Adventure motorcycle travel is often portrayed as fearless, adventure junkies sat on huge bikes, tackling perilous terrain. Tales of derring do and danger abound. Even most dictionaries define adventure as containing danger. There’s no doubt that this tableau captures a classic and still relevant concept of adventure. But what if this view is too restrictive? What if it is excluding those who have a spark of adventure in them but can never live up to this stereotype?
I think a different definition would better serve us. One which is no less adventurous but is more inclusive: Adventure, the act of challenging yourself to move outside your comfort zone and a willingness to engage with your failures and learn from them.
Adventure is personal. We all start from different places so it stands to reason that we’re all looking for different things from it. For most of you reading this, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir. So why bother?
“The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul”
We live in an increasingly risk averse world. Technology and 24/7 news coverage mean that our experience of the world is shifting from first to third hand experience. At the same time, the world is constricting bringing different and conflicting beliefs, views and cultures together more than ever before. The niche we occupy has changed beyond recognition in the last 100 years and yet our biology has changed very little, if at all.
I believe that adventure can help us adapt. Adventure puts the emphasis back on first-hand experience. It allows us to live out the reality that a bit of risk, and a bit of discomfort can be incredibly enriching to life. It teaches us to know ourselves, endows self-worth and shows us that fear is not necessarily reality. It teaches us that the vast majority of the world’s people are good and kind. And it teaches us to accept and surrender to that which is beyond our control. This is particularly relevant in a world that tries to convince us we can and should control everything.
Words have power
Who cares what we call it, as long as people do it? Quite. But the problem is, so long as this narrowly defined benchmark of adventure goes unexpanded, it has power. It resides in our minds giving it the potential to colour our actions and judgements, whether it’s by directly discouraging an individual from dreaming or by fuelling those who would criticise and judge the exploits of others.
Empowerment is key
You may be saying “OK, but if people are so easily put off then they’re just not built for adventure”. Perhaps. But we all need a little help sometimes.
I definitely don’t fit the classic adventurer image. I’ve been on the road with my partner Mickey for three months now and counting, and I still can’t quite believe I made the break. For a long time, I ignored my lust for adventure, thinking that life wasn’t for me. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, nor was I a risk taker. I wasn’t rich enough, strong enough or brave enough for a life of adventure, or so I thought. All the things I wasn’t kept me where I was.
Eventually, I met people who empowered me to remember all the things I was, rather than focusing on everything I wasn’t. These people helped me embrace my adventurous side, find my starting point and conceive an endeavour that challenged me outside my comfort zone without scaring me into inaction.
I’m sure by some people’s standards our travels aren’t adventurous at all. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s my point. For me, they were a huge departure from my comfort zone. I often found myself thinking I was mad and I faced and slayed many demons to stay on track and execute our plans. But throughout it all the positive encouragement of people around me kept me believing I could give it a shot. And I’m so glad I did. It’s not an easy lifestyle and it’s anything but comfortable, but I feel truly content for the first time in my life, and healthy in both mind and body like never before.
I now understand that none of this stuff – definitions, criticism, stereotypes – matters a jot. What matters is that you make a start. Once I dipped my toe and did it gradually, life evolved and confidence snowballed. But for many people, like me, realising how and where to start takes support. From comments we’ve had since we started travelling, I know I’m not the only one like me out there.
Vulnerability & adventure, a match made in heaven
Those who are most susceptible to discouragement and in need of empowerment are often those who stand to gain most from adventure. Stepping out of your comfort zone in your own way is great for confidence, for giving you a sense of achievement and self-worth. And self-questioning and even self-doubt often belie a humble acceptance that you may have it wrong, that your way isn’t the right, or the only way. This humility enables you to build bridges of understanding between yourself and others and it leaves you open to the experience, allowing it to change you for the better. The key is setting up for success rather than failure by empowering others to choose and execute their own adventure instead of setting the bar unattainably high.
So, for the sake of all the budding adventurers out there, and for the world as a whole, I’d like to see the accepted definition of adventure opened up a bit. It’s already happening to an extent but the more people embrace this thinking, the faster we all reap the benefits. There’s little doubt that the classic adventure stereotype remains valid and valuable but there’s no reason why it can’t coexist with a beautifully diverse array of other depictions. This brave new world needs more people believing they can, not slinking off into a corner thinking they can’t. Adventure is personal, subjective and diverse. And therein lies its beauty.