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 for walking 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: