Raindrops pounded against the windshield. The sound echoed throughout the car. Alexander Matthews was driving home up on the West Coast when without warning, he stopped. He exited his car and started running.
Matthews didn’t have his running shoes and was wearing jeans. Lacking the proper athletic gear, he improvised. He stripped off his shoes and rolled up his pant legs. The lack of proper gear wasn’t going to stop him.
Barefoot in the sand, dark, wavy hair already tousled in the breeze, he set out.
Matthews ran on the beach in the pouring rain for six miles. He was watching the wind play havoc with the ocean.
He felt alive.
Matthews isn’t one to let life pass him by. No, he sees the world only as a plethora of future adventures.
“Life is more defined by the things you don’t do than the things you do,” Matthews said.
He lives by the assertion that pursuing love, pursuing adventure and helping others people find their own adventure are important in life.
However, he wasn’t always as spontaneous as he is today. Matthews admits, with some chagrin, he used to be a careful planner. His life was calculated and executed on schedule.
That was until he awoke one morning when he was 17 and realized one-fifth of his expected life span was gone. He wondered why he wasn’t doing anything special with the time he had left.
“It was because I hadn’t decided to yet,” Matthews said.
Without further ado, he began to crave adventures in his life.
On Sept. 10, 2011, he arrived in Italy as a foreign exchange student.
He completed his junior year of high school in a nation not his own and in a tongue a far cry from his native one.
It was the best decision of his life, he says.
“Other people put themselves in a bottle. They trap themselves,” Matthews said. “At one point you have to take over your own life. You have to break the bottle.”
In Italy he began his journey toward developing a life free of norms.
While many visitors spend money on souvenirs, Matthews started buying memories.
He bought train tickets to travel and stayed in hostels. He made friends out of strangers.
Lone people in coffee shops would suddenly find themselves in the company of this young man.
Matthews was interested in what they had to say, knowing that at any point it could gain him understanding and provide fodder for new views on life.
He often called these newfound companions and asked them if they wanted to go to, say, Portugal. Not in a couple days or weeks but right now.
Then Matthews would pack his bag, buy a train ticket and leave.
“I was living out of a suitcase with few things and many people,” Matthews said.
He wasn’t tied down with anything. The world was open for him to explore.
Until June 22, 2012 arrived.
He packed his bag one final time, said his goodbyes, got on a plane and flew home.
It wasn’t until he returned home and thought about settling into his old routines and old friendships when Matthews realized circumstances were different and people were different.
It wasn’t that they or he had changed drastically in the almost year he’d been gone. They had been in constant state of change for as long as they’d known each other, but time away had finally given him a chance to see it.
“People change more than we recognize. If one of us were different we would never know,” Matthews said. “I don’t think they changed (while I was gone). They were different the whole time and I just never knew.”
He couldn’t go back to the way he used to live his life.
There would be no more depriving himself of spontaneity or chance. He was determined to continue to make the most of his time. He recognized that he didn’t have enough time as it was.
There are so many exploits possible in this world and not nearly enough time to see to them all, he said.
Matthews began to actively fill his life with small adventures—activities he wouldn’t have done before. He rock-climbed in the snow, ran in the rain and smiled more at people he met on the street or in a coffee shop.
He wasn’t biding time until his next big adventure but filling his life with experiences.
There will be many more journeys to come. He’s got a list.
He’s plans to visit the Andes Mountains.
He wants spend time in Patagonia.
He’d like to someday blaze through the wilds of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There will be neither guides nor tours. Instead Matthews plans on making his way through the world on his own.
“There are people who are content and there are people who are on fire,” Matthews said.
He may never be content, but there may be more to life than being satisfied.
One of his favorite books, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, contains an idea that Matthews believes describes his view on life.
An excerpt reads, “The only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.”
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