There is no other way to say this: I love October.
Those who know me well understand that October holds a very special place in my heart: it takes on fairy wings and demon claws and it transforms into this magical month known as “Adventure-tober.”
Adventure-tober is an annual personal retreat in which I strive to find myself in a different physical location each day for the 31 days of October. It may seem like a simple thing — to go somewhere new — but the principle behind it is a bit daunting. It is a personal challenge to get out of your comfort zone. It forces you to take a break from the familiar and immerse yourself in adventure.
Adventure-tober began at a very low point in my life. I had just freed myself from a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. I ended up giving so many parts of myself away that I hardly had any idea of who I was anymore. I felt like I had no control over my own life, and that I had nothing that truly belonged to me. But then, something truly fantastic happened.
It was a groggy and sleep-deprived October morning when I saw it: a castle — by the name of Hoskins Law Library. Looming in the distance with its towering frame, it invited me to come inside from the cold. I ventured on with a half-awake “I wonder what’s in there...”
I walked up the stone steps and looked around. Authors, philosophers, luminaries were carved into the ceiling, greeting me like old friends. The stained glass windows caused prancing light mosaics on the ground before me. Famous encouragements of curiosity were scrawled in the structural beams. The novelty excited me — I had set out on my own adventure, and it made me feel alive. It made me feel liberated humbled by my surroundings.
One adventure led to another — which led to many more. Soon, I began incorporating adventures into my daily routine. Contradictory as it seems to schedule spontaneity, it put my mind at ease. Slowly but surely, I began to regain confidence in the decisions I made. Adventuring helped me accept the things I cannot plan for.
In essence, it gave me my life back. It reminded me of how I would run around the yard pretending to be a pirate when I was younger — conquering imaginary islands and finding hidden treasures. It helped me discover my love of Knoxville, its quirks and secret histories. It made me feel comfortable with my solitude and confident in my independence. It has also given me a working library of stories and anecdotes to recall and share with others.
Since the very first Adventure-tober, I’ve set foot in every single UT building, whether I belonged there or not. I have waded through every fountain on campus — yes, even the one between Estabrook and Pasqua. I have experienced courses in wine tasting, dairy product judging, Appalachian music, and beekeeping. Adventuring has even led me to unexpected love: my fiancé and I first bonded over grabbing a camera and taking pictures of beautiful things we saw around campus and in downtown Knoxville. We each managed to wear through a pair of shoes in a semester, which we wrote little love notes on, tied together, and tossed up into a tree in Queensland, Australia.
The Adventure-tober mindset is not one that simply lasts for that month — the frame of thought can be applied through life itself, exemplifying the motto “Leave no stone unturned.” This philosophy led me to accept a directing position in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (and strutting before a 500+ crowd in a corset and fishnets). It led me to be involved with a national service sorority and give back to the Knoxville community through volunteerism. It led me to a job at The Daily Beacon for the past two years and introduced me to the pleasure of making people smile through my work: cartooning. Opportunities for adventures come in many forms — it’s not just limited to seeking unfamiliar locations. It can be sitting with a new person at lunch, or it can be taking a different route to class. It’s just a matter of jump-starting your brain and embracing everyday uncertainty.
The next time Adventure-tober comes around, I will be in Australia, beginning the next chapter. While my five years at UT all boil down to a single symbolic piece of paper, it was undeniably full of rich experiences and astounding individuals. With this, I challenge you to take your life and make it into something that you are proud to share with the world.
Adventure-tober has more than prepared me for moving halfway across the world — challenging me to be flexible in moments of uncertainty and to embrace the unplanned.
Taking daily adventures saved my life.
What will it do for yours?
— Liz Newnam is a graduating senior in food science and technology. She can be reached at email@example.com.