Adventures. Sometimes, we choose them; sometimes, they choose us.
Over the holiday, Dave and I had the opportunity to work a southern Caribbean cruise with Inspiration Travel. We love adventuring with this group and seeing new places. Since we’ve never been to any of the Lesser Antilles islands, we couldn’t wait to explore each stop.
Upon pulling into port in Antigua, we noticed a large stone cathedral up the hill. The streets were fairly easy to navigate as they were set in a grid coming toward the port. Finding the entrance gate to the cathedral grounds, we explored the graveyard, noticing dates from the mid-late 1800s. Finally reaching the cathedral itself, we found the carved wooden doors locked. Oh well. We continued to wander the grounds and stopped to enjoy the view of the city and harbor from this hilltop.
Our unexpected adventure began when we went to exit.
Rounding the corner of the cathedral, we noticed completely empty grounds. We thought it odd since it was just past noon but we continued toward the gate. A few people stood outside on the sidewalk near the now-shut gate. One woman pushed on it, but it didn’t move.
“Surely the gate isn’t locked,” Dave said. “They knew we were here.”
Rushing to the entrance, we saw a heavy chain and padlock secured around the handle. However, it looked like it was looped over the interior handle like we could unhook it to get out. Not so. It was firmly woven through the handle and the iron gate bars.
A gentleman on the outside mentioned that the gatekeeper had hurried everyone out (but us), locked the gate, and said she’d be back later that night. No one had come to the cathedral heights where we were to say they were closing the grounds.
Trying not to panic, we looked at the stone and iron walls surrounding the cathedral to find another way out.
All the gates were padlocked with spiked iron posts on much of the wall. Dave and I looked at the stone wall nearest the entrance gate, peeked over the edge, and decided to climb the wall and jump to the sidewalk below. It didn’t look that far.
Dave went first, scaling the wall quickly and jumping to the ground, which turned out to be farther than anticipated. When he turned to catch me, I realized the stone wall on the inside came almost to my armpits. No way could I throw my leg over, nor could I find a foothold or good handhold to scale it.
As panic set in, I told Dave I didn’t think I could get up on the top of the wall. It was too high. Dave reminded me this was my only way out. I looked around for any ground height adjustments that could get me closer to the top of the wall. That’s when I noticed some debris and a pile of bricks. I stood on that pile of brick, which gave me the few inches I needed to pull up and get one leg over the wall. Sitting on the top of the wall, Dave and the other gentlemen reached for me. Shimmying forward, I grabbed Dave’s hands and then shoulders and slid off the wall to the ground.
It took the entire walk back to the harbor to process the adrenaline. 😄
Since that day, I’ve thought about this unexpected adventure, laughed, and looked at a few growing points in it.
What steps can you take when you’re thrust into an unexpected adventure you didn’t want or initiate?
1. Accurately assess your situation.
Where are you? What is actually happening? Be honest in your assessment. What are your options?
For example: we were in a cathedral courtyard. We had water but no food. The gates were locked. Other people were outside the gate talking with us. We were together (so good!). We had a cell phone. We were unharmed and safe. The ship would leave port in four hours.
2. Recognize your emotions, but don’t get stuck in them.
In high-stress, sudden, or unexpected situations, you experience several emotions. Rather than ignoring them, call them out. Deal with them quickly, but don’t linger or allow them to cloud your assessment of the situation. That can be hard, depending on your circumstances. However, learning and applying this recognition to high-stress situations does allow you to remain unstuck.
For example: the shock of this unexpected adventure triggered some adrenaline spikes in both of us. However, we could remain calm because we weren’t in immediate danger. When it became obvious we couldn’t unlock any gate, I felt some heightened anxiety. It wasn’t fear, and I needed to admit that. But I did feel my heart rate increase. Listening to the others outside the gate say they’d help get us out greatly calmed my emotions.
3. Think outside the box for a solution to your unexpected adventure.
As fast as you can, go into brainstorming mode. What are you facing? How can you take a step forward to resolve the issue? Can you resolve the issue quickly, or will this take more time? What can you do right now? Where is your responsibility in this situation? What do you believe about your circumstances and your ability to move forward?
For example: Dave and I accepted the gate was locked. Therefore, we had to find a way out. We could ask someone outside the gate to go for help. Since it was a holiday, finding an open shop nearby would be a challenge. There were several police officers closer to the port. We could ask someone to seek help from one of them. Whether that person would do it and return, we couldn’t control. We could call for help on our cell phones. We could call one of our coworkers for help. We could try to climb over the wall to the street below. It didn’t look too far, but we did risk a potential injury. We could wait for the gatekeeper to return and open the gates once again.
4. Accept help from others.
Who do you know that could help you navigate this situation? If you reach out to that person, they might have an idea that hasn’t occurred to you. You might feel embarrassed to reveal the unexpected adventure, but you need help. Who can you trust right now?
For example: the people outside the gate had seen the gatekeeper who locked it. Could they find that person? Did they know which direction the person went? If we chose to climb over the wall, the two gentlemen offered to catch us. We would have to trust them to do just that. Would one of them try to find a police officer to help if we asked?
5. Move toward the solution.
All your ideas won’t help until you take action. Pick one option, and take the next step. You might not have the whole solution to your unexpected adventure, but you have one thing or idea. Do it. Second-guessing this step only keeps you stuck and allows your emotions to run rampant. It won’t be perfect. That’s okay.
For example: we had to get out of the churchyard. Glancing over the wall, Dave knew he could jump to the ground below. It turned out to be a longer distance than it looked, but he made it. Then, when I couldn’t get to the top of the wall like Dave did, I looked for a new solution, found it, and scaled the wall. In the process, I had to conquer rising anxiety that I couldn’t get out. That wasn’t true. I could. It would take a bit of effort, and I would need to trust others to help me.
Unexpected adventures happen.
You can’t control every aspect of life. That adventure might be a serious illness, the sudden death of a spouse, a large inheritance, a successful business venture, or a spouse’s betrayal. Or it could be as simple as a travel mishap that interrupts your plans.
Jesus told us that we’d encounter obstacles. But he also promised to provide the way through that trial. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Read John 16 to get the whole context.
What you believe about God, his presence with you, and your options in any adventure will affect your emotions and your ability to act on solutions.
As you start this new year, what adventures do you anticipate? Which ones are you currently navigating? How can you apply these five steps to your adventure?
For years, I wondered why Dave and I had to go through the marriage crisis we endured. It wasn’t an adventure we would have chosen, nor did we anticipate we’d deal with pornography addiction and suicidal depression. If you find yourself struggling to find a way through a similar situation, please reach out. I promise to hear your heart, listen to your pain and confusion, and help you breathe again. You aren’t alone in this situation. There is a solution. Let me help you.