How Much Adventure Does our Life Need?

Originally published by Mercedes-Benz // She’s Mercedes Lounge on 12 June 2018

“‘Adventure’ is not only crossing deserts and climbing mountains; adventure can be found everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to seek it out.” – Alastair Humphreys, Microadventures

If time travel were possible, would you use it? Where would you go? I would most certainly want to be transported back to the late 1800s and the early 1900s. It saw the birth and achievements of many fascinating female adventurers, explorers and aviators. For anyone who longs for adventure and a life on their own terms the reading of biographies such as of Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham and Elly Beinhorn is mandatory. I mourn the end of that era and that there is not much left to explore and discover in terms of physical space on this earth. But this does not signify any end of the adventure.

Reading these real-life accounts has set me on my own path of adventure, but it has also taught me that this comes with great sacrifice and not everyone is able to pursue it. Nor is it necessary. While the longing for adventure can be intense, there are ways to satisfy it without selling everything one owns and one does not have to travel the world with a sole backpack. To find out how, it’s worth reflecting on what the essence of adventure is.

The Essence of Adventure

One can have a spirit of adventure and yet never leave one’s home town. It’s a state of mind that is reflected in a person’s curiosity, sense of fun and willingness to challenge oneself. It requires being conscious of our need to connect with nature, roaming free and wanting to grow as a person and in experience. All this plays into it.

With that in mind, what can be done to fulfil that longing for exploration and adventure, when one neither has time nor money nor the right circumstances to pack up and travel around the world or even to go on an extended holiday (and let’s face it: the majority of adults cannot)?

British adventurer Alastair Humphreys coined the term ‘microadventures’ after he realised that not everyone has the means or ability to embark on a major adventure like he did.

As well as expeditions, such as cycling around the world, walking across India and rowing the Atlantic, Alastair was named as a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his pioneering work on the concept of microadventures, trying to encourage people to get outside, get out of their comfort zone, to go somewhere they have never been. “A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short and yet very effective.”

“There is a common perception that the adventure has to involve leaving the everyday 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 important — rich and well-connected! But I honestly believe that adventure is more accessible than that explains Humphrey.

This can include going for a hike after work and sleeping in the open for one night, watching the stars and hearing the sounds of nature. It can mean to learn about native plants and wildlife or the exploration of a part of your city that you have never been to or given a closer look. Going camping for the weekend. Trying a new sport or activity. Joining a guided day hike to a place you may have only driven your car to.

The objective is not to accumulate envy-inducing photos to show off with on Instagram (although photography may well be a new hobby to discover in the process). Quite the opposite: it will help to disconnect and be in the moment and to realise ourselves. It serves first and foremost to fulfil a longing for discovering new things, the need to challenge ourselves, to connect with nature and simply to have more fun. We tend to forget that play is something that is not restricted to children, and that it helps to relieve stress and keeps us mentally sane in this hyper-busy world.

If we think we are too busy, we definitely need more adventure. If any fear holds you back, that is even more of a reason to start with small, manageable mini-adventures in order to overcome this fear. As for me, I agree with Alastair who (after addressing potential real dangers) says: “Adventure is not scary. LIFE is scary.”

Where can microadventures lead us? Well, they will either satisfy a craving and enrich your life and make you happier, or they may lead to the discovery of new hobbies and to meeting new people – or it will make it very clear that we need to change things in general. We may get to know ourselves, our constitution and our loved ones better (if they join us). It can help us to find out what we really are passionate about, to acknowledge the things we want to focus on more or even to claim new places to live and a change of careers.

Or we may finally have the courage and determination to embark on that big adventure of our lives after all. And only fate knows where that will take us eventually…
The main thing is to start somewhere and not leave that longing unfulfilled – there is always a way to find joy in life, even if it is in very small ways.

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