Lately I’ve been in a bit of a slump-slash-quarter-life-identity-crisis.
Actually, let’s not kid ourselves here, I’m always in one of those moods.
While in some respects I’ve never felt happier – I finally feel like I am on track with my life and doing what I love, and I’m following my dreams yada yada yada. I know I have grown and evolved so much thanks to travel, especially over the past year, but sometimes I look back and wonder if some things weren’t better before?
You see, recently I have been feeling less adventurous than I used to be. A lot less adventurous.
Like, I could go climb that mountain but this cafe has super fast wifi and comfortable armchairs. And coffee.
Life is about making tough decisions, right?
Growing up I never really considered myself “adventurous” by any sense of the word. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I was a class A scaredy cat. I was that kid who’d climb to the top of the monkey bars, look down and realize how far I was from the ground, then cry until the teacher came and plucked me off.
Yeah, that was me.
The one arena where I was very adventurous was my imagination.
As a kid I was lucky if I got a annual weekend beach getaway with my mom, something that caused uncontrollable wanderlust within me from an early age. Whether I was pouring over our collection of National Geographics in the unused front bedroom or reading library books about faraway (often made-up) lands after bedtime with a flashlight under the covers, my one static memory from childhood was a unwavering desire to see the world.
I wanted to experience it all. I couldn’t wait to get on the road and travel.
As a teenager and then college student, I started to challenge myself more and push my limits, or as my mom likes to say, push her buttons. For parents, what’s the difference really?
By 19 ,I moved abroad and had the profound realization that anything is possible, sparking “my adventure years,” as I like to refer to them now, where I threw myself off bridges, rappelled off cliffs, and pretty much did anything and everything rash without a second thought. I was determined to conquer my fears and be as “adventurous” as possible, proving to myself that I could do it.
But this past year something changed, and getting caught all up in traveling full-time, I’ve slipped away from that girl I used to be. Is it just because I’m getting older or is it something else?
I think I got comfortable. I think my priorities changed. But the worst part is I’ve stopped pushing myself.
For some reason, doing challenging, adventurous activities no longer appealed to me. I also had my first big travel accident recently when I fell off a camel, which not only was a giant slap in the face that I am NOT immortal but also freaked me the hell out.
Apparently I’ve reverted back to my jungle-gym fears, only this time I don’t have Miss Summer to come save me. Crap.
Now that I am back in New Zealand, which ironically happens to be the adventure capital of the world, I’ve been reevaluating what I hope to get out of my time here and just how adventurous I’m willing to be.
For example, I’d rather eat a jar of mayonnaise (which is one of the top 10 grossest foods for me) than go bungee jumping.
A year ago I would have jumped off the highest bungee here no question, but now I’m not so sure.
Speaking with many of you as well as with new and old friends around the world, I’ve actually started to question the idea of “adventure travel,” and what does that mean exactly? After many conversations (where beer was usually involved in someway or another) I’ve had some big revelations about adventure, something near and dear to me.
You see, I believe adventure travel is so much more than what bloggers and digital media are making it seem like nowadays. Even with all my fears and doubts now, I still consider myself to be a fairly adventurous person. The concept of adventure travel is much more complex and broad than people make it out to be.
I feel like the idea of adventure travel has become very stereotyped at its best, and often misleading, superficial or judgmental at its worst.
Personally I don’t relate at all to many of the “adventure” icons out there. I have developed my own brand of adventure that’s constantly changing and evolving, and I think the same can be true for everybody.
I’m not fearless and I make no pretension to be.
But enough of my own doubts and questions; I’ve rambled on long enough. Let me break down these ugly and unfortunately popular myths surrounding adventure travel for you.
1. Adventure travel means jumping out of planes and swimming with sharks – FALSE
What comes to mind when I say “adventure travel?”
Sharks. Airplanes. Bungee cords or some kind of rope. Eating scorpions and swimming naked with icebergs, right?
Let me let you in on a big secret – adventure travel is only as extreme as you make it out to be. Adventure is relative. Adventure is dynamic. What I consider to be an adventurous activity is not necessarily what someone else does.
And just how adventure depends on how you define it, it also fluctuates without rhyme or reason. My idea of adventure changes all the time, and that’s totally fine. Yours can too.
For me, adventure travel is any sort of travel that shakes up routine and puts you out of your comfort zone and pushes you beyond your standard limits
Whether that means biking solo across Africa or hiking on a glacier or going on your first independent trip or going to a country where you don’t speak the language, it’s up to you.
When I first moved abroad and took my first solo trip, I considered that in and of itself extremely adventurous. It was something that made me nervous. It was something I had never done before. It was something that made me uncomfortable but I was determined to try it for myself and see it through.
Later on I began to correlate adventure travel with extreme sports, so I would try to do the craziest sport or activity wherever I went. Anything that offered a guaranteed adrenaline rush, and I was game. But now those things don’t hold the same appeal for me anymore.
However, I want to get back to challenging myself on the road, so I am determined to try a few more crazy activities while I’m in New Zealand. I don’t want to leave here with any regrets.
At the end of the day, adventure travel is what you make of it. Ignore those ads or bloggers that paint adventure in black and white. Only you can define what adventure travel means.
2. Adventure travel is expensive – FALSE
Ah my favorite travel-related stereotype and excuse – the cost. While it’s almost impossible to travel for free, at the same time traveling isn’t as expensive as you think it is.
The same can be said of adventure activities. Climbing Everest or sailing to the South Pole might not come cheap, but there are plenty of deals and ways around the cost. And even then if you have a flexible schedule, there are almost always last minute deals and discounts you can find if you dig around long enough.
Most importantly is priority. Ask yourself some key questions when you start planning a trip. Maybe you have to make some sacrifices or a tough decision – bungee jumping or skydiving, maybe you can’t do both. But even if it is expensive, you should ask yourself is it worth the cost. Is it something you’d remember for the rest of your life? How important is it to you?
The first time I bungee jumped was in Switzerland, and to be able to pay for it, my friends and I slept in an airport for 2 nights, and shared a hostel dorm bed for the third. Was it worth it? Hell yes.
Also if you’re interested in extreme sports or adventure activities, try to book ahead or online and not once you arrive. I’ve noticed many companies offer discounts for booking online in advance.
But maybe that route isn’t for you and you’re more interested in other activities. My go-to free activity when traveling is hiking. Almost possible everywhere in the world, it usually doesn’t cost a penny.
In fact, I’d go as far as to argue that adventure travel can be the cheapest way to go, since budgeting while traveling usually means cutting out comfort in one way or another. Maybe you rent a van and sleep in it on a roadtrip – that’s adventurous, I haven’t done that yet – or you camp or hitchhike your way around a country. Maybe even you try couchsurfing. Those are all extremely budget-friendly travel options, and in my books, are pretty adventurous.
No matter where you go in the world, you can get out of your comfort zone and try something adventurous without spending a fortune. I promise.
3. Adventure travel is risky and dangerous – FALSE
Anything unknown or uncomfortable can be seen as dangerous.
Personally I don’t think adventure activities post more threats than things you might encounter at home. This of course is a generalization, depending on how far you go and how far you push yourself. Of course basejumping in Norway is much more dangerous than going out to dinner with friends back home, but that’s an extreme scenario. I never feel in danger traveling and doing adventurous activities.
But perhaps the risks that appear to be involved in adventure travel are what make it so appealing to some (or abhorrent to others). Adventure travel is most certainly romanticized nowadays, but don’t forget that there is a wide range of what can be considered adventurous – and the same can be said of the risks involved.
It’s important to be logical when assessing risk, but above all, be smart.
Preparation and research are the most important things you can do before doing something adventurous on the road. Does this company have a good safety record? What are the risks involved with whatever you want to attempt and how can you avoid them? Cover your bases before leaving.
4. Adventure travel require you to be in shape – FALSE
Again, I feel when I look at people who do extreme sports and adventure travel in media today, they are all very athletic-looking and are in good shape. Either they look buff, or strong or totally fearless. Like they wrestled with crocodiles before breakfast, jumped off a waterfall after lunch, and ran a 10K before dinner. But an image is just an image.
The reality for me has been the complete opposite. I have met many adventurous souls around the world, and most of them look completely ordinary. Hell, when I went skydiving in July, the first woman out of the plane was a middle-aged mom twice my size who was jumping for the 3rd time in a week.
While some activities you might need to be in shape for – like high altitude trekking with a huge backpack for a month in Nepal or cycling across America, for the most part adventure travel is 95% mental.
Can you find the courage and strength within yourself to do something challenging?
It’s a question of whether or not you are up to the challenge, if you want to push yourself to have a once in a lifetime experience. It’s completely fine if that’s not your cup of tea, but if you do have a dream of trying crazy things or being more adventurous on the road, don’t let a fear of not being fit hold you back.
5. Adventure travel is superficial – FALSE
I was actually super guilty of believing in this stereotype until pretty recently. Many people just get addicted to the rush or high you get from doing “crazy” things for the sake of crazy things on the road. But if you let it, adventure travel can mean so much more than just an awesome story to tell to your friends later on.
I believe adventure travel is not just making memories, it can actually make you a better person – what a bold statement, I know! Hear me out.
Why are people interested in adventure travel? For me, I am interested in unique experiences and challenging myself. I enjoy being able to conquer my fears and try something different or even scary. I grew up self-concious and shy and more than a little awkward. Doing these things that I know most people never have the guts to try makes me feel like superman.
Adventure leads to confidence and independence. Adventure travel does this even more so because you are no longer in the comfort of your home or a familiar place. It teaches you to be brave and to find your courage.
There is nothing more raw or powerful than standing at the edge of a big decision where you find yourself asking the question, can I do this? Do I have what it takes to do this? Whether that question comes up on the platform of a bridge you are about to jump off of or whether you’re looking at a boarding pass about to board a flight somewhere, it’s up to you.
How do you define adventure?
So I want to hear what you have to say. What does adventure travel mean to you? What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? Spill!