I didn’t have any Indiana Jones toys as a kid. I never dressed up like him for Halloween or tried to mimic his voice or gestures. Unlike Han Solo, I refused to think of Indy as larger than life. Instead, I thought of him as the same size as life and believed that his world and mine overlapped.
I didn’t just want his hat or whip or swagger. I wanted to be him.
Looking back on 18 years of adulthood, out on my own in the world, I can see Indiana Jones’ fingerprint everywhere. Every time I dove off a waterfall, swatted vines with a machete, or rumbled across the desert, I was getting to live my boyhood dream of being a master adventurer. I even dressed the part, choosing classic white t-shirts or sturdy button ups — never, ever touching anything with a logo. I bought a hat from a fisherman in Mozambique and wore it until it fell apart.
Basically, I was the entire production team — from director to costume designer — for my own Indiana Jones serial (hopefully an underrated one, like Last Crusade).
The picture above was taken when I was 26. I’m 36 now. Over the years, life — that big, brutal, ever-churning machine — has conspired to make me grow up. Not a ton, mind you. I still write about travel and adventure for a living, I still dress like I’m off to hunt for relics in the 1940s, and I still have my old straw hat. But the passing of time has had at least a slight calming effect on me. Deals have been struck. Compromises have been made.
This happens to all of us. Even Indy.
Time may have curbed some of my rough edges, but the thirst for adventure rages on. If anything, it’s heightened — because I have experience now. When I was 26, I wanted to try everything. I backpacked for 13 months-straight. I quit jobs the second my bank balance would allow me to buy a ticket. I chased even my most casual interests.
These days, time is at a premium. My adventures have a ticking clock. Dr. Jones was the same way, he was a professor with papers to grade, lessons to plan, and a stupid old mortgage. These days, when an adventure ripens in my brain, I have to lunge for it — like Indy diving for a statue as it slowly rolls toward a cliff.
Which pretty much nails how I felt when I saw this photo:
It was on the cover of a commemorative issue of National Geographic, and I noticed it in the checkout line at the grocery store as I shuffled through the routine mundanities of adulthood. Those giant Jurassic ferns spoke to me from the magazine rack and the mossy cave walls echoed the words.
“Come away! It’s time for an adventure.”
I dropped the magazine on the conveyor belt, alongside the tooth floss and cereal.
The magazine didn’t actually have an article that matched with the photo, it was just that one picture. Inside, I found the location listed as Claustral Canyon in Australia’s Blue Mountains. Google told me that the canyon was accessed through multiple rappels into an abyss. Multiple rappels? The place sounded like a Temple of Doom set.