• Tom Henson

What is Adventure?

Updated: Jun 23

What does adventure really mean? During one of his famous Antarctic expeditions, Sir Ernest Shackleton might have told you that adventure is a test of endurance, of leadership and of fortitude. Perhaps also a little cold. The great Venetian merchant and traveller Marco Polo might have said that adventure is all about exploration, of learning about the world beyond the horizon. Travel writer Charley Boorman and actor Ewan McGregor might say it would be cool if motorcycles were involved. Author Robert Louis Stevenson would be adamant that a true adventure has pirates and at least some buried treasure.



Adventure means something different to each of us, but there are surely common factors we can all agree on. Adventure is out of the ordinary, a remarkable experience that brings about personal growth through some kind of adversity. Whether that is overcoming a fear, confronting danger or facing the unknown. It is bold, it can be risky and it should be sought out by anyone wishing to live their life to the full.


The fact is, not all of us are Shackletons. Indeed, just reading about the exploits and often quite painful trials of these remarkable individuals might put people off. A prime example of such an experience is that of adventurer Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm with a pocket knife after it became trapped during a solo canyoneering expedition. Even after that impromptu surgery, Ralston climbed and hiked his way to safety.


Rarely is an adventure thrust upon you, there has to be a choice. So ask yourself the question, what do you want? Perhaps you are in a job that is a little too comfortable, it’s steady and safe and it pays the bills. But something is missing, you need a challenge. An experience to shake off the cobwebs of existence. A challenge can be any number of things; from climbing a mountain, to getting a dog, to running five kilometres. Maybe you need to build your confidence, we all do, from time to time.


It could be you have an incredible place in mind that you want to explore. Maybe you are drawn to the unknown, you yearn to feel the calmness of the forest or enjoy the solitude of the mountain paths. Perhaps like Marco Polo you want to understand a place, culture or people. Or do you want an opportunity to create or develop a bond with others, to find that camaraderie again. Whatever the reason, it has to be yours alone. Own it, act on it.



So you want to go on an adventure. Where do you start? There are countless opportunities to choose from, it all depends on your definition of the word. An adventure could be as simple as taking your dog on a long walk somewhere new. But if you have a more extreme challenge in mind, you might consider an expedition. Think of it like a quest, with you as the stranger in a strange land. The shiny reward at the end of the journey replaced with a priceless feeling of fulfilment and excitement that endures long after you return home.

But do you go it alone? Or travel with a group. Mostly, it’s up to you. Although for some expeditions it is both necessary and enjoyable to go with a guide. Using the experts lets you focus more on your adventure, and less on the admin. If you are after something closer to home, there are also training camps and events, where you can learn a range of skills with like-minded adventurers. Whatever you do, do your research. Consider your goals, develop your plan to suit. Ask for advice, read reviews of the companies you might be considering and no matter your definition of ‘adventure’, make sure it matches.


We are living through strange times, there are challenges for all of us. But the world has faced worse and the intrepid have still found their adventures. You can plan, prepare and even pack your kit for the good times ahead. But ultimately, the adventure starts with you. Find the remarkable, find the adversity and be bold. Adventure is a mindset.


Author bio: Tom is a former military police officer, honorary special agent in the U.S Diplomatic Security Service, writer and educator. He enjoys putting pen to paper about dogs, military yarns and adventure. Tom is married, has two dogs and two ungrateful cats.

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