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What is Stopping us Living Adventurously? Fear?

Over recent days I’ve been asking a series of questions on social media to try to figure out what is stopping people from living as adventurously as they might wish to do, and exploring whether — at its heart — fear is the main issue.
I’m only just beginning to mull over the answers people gave. The topic stuck in my mind out on a kayak in the Swedish archipelago, and these are my early musings on the issue. I would love to hear your opinion and thoughts in the comments below…

There is a common perception that adventure has to involve leaving the real world behind, heading far out to sea into epic landscapes, with expensive equipment and specialist skills. And that to be an ‘Adventurer’ you have to be a middle-class white man who is strong and athletic or — more importantly — rich and well-connected!
But I honestly believe that adventure is more accessible than that.
So what IS holding us back from living more adventurously?


There is disability and illness, of course, a reminder for those of us who ARE healthy not to take that for granted.
And there are the big, glaring obstacles:
A lack of time is one of the biggest problems of our age. Being too busy for adventure — for wilderness, tranquility, sunsets — surely means that we NEED to make time for it, even if it is just a short microadventure escape from the office.


A shortage of money stops many people, through a mistaken assumption that adventure has to be expensive. Some of the best journeys of my life cost less than the smartphone you are reading this on.
Relationships and family commitments and children stand between many of us and the eternal, blissful, selfish dirtbag vagabondage we dream of. Maybe you truly are indispensable, or perhaps your other half simply does not share or even understand your restless spirit. In which case… in which case… Good Luck! You’ll need a wiser man than me to solve that conundrum!


But otherwise, I think that what’s standing in the way of you and your adventure is not time or money or kids or whatever: what’s stopping us living adventurously is fear. Fear.
Often we might not recognise it as that or even deny it or react angrily at the very suggestion. But fear has so many forms.


There are simple fears like vertigo that keep us from climbing, or fear of snakes, or wide open oceans.

There is fear for safety, from the wilderness or from assault — particularly amongst women. But anxiety about wild places is merely a healthy emotion of respect and should not preclude us from starting small. And fear of assault: is that an issue for quiet evenings alone in the countryside, or one for our daily life surrounded by humans in the ‘real world’?

Some of us fear travelling alone or have no adventurous friends to join us. What are we scared of here? The dark? Ghosts? Loneliness? Or do we doubt ourselves? So many of us do, mistakenly worried that our small adventures won’t count, or aren’t up to much. We fear the inadequacy of comparison. We hide behind excuses like the paradox of choice (“I can’t go on an adventure because there are too many options to choose from!”). Or we hide behind defences that class, or upbringing, or education mean that ‘people like us’ don’t do adventure, CAN’T do adventure, that the door to adventure is closed — as if that was ever possible forwalking up a hill, or cycling across a country, or joining a club and making a start?

It’s not equipment or training, or wild camping worries, or access to the ‘right people’ that stops us making a start, it’s us lacking the confidence to go for it. We stop ourselves because we’re scared. We’re scared of the unknown; we are scared to change. And that is why we settle for what we know and where we presently are rather than casting off and taking a chance on changing something.


It can be hard to change. If we are stuck in a rut with work, or depressed, or chasing the mortgage, or changing nappies then change (or even a temporary escape) can feel like an impossibility. I do not deny that, but nor do I believe it is impossible.

And as if all this was not hard enough — making changes, risking uncertainty — we also fear what other people will think. What will society or friends or family think if we go and do something weird like camp on a mountain or sling on a backpack or jump into a cold, clear river with our crazy kids? What will people think?!


We fear, above all, the unknown. Not the literal unknown of the wilderness that we all yearn for, but the unknown of how it might all pan out if we do start to live more adventurously.


Adventure is not scary. LIFE is scary. And that’s why we stick with what we have. We procrastinate. And we make excuses.
But what scares me, more than any of these very real fears, is that soon it will be too late. One day this will all be over. And I am scared how much I will regret it if I don’t do whatever I can to push off from the shore and dare myself to live a little more adventurously while I have the chance.

I made a little film about all this:

Read Comments

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Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your film – nice spot. It is so true that the unknown or fear stops many of us from attempting our goals, the things we wish we could do. I have a disability (quadriplegia) and require a fair amount of assistance, planning and effort to get out and do some adventuring, and lately I’m feeling that the effort required is out weighing the reward.
    This film is a good reminder that no matter what circumstances we are in, that by not letting our fear of failure, effort, embarrassment stop us, we all can have adventure in our lives.
    Thanks for making the film, you’ve inspired to get out on my handcycle and go for a ride on a new trail.
    Cheers

    Reply
  2. Adventure doesn’t have to mean a year’s backpacking trip to South-East Asia, or hiking the Pacific Trail. Just an hour’s walk in the nearest forest can be an adventure, also getting to know the next town from your home can be an adventure. One could start small, just doing something new and unexpected. One day, come home from work via a different route that you usually take. In a grocery store, buy fruits you’ve never tasted before. Go to a different store to do your weekly shopping. If you always drive to everywhere, walk for once, you’ll see your surroundings in a different light. Go to a part of your hometown/city where you’ve never been. Look up. Look at that tree you see. Adventure can start near, it doesn’t have to be huge to be called an adventure.

    Reply
  3. Dermot Posted

    Hi Al,
    Big fan of your writing and adventures, was sorry to have missed you speak in Westport.
    I took the plunge and started in 2016 by planning a solo trek of the Arctic Circle Trail in west Greenland which I completed in last year. I work overseas so 1 month on 1 month off so I have to tailor things to fit. I suppose I shied away because of two things 1. Prioritising other peoples needs over my own and 2. I didn´t really think you could “adventure” in such a short period. It really wasn´t until I made my decision to go to Greenland that I found your work on Micro-Adventures via Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I´m heading to France in a little over 2 weeks to trek the first section of the GR10 and next year I´m doing a solo crossing of Iceland. The adventure community has been awesome in support and encouragement from people like Sarah Outen and Gavin Hennigan. Cheers, Dermot

    Reply
  4. I guess that what stops people from living life to the fullest is the fear of the unknown and that they will go out of their comfort zone. This post was an excellent read, Alastair!

    Reply
  5. chris Posted

    Al, you have been an inspiration since i first found your cycling round the world adventure.
    Where was the “fear” film shot it look beautiful & Scandinavian??

    Keep the inspiration coming!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Alastair Posted

      Thanks, Chris!
      It was near Sandhamn in Sweden.

      Reply
      • Al,

        Great Blog and video. Do you have any recommendations for kayaking and camping in the UK to help with time constraints etc?

        Rgds Craig

        Reply
        • Alastair Posted

          Time constraints is basically the core of everything I’ve written / filmed about microadventures, and certainly true for my own life.

          Reply
  6. Colleen Posted

    I am a 53 year old woman walking south through Mexico alone, pushing a baby jogger stroller with my kit for 4 seasons. Today is day 67. I have walked so far from Laredo Texas through 6 states to just north of Mexico City. I camp at night mostly at gas stations which are 24 hour and full of people and well lit. My per diem has turned out to be $6.50 per day USD and I eat well. No one has bothered me in any way. I have experienced only gentle, kind, helpful, unassuming friendliness along my path here.

    Most people choose to believe the untruths promulgated about which are almost like wives tales. According to the fearful, which, by the way, is a choice, everything and everybody is DANGEROUS. So choose to live by the lies or find out for yourself.

    I have been fortunate to travel in 40 countries so far, about 1/3 in the developing world, always on a shoestring budget, and nothing bad has ever happened to me. This current walking expedition is through Mexico, Central America and South America by foot, and I believe I will make it to the bottom of South America in about 3 years or so without incident, God willing.

    The skills to travel well and safely are rapidly aquired on the road. Jump out there. You will be amazed at how capable you become and how much the road itself generously instructs you. You will be an intrepid traveler in no time at all. Let go of the fear and jump in!

    There is no way to fail. I attempted this particular expedition 2.5 years ago. 3 weeks in I just was not feeling it, so I went home. I was a recent empty-nester and not used to being alone and the lonliness got to me.

    Then, last year I walked the Camino de Santiago 909 miles across France and Spain (1515 km) and it helped prepare me for this current adventure.

    I am not experiencing any sense of lonliness at all this time and am fortified by a greater sense of readiness.

    Whatever the adventure is that’s inside your heart, you can do it.

    “You can if you think you can.
    You can’t if you think you can’t.
    Either way, you’re right.”

    Reply

 
 

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