Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

397: How Adventure Got Redefined for Me at Cracker Barrel

For my workout this morning, I hiked a local trail system, wearing a weight vest and some headphones. As the sun got ready to rise, fog sneaked between the trees. At one point, my eyes got moist; and I punched the air while reflecting on an answered prayer. White tailed deer hopped across the leaves below the trail, while I reveled in the distance from email and my task list.

I love daybreak up there.

After descending Candlers Mountain, I walked into Cracker Barrel with sweat patches on my shirt and disheveled hair. As expected, my new friend Nancy smiled from behind the counter. She hit the buzzer for the kitchen to bring out my order, and I explained that I had been hiking up on the “mountain” in the beautiful mist and thought I deserved meat for breakfast.

I won’t soon forget her powerful response.

“There is adventure in you!”

These weren’t the words of a Tony Robbins-like motivational speaker. Her proclamation didn’t resound like those of Martin Luther King, Jr. or the “you get a car!” version of Oprah. Robin Williams wasn’t yelling it to a classroom or Will Hunting.

No. Nancy’s voice slipped out of her smile like Karen Trust Grassle used to deliver Caroline Ingalls’ lines in Little House on the Prairie. The words seemed sweet to her soul, as if she were amused by the thought.

To me, hiking on a well-worn, sign-guided trail at sunrise doesn’t register as an adventure. Maybe it should. Maybe I have grown calloused. More than likely, though, it’s just that I define adventure differently.

Adventure is measured on a continuum. Actually, you’ll find multiple spectrums of adventure in life. While I’m probably on the bolder side of the physical adventure scale, I’m relatively timid on the other gamuts. My wife would never paraglide with me, but she regularly proves herself more relationally adventurous than I’ll ever be. Her sister, Ruby, is more culturally adventurous than most Americans, including me. My buddy, Mitch, enjoys gastronomical adventures like Anthony Bourdain. (I’ll pass.) My family is filled with as many vocationally-adventurous people as you’ll find in your local chamber of commerce. Many of my friends pursue more spiritual adventures than I welcome. My friends, Josh & Judson, are as creatively or artistically adventurous as an episode of America’s Got Talent. The day traders I know go on more intentional financial adventures than I ever plan to go.

You get the idea. Adventure is exploring, trying new things, pushing past our individual comfort zones. While age and dopamine cause individual levels of adventure to fluctuate in life, I would dare say Nancy could have made her declaration to many of her Old Country Store patrons. We all have some adventure in us, even if nascent.

Adventure is a muscle, and it can be exercised. Like physical training, it’s often easier to push your boundaries in accountable community. If you don’t have local adventurers—people in your lane of exploration—take heart. There has never been a better time for finding those who share your heart. You can find Facebook groups, co-op newsletters, and clubs. You can follow Instagram hashtags or bloggers. You can find meet ups and conventions, YouTube channels and Twitter subcultures. The sky’s the limit.

I regularly get asked how I got into adventuring, how I find such exciting experiences all over the planet. My go-to answer is that I’ve surrounded myself with adventurers. These people call out the adventure in me and invite me along on their bold and crazy journeys. They know my legs might tremble, that my stomach might be in my throat; yet they don’t let my fears keep me from missing out on incredible moments.

My life is richer for finding (1) camaraderie in the silos of my interests and (2) exposure to a diverse group of people with their own rainbows of passions. I’m regularly inspired in my adrenaline pursuits by seeing others absorb the fruit of their risks. With some WiFi or moments of extroversion, you can, too.

Or you can walk into the Wards Road Cracker Barrel before work on a Wednesday morning. Ask for Nancy.

Stock photo purchased from

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