FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Returning Changed

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 05•13
  • my gym

“There are many terrible things that can happen along the way, and many terrible things that WILL happen along the way, but one of the worst things that could possibly happen is that you return unchanged.”

– Shawn Smucker

This is Shawn Smucker’s take on adventures near the end of his four-month, 10,000 mile trip across America, with his wife and four children (ages 2, 3, 7 and 8) in a 40-foot RV bus they called Willie.

How would you like to push down on the brakes on the RV you’re driving with your family down the highest mountain pass in the Western United States and realize the brakes–and the parking break–don’t work?

This is what happened to Shawn’s family at Teton Pass, Nevada. He pushed hard the brake and pulled the parking break, and 20,000-pound the RV kept gaining speed, and then he saw his family’s salvation to the left.

A runaway truck ramp — the kind he used to always look at and think, seriously? People actually use those?

I’ve been thinking about Shawn’s views on adventure while reading his book How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, and his thoughts percolated through my mind during my Saturday mini-adventures with D.

Our adventures were nothing like the Smucker’s trip. We went to D’s My Gym class, a recycling center (my idea), McDonald’s Play Place, the Pet Store and Toy Store; basically, we went everywhere D wanted to go.

My dream is to ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Seattle and back, soaking in the changing landscapes from a window, but I’ve never gotten around to making the trip.

So I have to give it up to Shawn for taking his family on such an epic adventure, to have the guts to just take off on an extended road trip, which we no doubt be a lifetime memory for his four kids.

One day.

I know going to The Pet Store or McDonald’s Play Place suits D’s sense of adventure at age five. However, I am looking forward to the day when our view on adventure grow closer together, and L’s boundary for our adventures expands to much further distances.

Like hiking in the Yosemite mountains, a long cross-country train trip, or going white water river rafting.

I kept thinking of Shawn’s views during our mini adventures–that one of the worst things that can happen on an adventure is to return unchanged–and I feared this was happening to us.

pet store

And by the time we made it home I believed the “worst” thing had happened: we had returned unchanged. And it saddened me because I feel responsible for broadening D’s views on adventure.

I went into my bedroom and shut the door. I thought once again about how we had returned unchanged. Then D burst through the door and started ransacking through my closet.

He was looking for a stash of books he discovered in a blue plastic bag. They were books L and I used to read to him when he was younger, but will soon be donated to Goodwill.


We sat in a brown leather chair, and D brought me book after book to read, returning to the closet for a new one as soon as we finished reading the previous one. I think we read seven or eight books.

We had spent most of the day together, and I was amazed how he wanted to keep spending time with me. That’s when I knew my fear was unfounded: We had not returned unchanged.

His love for me, and my love for him which grows during our adventures, this is how we return changed from our trips to McDonald’s, the Pet Store and Toy Store, and other places.

It isn’t so much where we go, I am realizing, it’s just spending time together. Putting plastic bottles onto a conveyor belt at the recycling center, looking at dogs at the Doggy Day Care at Petsmart, or running down a steep hill together at a park near our home.

Usually, there is an interesting event. Like the other day when we met a few kids playing with Nerf guns at the park, and one of them let D shoot his gun and he nearly took out a kid’s eye.

Sometimes, nothing much happens. But we’re still hanging out, and even during these times, a special moment may suddenly arise like when D met a new friend today at the Pet Store: Mia.

They took turns reading the names of cats (Sammy, Abagail, Frank, Peter, Tabby, Perla, Abraham), and then hung in the scratching post area, D biting the tail of a plush blue whale and the girl holding a stuffed cat.

Even in this small moment–though I didn’t realize it at the time–D was being changed. Learning the art of conversation and making a friend.


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