Developing an Adventurous Mindset: Loving Fear and Uncertainty


Monte Verde Verde!

A few years ago, when I was preparing to travel to Belize, a friend of mine asked me what my plans for the trip were.  Specifically she wanted to know if I had a place to stay arranged before I arrived.

When I told her no, she was aghast.  What would I do if I got there and there wasn’t a room available anywhere?  She wouldn’t have been able to handle traveling so far away without making those arrangements beforehand.

I guess that’s what separates me from a lot of people.  I get a big thrill out of not knowing what is going to happen next; it’s adventurous.

Adventure Mindset

I wasn’t always like this.  In fact, I was quite the opposite.  I grew up in a small city in North Dakota where the most adventurous thing you could do was take a road trip to Winnipeg, Canada.

It’s one of the safest parts of the world I’ve ever been to.  There’s really nothing to fear there.

When I was growing up, I was so unaccustomed to anything adventurous that visiting nearby Minneapolis was a scary thing for me.  The city is so huge and there are so many people there.  It was far outside my comfort zone at the time.

Of course, the idea of Minneapolis being scary seems laughable to me now.  After all, that’s where I currently live.

I can’t help but contrast how I was back then with how I am now.

When I was in Morocco a few months ago, I took a walk through a park in downtown Casablanca.  The city is renowned as being more dangerous than most places in Morocco, but I felt perfectly fine.

It helped that I had lived there for more than a month by then.  My apartment was just around the corner from there.  But still, this was a long way away from that child who wouldn’t venture more than a block away from his parent’s house.

Between that time when I was a child and now, something had changed.  At one point, I had stopped avoiding scary and uncertain situations and started embracing them.  Instead of seeing the unknown as something to be feared, I saw it as something to seek out.

Most people see fear and uncertainty as things to avoid.  They’re considered bad things.  Yet, they are important parts of being adventurous.

Loving Fear

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  This quote sums up my attitude towards life.  Go out and do things you’re afraid of.  Run towards them rather than away from them.

One of the scariest moments I’ve had while traveling was crossing the Costa Rican border into Nicaragua.   The border was a confusing maze of metal fences, beggars and mud.  It was so hard to maneuver that I had to hire a local to guide me through it.

It didn’t help that I was walking across the border.  I wasn’t in a bus or car – feet only.  If I had taken a bus, the process would have been easier and less scary.

But even though it was scary, I enjoyed myself.  It was exciting to work my way through the maze-like border.

Loving Uncertainty

Crossing the border into Nicaragua also had a sense of uncertainty about it.  I didn’t know what I was going to do on the other side.  I wasn’t sure if there would be a bus I could take or if I needed to find other forms of transportation.

Arrangements would be made once I got there.  I was traveling into the unknown.

Once I crossed the border, I found out that there were no buses to take.  However, the local who guided me through the border crossing found a reliable taxi for me.  So I took that all the way from the border to Granada.

The ride cost $50, but it was worth it.  It was a unique and adventurous experience.

There were some scary moments and a lot of uncertainty, but it’s an adventurous story I’ll never forget.

I wasn’t alone while making this trip.  My wife was right there with me.  I could see how scary it was for her.  After all, this was her first time crossing a border in a third world country.

But in the taxi ride away from the border, I told her that one day we’d look back on this portion of our trip fondly as a great, adventurous experience.  That was over three years ago.  Today we both look back on it as one of the greatest experiences of the whole trip.

It might seem crazy to do things like this, but I find it fun.  When you face down a scary situation, it feels good.  You feel alive.

That feeling is something you can only get when you embrace and love fear and uncertainty.

It’s weird to think that I used to be scared of exploring past a block from my parent’s house.  I’ve come so far.  But the more you love fear and uncertainty and seek them out, the more adventurous your life can become.
photo credit: inottawa

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  1. Wow, I really need to get out a bit more! The way you describe your border crossing is so matter-of-fact it’s as if I would be crazy NOT to do it. I guess I have no excuse not to get out there and do it. I live in Houston, for cripes sake. I’m sure crossing many borders would be safer than that! Thank you for making me think about how I can get a big adventure planned. My husband will love you for this.

    • Oh yeah, most borders are safe. This one was too, but it was just scarey. We almost decided to turn around, but we knew we’d be fine if we just kept ahead. Plus, Granada was a fantastic place to visit. It would have been crazy not to see that place.

  2. My wife and I want to travel to strange and remote places! I’ve never been out of the States! We long for adventure and something uncertain. Your post just lights the fire within. Well done!

    • You should do it. I love traveling to strange and remote places. I do like the more typical travel destinations too, but I find the exotic countries a little more fun.

  3. Great post! I love the message here. It’s just so damn important to do the things that scare us. The more we hide, the more we shut ourselves away from the world, the less capable we become. Our comfort zone keeps shrinking and shrinking until we’re too afraid to try a damn thing.

    It’s vital that we get out and experience life. That means a little risk. A little adventure. But that’s what life is . . . one great adventure.


    • I agree. Life is an adventure and you have to take some risks. If you hide and shut yourself away from the world, you’ll miss that aspect of life. I’ve learned long ago that you have to push yourself to try new things and see where you can take yourself. You never know how far you can go.

  4. My heart rate may have gone up a few notches as I read this post, let alone live it as you did. Super, action-packed, wickedly daring post. Better than any thriller one might pay $10 to go see, or its $12 now? I don’t watch movies.

    Tammy is right. I do love you for this.

    If we don’t take risks and force ourselves to do scary things, there really isn’t much to talk about aside from exceedingly boring fare. And there won’t be much to remember either without hair-raising adventures. As we age, we’ll rely more and more on these memories and topics of discussion.

    • It was a thrilling experience. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but I think that made it all the more fun. It definitely made it memorable. And that’s why I love do things like this: they’re memorable and make you feel alive. You don’t usually remember your daily routine. You remember the things you do outside of your routine and especially the things outside of your comfort zone.

  5. kaylee tietz says:

    Im from MN too I love minneapolis and St.paul!! Im only 17 and im already way to adventerous. I never plan where im going i just go. Soon as I plan it never is as fun and I end up changing them anyways. I bike continiously and Its just exciting to go off and go places youve never been with just yourself. Ive been to some pretty sketchy places and I embrace them and I feel more alive :) Great Post Steve :)

    • Cool, a fellow Minnesotan. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden on my bike to discover new places. Getting a bike is one thing I’m planning on doing this summer. I can imagine you could see some really cool new places when you just ride around.

  6. My big thing this year is to try to go beyond my comfort zone and do things that are scary. I’ve seen more success by not taking the safe way in a few months than years of playing it safe. Great post!

    • I’m the same way. I’ve seen more success when I take chances instead of taking the safe way. When you take chances, you push yourself and grow.

  7. Great things happen when we move outside our comfort zone into areas that might scare us. It allows us to grow and become better. Great story and thoughts!

    • I’m glad you like the story, Dan. Great things do happen when you push outside your comfort zone. I try to go where I’m most scared because I know those are the opportunities where I’ll grow the most.

  8. great post, Steve! While I do tend to plan out some things, I like to let others just fall into place on their own. Strangely, I don’t feel afraid when I’m traveling at all. I guess I feel complete trust that the world is going to take care of me.

    • Generally, I don’t feel afraid either. I’ve been to some really rough places and it always seems more dangerous than it appears. That’s part of why I went through the border instead of turning around.

  9. You truly are an adventurer, Steve.

    Like Mary, I do like to plan some things. I know myself, and I don’t think well when tired, so I normally plan my 1st night stay. If it’s not prime tourist season (Scandinavia in the summer), I’ll play it by ear from then out.

    You are so right that the scary – aka unknown – aspect of the trips, along with those serendipitous opportunities that we have the courage to take that make any trip.

    • That’s a good point about planning out the first night stay. When I flew into Costa Rica, I didn’t have a place to stay yet. When I arrived, I was exhausted. So it was hard to hear that the first place I arrived at didn’t have a room available. Luckily though, they had one opening up so I just had to camp out for an hour. I didn’t feel like lugging my gear down the street to another place, but I would have if needed.

  10. How very Indiana Jones of you, Steve!

    Pushing the boundaries is a funny thing – once you get started, it becomes a little addictive :-)

    I wouldn’t say I’m the adventurous type when it comes to travel, but your theory can definitely apply to all areas of life. Health, work, business, relationships – a little daring can take you a long way ! Or at least a different way.

    – Razwana

  11. That’s interesting, I’d never thought of people who are growing up in safe-zones, it seems like it’s doing more harm than good for them!

    Perhaps it’s my education and surroundings, or perhaps it’s just me, but I’m a lot like you are now – full of adventure and love uncertainty! Your examples of unknown territory ring a bell with me, it’s something that I get quite a thrill from, say going into big cities with no clue of where I am or perhaps even going from A to B in a foreign country!

    Without going for the things that we’re afraid of – we’re really not growing. It’s such an important message that you’ve outlined, and that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is one that I’ve tattooed onto my mind!

    Great thoughts, Steve!

  12. You’re absolutely right. I look back at those moments where I felt most alive – where I feel I got my money’s worth on my lifespan, and it involved fear and uncertainty. I guess I’ve been thoroughly domesticated – I haven’t done anything too exciting in a while.

    Would you say that you’re the sensation seeking kind of guy? Or are you just more courageous than most? I definitely am not sensation seeking – I don’t need fear and uncertainty to get me going. But after the fact, they still feel great. I need to work up my courage and do something crazy.

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