Some time ago a comment on one of my Facebook posts questioned whether my wild camp on a local hillside, pictured above, which I had labelled as a ‘mini adventure’, really warranted the status of ‘an adventure’. After all, the nearest road was less than a mile away and I was only a 45 minute hike away from home. It got me thinking about what adventure means to me and how the idea of adventure has changed in modern society and I thought it worth offering a few thoughts.
It is true there has been something of an explosion of adventure recently. It is difficult to avoid the subject in mainstream media as everybody clambers to advise us the ways in which we can climb off our sofas, leave our homes and experience adventure in the outdoors. However, if you are told exactly what to do, where and how, are you adventuring or are you following a serious of directions to an expected and predictable outcome?
According to Wikipedia an adventure is
‘an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as travelling, exploring or participating in extreme sports’
I think it is true that there is a tendency for outdoor enthusiasts to be elitist about this and focus on the ‘risky’, ‘danger’ and ‘extreme’ aspects. Whether consciously or not, they judge other people’s adventures by their own standards. This is unfair, as what may be routine and pedestrian to one person can be an exciting journey into the unknown for another. You might consider heading to a different country and kayaking the rivers there for the first time as an adventure into the unknown but the locals on the same rivers are just paddling their local runs. Should this diminish your sense of adventure as you look for a clean line down a rapid for the first time?
If you want recognition as an ‘adventurer’ then you might need to do things that are unusual to almost everybody, but if you just want to experience a sense of freedom and excitement then the bar is much lower. You don’t have to be heading into an unexplored gorge or staggering along a frozen plateau to consider yourself on an adventure but, equally, driving to a well signposted campsite and putting up a tent for the night probably falls shy of the standard. However, there is what could be considered a massive grey area between these extremes and this is where it is important to recognise that adventure is relative to the individual.
I don’t think there is only one recipe for an adventure but I think there are a few key ingredients; a dose of discovery, an element of physical exertion and discomfort, a hint of risk and, critically, an uncertainty of outcome. You won’t find it at a theme park or a manmade play area, but that is not to say the urban environment is devoid of opportunities for adventure. The concept of microadventures has opened up the idea that long and arduous are not essential ingredients and even breaking away from your normal urban life to experience the great outdoors for a single night can be an adventure.
Ultimately, adventure is stepping out of your comfort zone by doing something that is unusual to you. It is something we can all do so, go on, give it a try…