What is Adventure?

posted in: Bucket List, Outdoors, Travel | 5

I love to read about people’s adventures. Learning about the exciting things that other people are getting up to makes me smile – it helps me to understand even more than life is all about the journey and that life can be fun and exciting. I read lots of adventure-focussed blogs, follow adventurers on twitter, and have even recently bought a couple of adventure writing books – yes, actual books.

I blogged a little while ago that I felt too old and sensible for adventure. I explained that I felt adventure travel, expeditions, taking risks, is for those who are young, have no ties and lots of spare money. I still feel this in some ways. I feel that “adventurers” are a special breed; they are people with super powers (and lots of time/money) who have the opportunity to spend their lives training for, planning and going on amazing trips. I don’t resent them by any means, I love to hear about what they are doing, but despite all the things I’ve been able to do so far in my life, I know I am not one of them.

Tandem Skydive for the RNIB
My Tandem Skydive for the RNIB

One of the reasons I think this way is because of some of the statements that adventure writers have made. Such as (and I am paraphrasing here): “guided tours are not adventures as they are easy”, “if you have your phone and use it to tweet photos then you’re not having an adventure”, “to be an adventure you have to reach the limit of physical endurance”, and “if you call it an adventure then it isn’t one”. I understand what the writers are saying I think – they are saying that adventure must be out of your comfort zone, and to have the best experience you have to come up with something unique, train hard and focus fully without distraction. But statements like this also make me feel like the things I do, the dreams I have, are not as meaningful as theirs.

These statements mean that the vast majority of us have never had and will never have an true adventure. I completely agree that doing something at the limits of human ability, or going somewhere incredibly remote on your own with no local help, is most definitely an adventure – there is no doubt about that. But what about all the smaller things I can achieve? Surely adventure isn’t just for those who are super fit, super wealthy and super confident? Adventure can also be for us ordinary folk.

Riding across Glencoe, Scotland
Riding across Glencoe, Scotland

The dictionary says that adventure is “an unusual and exciting or daring experience“. As adventure is an experience, the level of risk needed to make it so changes depending on the person involved. It depends on who you are, what your fears are, what your circumstances are. It therefore doesn’t matter what your budget is, how long it lasts, or even whether someone else has already done it ten (or a hundred) times before. It is fine if it’s for yourself or for charity. It’s okay if you employ the services of a guide, agent or friend to help make it happen. It’s not a problem if you don’t sleep under a plastic sheet, don’t kill/forage and cook your own food, don’t travel half way around the globe, or don’t nearly die doing it.

11 June - Microadventures
Microadventures by Alastair Humpheys

One person I know of that believes this is Alastair Humphreys, who’s recently released book “Microadventures” describes ways to have 5pm to 9am adventures close to home/work. The main idea is that you set off from work at your normal leaving time, travel to somewhere not far but remote, sleep under the stars, get up the next morning and go straight to work. A one night, mid-week expedition that involves a tent (or bivvy bag) and a dip in a lake in the morning instead of a shower. He explains that adventures can involve eating in a pub or cooking on a beer can stove. They can involve walking five miles, cycling 15 or taking the train 50. They can be on your own or with friends or family. Microadventures like this can be for everybody – all ages, all fitness levels, all careers. Don’t want to camp out under the stars? Get to a youth hostel and sleep in a dorm room instead. Don’t want to go wild swimming? Make your way to a local swimming pool for an early morning swim in warm water after your night away. The point is doing something like this from 5pm to 9am is a great way to have a little adventure without giving everything up and becoming a full time adventurer. I love the idea – I must do one of these soon!

"Sponsored Fire Alight" to raise money - we kept the fire going for 36 hours
“Sponsored Fire Alight” to raise money – we kept the fire going for 36 hours straight (in the pooring rain, of course!)

But even if it’s not an Al Humphrey’s inspired adventure (the book is really great, I recommend it), other things still count too. New things. Scary things. Things in daylight. Things at the weekend. Dare I add things that include a nice hotel stay?! And definitely things you do once using experience vouchers just to give it a try. The only proviso is that you do it for you, to challenge or test or develop or dare or enjoy yourself.

An adventure is an experience that you have, that you plan, that you work for, that you dream about, that you achieve, that you re-count with a big smile on your face. What it actually is, from a one-day hike up a big hill in Yorkshire to a long term expedition in the wildest location, makes no difference to the label. If what you are doing is a bit daring and exciting for you, if it gives you a adrenaline rush or a bit of a refreshed look on life, then you are having an adventure.

Carrying the Torch - Allister Homes
Carrying the Olympic Flame through Lincoln – Definitely an Adventure!

Personally speaking, my biggest problem with having big adventures has always been my ability to choose one. Until I can learn to make decisions and focus on them fully I will continue to choose small personal adventures, whilst reading about the amazing things that those I look up to are doing. I will have lots of little experiences that challenge and develop me, and give me many stories to tell. I will continue to add to my big bucket list, as silly as the things might be, blogging and taking photographs, using each thing I tick off to make the most of my journey. One day I might be a book-worthy adventurer, you never know, but for now I will continue to smile my way through each step I take.

Are you adventurous? Or an adventurer? What do you think adventure is? Can little things be described as adventures or does adventure have to be massive? How much risk does there need to be for something to be considered an adventure? If you could go on any adventure this weekend what would it be? If you were me, what would you add to my bucket list?

Life is all about the journey. Let’s have our own adventures!

5 Responses

  1. Dave

    Hi Zoe,

    Loved this. You hit the nail on the head IMO. This is something that I’ve been having a real struggle with lately – “what does adventure actually mean?”. Wrote a post about it recently because I found myself become fairly cynical towards the “exclusive” nature of the whole adventure-scene. Really that’s completely unfounded. Because going off the definition, like you say, it’s just a type of experience. Everyone experiences things, therefore everyone can have an adventure! You don’t have to go on an epic trip.

    Been thinking about this a lot and looking back at some cherished memories. I’ve done a big trip before, but in all honesty it’s the shared experiences that have become my most cherished. Those shared with friends on a weekend in the mountains or on a beach or on a lake.

    Adventure is the hard experiences, the ones that excite you, or make you nervous. Adventure is valuable experiences. It is endlessly vast and does in no way need to be tied to some big trip.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Splodz

      Thanks Dave. I completely agree, especially when you say adventures are the things that make you nervous, that’s a good way to put it. I am definitely not knocking big epic expedition type adventures (I admire those who go on them and still really hope to go on my own one day), but it is wrong to think it is the only form of real adventure or that for some reason some adventures are worth more than others. If life is all about the journey then every adventure/experience/thing that provides a cherished memory is something worth doing.

  2. Christina

    I totally agree! In the past I have become frustrated that I don’t have the money to go on adventures abroad as often as I would like to. Only recently have I discovered that there are plenty of adventure waiting on your doorstep, e.g. exploring new trails when out on long runs (getting my map out when lost) or following the Grand Union Canal out of London and seeing how far you can go in a day before taking the train back. And I would even add me learning to swim to my adventures as I used to be really scared of water. As you said, anything which pushes you out of your comfort zone is an adventure. There are plenty of adventures to be had right where we are at this point in our life.

    • Splodz

      Absolutely right. Today I had the day off so I took myself over to Edale to hike Kinder Scout – and in today’s heat that was definitely an adventure! I think it’s really important everyone has adventures; they help no-end in putting smiles on people’s faces.

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