Teaching kids about adventure
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Adventure, Ben Tertin. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is adventure?
What is an adventure? Well, I do talk about it a little bit in the book as a secret ingredient of it is not knowing what's going to happen.
Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, for sure. There's something about adventure that's very exciting. It has to do with not knowing what's going to happen. Exploring, wondering, discovering, challenges. All of those things are part of adventure. It's kind of a big word, isn't it?
When you hear the word “adventure”, what feelings come to mind? What experiences come to mind? So many things can turn into an adventure. Know what I mean?
Yeah. There's all kinds of different adventures, you know, on the Camp Adventure podcast, we talk about some that were scary adventures, they're frightening. It might be getting through a big, huge storm when you're camping or having to go across a very difficult part of the woods or the wilderness, yeah?
But then there's exploration and inquisitive or wondering-question kinds of adventures where you might be doing science and you want to discover how something works. And it's quite an adventure as you try and fail and observe and learn.
There's learning adventures. There's creating adventures, where the adventure itself is creating something.
Think about building a sandcastle at the beach or in your sandbox. It's an adventure. It's a little one, but it's also really cool. Cause you have to look at—it's just a big pile of sand, but how am I going to get the water mixed in just right? So the sand can build up and I can pack it into different shapes?
So there's creating adventures, maybe a cooking adventure. Cooking some kind of new food you've never tried or baking something that in a way, you've never done before. Some of my friends have been practicing baking pizza in ovens they built with stones outside, and then they use chunks of wood from the woods to cook their pizzas. And if you follow the story from when they started wanting to do that, to drawing the pictures of their ovens, to cooking the pizza and eating it, you could call that one long, very cool food-related adventure and a tasty adventure at that.
That's there that, you know, that there's more than what I just said. I'd love to know what you're thinking. There's all kinds of adventures.
Ben loves to tell stories of growing up in the midwest and all of the adventures he found himself in.
You know, when I grew up in Wisconsin, we didn't have beaches with tides. So I remember building a lot—we had a lot of snow—and I remember the adventure.. It was a years-long adventure of me trying to figure out how to build an igloo out of snow. 'Cause I had a kids book where a kid built an igloo and I really wanted to do it. And I tried blocks of snow and I tried rolling snowballs and stacking them up and digging big piles. But all of that together was a trying and trying again, kind of adventure.
And the truth is, I eventually did build an igloo that I could get all the way inside of. It was great.
It’s not always easy to tell when you’re in an adventure, or when you’re about to be in an adventure. But having an adventure doesn’t have to involve travel. It doesn’t have to involve a big investment of time or resources.
So much of what defines an adventure is the way you feel before, during, and after the adventure has happened.
Yes. You actually keyed in on something that's really important about the word adventure. It's not just thinking the most positive, happy thoughts you can think about anything. Right?
Adventures, you get scraped knees. And sometimes, you know, on some of my adventures I broke my arm or I got injured or I had to learn something really, really hard, so adventure includes that it will be difficult and we'll have to try really hard, but it also never lets go of the idea this will be good. We will learn. There's always something beautiful to discover.
There we go. There we go. Uh, yeah. You know, Matthew, actually, this conversation that I'm having with you right now is a bit of an adventure, if you think about it.
I think about coming on to talk with you about these things, and I don't want to sound silly. And so I'm a little bit nervous and there's something inside of me that just wants to quit so that I don't even have a chance to make a mistake, but there's something stronger in me that says, “No, this could be really fun. Let's do it.”
So this is one of my adventures right now that I'm having with you.
I think that's really true. I feel it inside of me right now. There's an excitement. There's a little bit of fear, but here we are talking about something that's really beautiful and I think really good, so…
Oh, I love a good adventure! One of my favorite things about adventures, whether I’m taking a new-to-me route when I walk our dog or trying out a restaurant I’ve never been to or taking on a responsibility that I’ve never done before…
One of my favorite things about adventures is the feeling. It’s a feeling that comes in different forms, but it almost always makes a lasting memory. Almost like that adventure has changed me in some small way.
There's different stages of feeling, I think.
Generally on the front end of any kind of adventure, big or small, there's a feeling of nervousness or maybe a little bit of anxiety sometimes more.
So that's all related to those questions, what's going to happen. I'm not sure how this will work out.
In the middle of the adventure, when you're working hard at figuring it out, or you're getting from one place to the other and you're in it, it’s very exciting for me. That's why I think it's cool to think about all of life as an adventure.
It's more interesting. You're more alert. You think about walking down the street with an adventure mindset, you see all kinds of things that you wouldn't normally see if you're just trying to get somewhere. So you feel really good and there's an excitement to it. And then I guess maybe the best part is the feeling at the end of an adventure.
And this is true. Whether the adventure went really well or the adventure didn't go so well, what you feel at the end of it is a sense of finishing. Accomplishment.
If it went really well, you learned what to do again next time. And if it didn't go so well, you learned what to not do again, next time. And that in and of itself feels really good.
So I think that adventure is a little bit freaky on the front end. It's very exciting in the middle and it's confirming and it feels wonderful at the end.
[There’s] a passage in the book where Ben writes, “Remember: the secret to adventure is not knowing what will happen.”
Yeah. I would love to ask everybody who's listening too.
And I'll ask myself, as I ask you, have you ever felt fear? Have you ever felt just a sense of anxiety, worry, nervousness?
For me, that feeling has been so big in my life that I just figured fear was always just something, it was just always going to be very powerful to me. And the secret is that if you could think of fear inside of you, it's like inside of that fear is the secret.
The insight, what you're afraid of, is not knowing what's going to happen. Not knowing if you'll be okay. And that's what I said in the book, right. There is the secret to adventure.
At that moment, you can say, “Okay, I'm going to stay afraid. Which means I'll continue worrying and going through all of the different things.”
Or in that moment, I can remember. “Okay. I don't know what's going to happen. Therefore, I am afraid and that's okay. And normal. It means I'm [a] human being.”
And now I can think about what positive good things could happen from here on out. So fear is really the big emotion I think we all feel. And if the next time you're feeling that fear come on, you can think right away, you can say, okay, what am I afraid of? And it's probably related to, I'm not sure what's going to happen.
It might be going to a new school and you're like, I don't know if the other kids are going to like me. There's a lot of fear there. It might be really small, like, I hope I put enough water in my sand here so my sand castle doesn't fall over. You feel a little fear. I don't want it to fall over. I work so hard on it. Yeah.
But when you feel that fear, you can let it not, not pay attention to it and then it sort of controls you, or you can pay attention to the fear. And that's the secret because when you pay attention to the fear, remember, right in the middle of that fear is, I don't know what's going to happen.
And that means I have an opportunity for an adventure here. I think that's it.
Ben has been seeking adventure all throughout his life, but there’s something else here, too, that we brought up a minute ago. And it’s something that stops a lot of us from finding our own adventures.
It's learning to pay attention to your fear. That's… It doesn't sound like an action because you're not picking something up or going somewhere, but, but it is an action to just learn to know what fear feels like in your body and to pay attention to that fear, so that’s a big one.
It’s what will move you forward. It’s what will help you grow. It’s what will open up your world. It’s what will help you to know and understand yourself even better.
Here’s Ben with a closing thought.
Yeah, there's one, there's one thing I do want to say. I didn't get to it in the book and I've thought about it ever since. And I know that at times in my life, and I know plenty of people in my life, including my wife, Allie, and sometimes me and my kids, we think, I don't have what it takes for adventure. I see other people they're much stronger or they have more skill or whatever it would be.
And what I would really want to say is, from all that I've read and experienced and learned and seen and everything, I really believe every human being has an adventurous spirit. That's part of what it means to be human.
So I want everybody to know that I think if you're a human being, there's an adventurous spirit, really deep down inside of you, and that is worth paying attention to.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Ben Tertin, author of A Kids Book About Adventure.