Today I found myself filling out a form for a travel conference next year, and before I knew it, I was being asked to tick the inevitable box of the type of travel I prefer. Sigh. Nothing makes me cringe quite like having to put myself into a box.
Alas, Google Docs has no patience for my existential crisis of the morning; so I went with ticking my usual “adventure travel” box. After all, I boldly claimed the title of Young Adventuress a decade ago, with nothing to my name but an absurdly bright Blogspot with too much Comic Sans and a hunger for adventure.
Guys, I was going places!
Born and raised by the likes of Kerouac, Krakauer, and Tolkien, my childhood was shaped by a desire to live out my days traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and truth; this is a theme that I’ve carried with me on my travels over the past decade.
Myths around adventure travel are rampant these days, but also the profound experience that comes from it isn’t talked about as much as it should be either.
Adventure travel is powerful and transformative, and in today’s day and age that focuses on epic photos with neglected stories behind them, that experience is often left by the wayside. Tell me what it took to get to get to that fantastic spot, how life-changing it was to do that, what you felt in the deepest recesses of your heart at that moment. Now that is what I crave – more authentic storytelling.
Whether it’s getting into nature, challenging yourself physically or mentally, or mixing with people from other cultures, we can’t help but come back a little changed from a travel adventure.
So here you go – all the mighty and beautiful things that come from challenging experiences and what no one tells you about adventure travel.
Adventure is good for your health
I’m sure you’ve experienced how adventure travel can make you feel even more alive – well, it turns out that it may also help us live longer.
Activities such as visiting a wilderness area or spending time in a rainforest, or any forest, can boost our immune systems, which can only be a good thing, right? Experts also reckon that active adventures help reduce our stress levels and even help us sleep better. Good news for those of us who struggle with, you know, healthy living.
Slowly raises hands and looks side to side.
I can personally attest to the amazing benefits of going on an adventure, especially getting back out into nature. The harder, the better. The more I challenge myself, the higher the personal triumph and feeling of success when you’re done. It’s a fucking amazing feeling.
It’s why I learned to snowboard and why I pop myself on adventures like riding horses across Mongolia, even though I’m not a natural outdoors person. I’m here for all my fellow dorks and book nerds, even you can have an adventure too! We can all be an adventuress!
The euphoria from this kind of travel is extraordinary, and I’m hooked on it.
It gives you the chance to grow
Research by the Adventure Travel Trade Association has found that our priorities and motivations are changing around the reasons we seek adventure travel.
In the past, adventure travelers were more motivated by risk-taking, but today we tend to look at it more as a chance for personal growth, not to mention the other incredible benefits such as being in a variety of different environments.
I know that’s true for me.
Adventure travelers learn amazing skills on the road, such as problem-solving, survival skills, adapting to travel in different countries and cultures, and learning other languages. Visiting developing countries can also help us appreciate what we have back home by putting things into rather a harsh perspective. Oh yes, we don’t know how good we’ve got it until we spend time in places without toilets or running water.
Most of us return from trips a little different to how we started, with a fresh perspective on life and new skills that get transferred into our personal and working lives and give us a sense of accomplishment.
And those people that don’t change? That isn’t shaped by travel experiences? Well, I can’t help you.
It’s good for the brain
Adventure travel is often very physically active, and it turns out that it has a positive effect on our minds.
If you want to improve your memory, cycling and hiking are the way to go, according to US researchers. They found these kinds of activity help grow the hippocampus (the brain’s center of emotion and memory, which naturally shrinks with age), and this helps ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia.
An active vacation involving new challenges is the most beneficial, helping to build connections between brain cells. I knew getting outdoors and being active can change your life, and hiking in New Zealand has changed my life too!
Helps you expand time
If you feel like every day is like Groundhog Day and the weeks go by with nothing to punctuate them, an awe-inspiring adventure may be in order. The monotony of routine that has no light at the end of the tunnel was something I have always struggled with.
Research by Stanford University has found that people who experience awe tend to be more satisfied with life and prefer experiences over physical products. It seems that feeling awe brings us into the present moment, and that makes us feel like we have more time available.
So, having adventures seems to be a way to break up the normal flow and expand our perception of time.
It allows you to give back
Far from being a selfish pursuit, adventure travel opens up so many opportunities to give back in the countries we visit.
When you travel with a responsible tour operator, your money will help local economies. Operators who are committed to responsible tourism, such as Intrepid Travel, operate trips to remote and untouched areas and can be a driving force behind conservation efforts (like banning elephant rides), as well as improving education and health for local communities.
Of course, you can also go independently, but if you do, try and be responsible and ethical about what you’re doing and where your tourism dollars are going by asking questions and doing some research in advance.
But above all, the one thing that one tells you about adventure travel is how profoundly life-changing it can be. Whether you’re stepping out of your comfort zone in the Himalayas for the first time or just going on a hike by yourself, getting out and challenging yourself can only lead to good things.
Do you crave that euphoria from adventurous experiences too?
What do you think? Are you hooked on adventure travel like me? What’s something no one talks about when it comes to the power of an excellent old fashioned adventure? Share!