen for the past ten months.

I don’t want to argue that driving the Great Ocean Road or hiking Meteora weren’t “real life,” but the stakes surrounding this move felt dramatically different, higher, one of those DIY landmark moments of adulthood. I’d learned traveling that you don’t need another destination to keep hiking, but applying that principle to big life decisions took a bigger leap of faith—and now, snugged up in our second apartment, the leaves of our sidewalk tree shaking loose in the cold, I trust the next adventure could be right around the corner.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

Everything changed when Hurricane Sandy hit. Afterwards, friends marveled that my family’s house had flooded so badly: “But there’s no water near you guys!” they all said. They had no idea that canals from the bay ran through the backyards of the homes across the street and down the block from me. The storm surge pushed all of that water up the street and into my house. We had a ranch home on a concrete slab; no basement, and just an attic upstairs. Every room took on between three and four feet of water. The sewage plant by the bay exploded. Almost everything we owned was destroyed.

SANDY -  backyard

Some people would say that to call the aftermath of Sandy an adventure would be a stretch, or even disrespectful. Many homes were leveled, or flooded to the roof; many people died. Even before the storm had hit we knew were among the lucky ones, because we were able evacuate, seeking shelter with friends who lived just ten blocks away but many more feet above sea level.

SANDY - fridge

 

But the week that followed—a week without power, sorting through sopping wet belongings with frozen fingers—felt like living in an apocalypse movie, and with it came that same frisson, partly fear and partly thrill, that you feel when watching heroes on the big screen escape disaster by the skin of their teeth. Nobody had cell phone service, the trains were down, the stoplights were out, we had no idea what the state of the world was elsewhere—but what need did we have for connectivity? We had a house to salvage. Suddenly my dad’s insistence on owning a diesel-powered SUV seemed like genius; my mother and I grinned as we zoomed through pond-like puddles past mile-long lines of cars waiting for gas. We laughed triumphantly at our brilliant idea to shop for supplies at a Home Depot in the center of the island, far from the flooded coastline, where there was still an abundance of plastic bins and garbage bags. We cheered when her high school friend, a contractor, showed up with his portable generator and Shop-Vac to suck up the water that remained in puddles on our bedroom floors. Disaster made us industrious; it made us a team. I took photos and my mother made lists, each of us itemizing everything we had lost in order to report it to the insurance company. Sentimentality evaporated as we piled all of our ruined belongings in the backyard—by the end, it looked like a nightmarish yard sale. My mother prayed for the trees, half-uprooted and standing at dizzying Pisa-like angles behind the house, to give way and fall on the roof, so the homeowners’ insurance could kick in.

SANDY - the den

Then the apocalypse ended. After ten days in the disaster zone, during which FEMA came by delivering bottles of water and plastic pouches of “emergency rations,” we escaped. My parents rented a rundown townhouse in Queens, and lived there for nine months while they decided to gut and then sell the house. As for me—the day before the storm a friend and I had put a deposit down on an apartment, after two months of scouring Craigslist. My parents had nowhere to put me, but finally I had somewhere to go. I stayed with my roommate’s family for two weeks until we could move in, and then the next week was a blur of yet more packing—but this time followed by unpacking, and Ikea! I changed my credit card information and my driver’s license address and emailed my alma mater to tell them I had moved. I had arrived in Brooklyn.

[divider]BrooklynBrunetteJr, 23[/divider]

brooklyn_brunette_profile_squareAs my friends signed up for online dating sites left and right, I sat back and continued to meet people out at bars. This mostly led to “call you once, see you never again” interactions at best. While there were exceptions to the rule, including one that turned into a wonderfully prolonged emotionally-disconnected (read: sex only) relationship from summer 2012 through February 2013 with a handsome musician-freelancer, the winter proved that that technique alone wasn’t going to cut it. So when the handsome aforementioned moved to Wisconsin and I pulled a Jenga piece at a local watering-hole daring me to start an OkCupid account I figured, “Why the fuck not?”

Months since that day, my attitude has not necessarily changed but my quest has. I have joined many-the-girl who moved to the Big City to find love, al la Carrie Bradshaw. My adventures happen at bars across the city, where, with or without the help of emotionally-supportive friends and dating sites like OkCupid and Tinder, I play the game of flirtation with the opposite sex. Some characters have stood out in my mind more than others, so I have taken to recording these encounters (quite candidly—sorry, Mom) on the Internet, for the purpose of preserving my youth. By distilling these memories into thoughts and actions, some more explicit than others, I have discovered the freedom of being unencumbered by the embarrassing details that can hide themselves in our more intimate moments, and I have embarked on my latest adventure. Blogging about the peaks-and-valleys of my dating (and sex) life has given me the tools to come to terms with some of the less ideal moments, empowering me to continue on this adventure da sola.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

In the year that I have lived in Greenpoint, I’ve attended my first wine tasting at a vineyard, learned how to rock climb, survived my IUD insertion, and begun to teach myself to cook. I started dating someone new and went camping with his entire family (and two dogs) for a week. I’ve traveled to Malaysia and Ethiopia for work, and vacationed in Thailand and Brazil. I’ve hosted potlucks and thrown a couple parties and gone out to Brooklyn and Manhattan bars and fell asleep, once, on my bathroom floor, after a night celebrating my promotion and raise. But mostly I’ve watched too much TV with my roommate and read a bunch of books on the subway while holding on to the pole with just a few fingers, and ordered takeout when I was too tired to even make grilled cheese or soup. I have a pharmacy and a grocery store and a favorite bodega and a regular brunch spot. And every month I pay rent and utilities and Internet and all of my credit card bills. Every day I leave for work and lock up behind me, shoving my keys into my coat pocket, which has no zippers, always making a mental note to put them somewhere safer—but I never do, and anyway, they never fall out.

greenpoint - norman and manhattan aves

 

Somewhere in the last year, while I was too busy to notice and certainly too busy to blog, I have become a grown-up. It’s only recently, though, that I’ve realized that I’ve also been having an adventure—and not because I have been experiencing this transfiguration into adulthood in New York City, the focus of so many coming-of-age TV shows and movies, but because I’ve been experiencing this transfiguration into adulthood, period. A year ago, I would never have believed that. I had picked up the belief (maybe from listening to one-too-many college graduation speeches) that if my future endeavors were not striking enough or important enough to report in the alumni class notes, or the family Christmas letter, or, yes, on a blog, then I had failed. I felt a deep pressure to not only build my resume and make my education worthwhile but also to live up to the expectations of my parents and mentors who were constantly reminding me that these were the freest years of my life, and that I needed to take advantage of them: travel while I could, set lofty goals, accomplish big dreams. I convinced myself that if I was not dropping everything for a cause or setting out on a mission or throwing myself wholeheartedly into my deepest passion, then I was wasting my potential.

But that’s bullshit. As the great Claudia Kincaid once discovered, in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, adventure is not necessarily about where you have gone or what you have done but about going back to regular life different. Not differently, by car instead of by train, as her little brother Jamie suggests, but different–a different person, a person impacted by the events she has just experienced. Claudia runs away from home and spends a week hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a larger-than-life adventure for sure, but what enables her to go back to her boring suburban existence is not that she has pulled off a spectacular mission. It is that she finds a folder in a filing cabinet, a truly mundane act if there ever was one. Inside that folder is the answer to a question that matters to her, and once she finds it, Claudia has had her adventure. These ordinary moments, these myriad everyday banal expeditions and pitfalls and triumphs, are our adventures–just as much as the ones we photograph and frame and hang on the walls.

GREENPOINT - norman ave

 

[divider]Kaneesha, 24[/divider]

kaneesha_profile_squareBefore I boarded the District line that morning, I walked up the road that adjoins the Underground rails and kept an eye out for the fox whose rustling presence I had come to expect. At the Kew Gardens Station, I bought a fruit-and-nut bar and a banana. Unfolding a wrapper and then a peel, I ate each on a bench. I needed something to hold me over during the hour-long ride. I was calling at the home of my Nan, my dad’s mother, for the first time. I had only seen her when she visited the U.S., most recently when I was sixteen and, before that, when I was nine. Since the late 1950s or early 1960s, when she migrated from Jamaica, she has lived in a two-story post-war house in East London.

I had been renting a garden-level flat near the National Archives United Kingdom, where I was conducting archival research for my dissertation in the Colonial Office records. The first week of my trip, I’d regretted not investing in a tripod as I stood at seat 8C, hovering my digital camera over memos and ledgers on Indian indentureship, landscape, family, and housing in what was then the British West Indies. I resolved to take the second week off and bought an Oyster Card for Zones 1-4.

In the garden, Nan pointed to small peaches and her growing koi, both radiantly orange on an overcast day. Aunts and uncles I knew well, and others I didn’t, came downstairs or drove in to say hello. We sat in the front room and watched the Worlds, cheering for Usain Bolt. One of my little cousins loves fish and she was in luck because Patrick, my dad’s stepfather, had brought me fish and chips. Later, before Patrick drove me back to Kew, he handed me something more intimate than any yellowing document: a photograph of my Nan, taken in the nineties.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

Three months before I left Sangam, I had the option to apply for another position. It would mean going back to the States for two months, to renew my visa, and then returning for another six months. I really wanted to do it, but I was also afraid: what if in three months I was sick of India, sick of Sangam, sick of being away from my friends and family? I called my mom, I emailed my boyfriend, I wrote a blog entry debating the pros and cons. Finally I decided to stick to the original plan. I did not apply, and the position was filled.

Three months later, after having cried through two plane flights and one awkward car ride home from the airport, as I sunk into my post-Sangam depression, I regretted it. Not just because I missed my friends and Pune and my job, but because I had convinced myself that a year, an entire year abroad in India, would have made a real contribution to my life, would have mattered more, would have been an experience that more fully molded me. What was six months? Just a brief stint, barely longer than a semester abroad and certainly not long enough to leave imprints that would last a lifetime.

[divider]Grace, 23[/divider]

grace_profile_squareWhen first asked to share what, if anything, I have done during my short stint in young adulthood that qualifies as adventurous I was completely at a loss. I worked extremely hard and focused nearly singularly to get where I am today: living in New York City with some of my best friends, working in a field I love, and fully supporting myself financially. But there’s an aspect of this new stage in life that feels omnipresent and often oppressing – uncertainty. After years on a very specific and dedicated path, adult life now feels more like something that happens to me. My company is sold. My apartment building is under foreclosure. My ex-boyfriend’s previously unwavering desire for me is fading… It was hard to pick out anything in my life that qualifies as adventurous.

Finally I realized that I had recently embarked on at least one purposeful, different, and truly out-of-my-comfort-zone adventure. I can’t pinpoint the exact day or moment that I made the decision, but at some point last summer, I made it my mission to sleep with a woman. As someone who is often teased for being “trendy,” I can admit that this may have seemed like the decision of a bored, privileged, and impetuous white girl, à la Piper Kerman. Yes, I was tired of the guys I was meeting at bars and on OkCupid, but I was also genuinely intrigued by the idea of being with another woman.

One of my good friends had recently come out, so she acted as my guide to the lesbian scene in New York. It was a slow process; I’m sure my friends got sick of my constant babbling about the idea, and frankly, I annoyed myself with my inaction as well. Can I really sleep with, or even date, another woman? Maybe I’m just into lesbian porn because straight porn can be so inane? Is bisexuality even a real thing?

When I finally did meet and sleep with another woman, my honest response was, “Okay, cool. Well that was really fun.” Months later, I’m still very much in the process of figuring out what dating both men and women means to me, but I’ve realized that sexuality is fluid and truly individual. Dating, sex, sexuality, bisexuality… it’s all an ongoing adventure for me, one of the most exciting and fun ones of being a young, independent woman in a crazy city.

[divider]…now, back to the story.[/divider]

I will never know whether a year would have made a bigger difference than six months. Maybe so. Regardless, I came back from India decidedly different. The person I have been since then has carried those experiences with me—and added to them, layering on the break-up and the hurricane and the move to Brooklyn and all of the tiny things in between, like kisses on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, joining the WAGGGS post-2015 Ambassadors, hanging out on the beach in Thailand with my little brother the summer before he got sick.  Of course there is no denying the power of our larger-than-life journeys, how they shake us up and transform us; when I was asked to write an essay for Misadventures, the first thing I thought of was India, and when I asked my friends to contribute stories to this essay, half of them chose those sorts of turn-you-inside-out expeditions. But the other half picked the quieter kind, the sorts of adventures you don’t always know are happening until they have passed. These may not seem as exciting, may not demand to be shouted from our rooftops, but that does not make them any less meaningful. At the end of the day, we choose how we define adventure by recognizing the adventures that define us.

jess mehendi