What It Means to Have an Adventurous Spirit


Pedra do Bau [Climb]

I remember exactly how I felt when I was listening to instructions on what to do in the water for my first ever whitewater rafting trip. It was an odd mixture of fear and excitement – feelings I normally get before I begin a new adventure. I had been in Costa Rica for three days and one of my goals for the trip was to raft down the beautiful Pacuare River.

I think it is stories like this which lead people to tell me I have an adventurous spirit. But was this experience really adventurous? My tour guide has gone down the river dozens of times, but the excitement was gone and he was just doing his job. Another couple I had met on the trip had been to Costa Rica six times. To them, it was just another trip.

Being Adventurous Comes From the Unfamiliar

I think a big part of any adventure is in the novelty of the experience. You have to break ground into new territory or experiences you’ve never had before. Part of the fun of adventures is how you don’t know what the outcome will be. That’s not something you get from things you know really well.

It’s like the law of diminishing returns. Once you reach a certain point, the more you do something, the less you’ll actually get out of it. For example, when I was in Belize with a friend of mine we both decided to explore the waters of the coral reef and marine reserve. The next day, he wanted to go scuba diving again in another area. I wasn’t all that interested since I wanted to explore the island a little more.

We decided to meet up later in the day while he went out scuba diving and I explored the island. Later he told me how the experience wasn’t as good as the first day. It was still fun, but there was no adventure in it.

It was because the novelty had worn off for him. If he had waited several months and done it again, the novelty would have returned as the experience wouldn’t be as fresh in his mind. Realize that no matter how adventurous something appears to you, the more you do it the less adventurous it will become.

Fear and Risk in Adventure

Part of the reason an adventurous activity becomes less adventurous as you do it comes from the fear and risk involved. When you jump out of an airplane for the first time, you are worried about the chances of your chute not opening. No matter how safe you’ve been told the activity is, your mind will be weighing the risks and feeling the fear.

However, if it is your 100th jump, you’ll have experienced first-hand just how safe you really are. The fear and risk is dampened along with your excitement. Although the fun will still be there, the adventurous part won’t be.

It’s not necessarily the activity itself that becomes less adventurous; however. When I get on a plane to see a far off distant country I’ve never seen before, I still get that adventurous feeling. Just because I’ve already traveled through several countries doesn’t diminish the excitement.

What would diminish the excitement is if I had been to the country many times before. I would know what to expect, where to go and what to see. There’s nothing new to it, no fear of the unknown and no risk involved. It would still be fun, but not all that adventurous.

Adventure in the Unknown

I think there are two key features of adventure. The first is the unknown. The less you know what the outcome will be, the more adventurous it is. This means getting out of your routine, whatever it might be.

The second feature of adventure is fear. Anything adventurous requires a little bit of fear to it. That doesn’t necessarily mean overcoming your biggest fears. Just a little fear is all that is needed.

Both of these features are closely linked. Advancing into the unknown is meant to be scary. But having an adventurous spirit means doing things you don’t normally do. Otherwise you’re just doing your routine and there is nothing adventurous about that.

It doesn’t matter if the thing you’re doing has been done before by other people. If it is new to you and something you feel fear about, it is adventurous. This is why my rafting down the river in Costa Rica was adventurous to me while to my guide, it was just another day on the job.

Breaking Down Internal Barriers with Adventure

For me, one of the greatest things about adventure is how it affects me internally. One of the thoughts that usually linger in+ my head after an adventure is: “what else am I capable of?“ Before the adventure you only recognize your limits; afterwards you realize that you have no limits. That’s an amazing thing to think about and something I think everyone should experience.

I look forward to getting that odd feeling of fear and excitement again before my next adventure. Because I know I’m breaking down barriers I’ve put on myself. Eventually, I won’t have any left. That’s something I’m looking forward to.

What does adventure mean to you? Do you get that same feeling before you do something adventurous?
photo credit: ground.zero

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  1. My husband and I have talked about this several times, the idea that we have built up a tolerance to the adrenaline rush. The first time I rafted the Gauley was exciting to the point where I thought I would constantly die. Last year was my third trip and, while it was fun, I just didn’t get the rush. The first time we did the zipline in Belize we thought it was the highlight of our vacation but we’ve never been impressed with any other zipline we’ve done.

    My worry is where this will lead us. What will we do to get that rush? How far will we go to get our fix?

    • I thought about this too. How far would I go to get that rush? It’s a good question and one I don’t think I have an answer for yet. I still have many more adventures to try out so I won’t be running out of things to do for awhile.

  2. Um, I’ve just come to the realization that I haven’t actually done anything adventurous. I tried to remember the last time I was in one of these situations and I couldn’t. I have never thought of myself as unadventerous before, but the fact that I couldn’t recall may indicate something different!

    • Miranda, I know you’ve done some adventurous things. Didn’t you go to Greece just recently? I bet if you think about it a little more, you’ll come up with a few things.

  3. It’s all a matter of degree, too. Activities that invoke a little fear in me (and so I feel like I’m being really adventurous if I do them) are just the norm for my partner and for him, not adventurous at all.

    The most adventurous thing we’ve done together was to quit careers, sell our home and belongings and come to Turkey. At the time, we decided we must be crazy and all our family and friends thought so, too. 7 years down the line, like you said, it all starts to feel very normal and not adventurous at all. Maybe we need another big adventure…:)


    • Julia, moving to Turkey like that is definitely an adventure. 7 years would be long enough to get used to the move so I can imagine it becoming normal. And you’re right that they come in degrees. It probably depends on the person and the thing you’re doing.

  4. Steve,
    I love how you’re always looking for ways to challenge and test yourself! Like you, I build up to more and more risky endeavors because I feel more comfortable over time. Let’s never lose that!

  5. Hey Steve!
    Ah adventure – easily in my 10 favorite words of all time along with Explore and Freedom.
    I love all kinds of adventures be it a physical test of climbing a high peak or doing a multi-day trek (found out I love this after Tiger Leaping Gorge in China!) to adventures that are more of the mind such as kickstarting a new project or idea.

    However, at this point in my life, now that I’m back form my year in China, adventure isn’t coming so naturally. While I was abroad everyday was its own adventure in its own right. But now that I’m back and things are normal, adventure is not at my doorstep so easily. And it kills me. Your post has reminded me that yes it may not be right at my doorstep, but its definitely down the block if I make it for myself :)

    Here’s to being an adventurer! – The only way to live :)

    • Hey Lauren,
      I love all kinds of adventure too. There really are a wide variety of ways to be adventurous.

      I’ve also noticed that when things become normal, adventure doesn’t seem to come around as easily. But I know that I’ll be doing something crazy again soon so it doesn’t bring me down.

  6. I’m definitely an adventurous type of person. Sometimes I get caught in the heat of the moment and afterwards I step back and ask myself, “WTH did I just do?” Sometimes I worry what kind of trouble it will get me into.

    Despite getting myself into ridiculously stupid and dangerous situations, I know my limitations. I know that I will probably never be able to sky dive or bungee and I’m okay with that.

    • I’ve been caught in the heat of the moment too. So far I haven’t done anything really dangerous and since I also know my limitations, I probably won’t do anything stupid either. I don’t think being adventurous means doing anything reckless.

  7. Hi Steve, you make a good point — for some (like your guide) it’s just another day on the job but for the bulk, it’s a life-changing first. Great post!

  8. It will probably take me some time to get over my fear of heights, being and adventurous person. I bungy jumped from the world’s highest platform in Macau last year at 233 meters. But only after a month, I went to Malaysia and did another bungy at 25 meters — only I got to dip my head in water. Despite the big height gap between both instances, I was still scared Sh*t of the jumps. Probably because they happened in different places and with different styles. Still, it will take me some time before I’ll get used to it.

  9. Mate, just found the site, and love it.
    I feel that fear before doing many things. Especially solo.
    Right now I am travelling the world solo, trying to get over it.
    It’s exhilarating, but crippling. Mini-panic attack kind of crippling.
    Thanks for the articles.

  10. I love your thoughts on breaking down internal barriers and how travel helps you with that. It does the same for me!

  11. Travel certainly helps one break down internal barriers. I find once those are demolished the opportunity for ‘true’ growth exists.

  12. A definition of adventurous is very personal. What may be adventurous for one may not be adventurous for another. I agree that it’s about breaking down internal barriers.

  13. I have so much energy when I’m embarking on something new and get so, so tired after the novelty has worn off. Working through this right now!

  14. Hey everyone,
    I Just Have Found that topic so interessting…

    I always want to jump from plans , and i love surfing..it’s said that any adventurer do The adventure to have ” The Adrenaline”

  15. Alice Richard says:

    Hey everyone! I have never been into such, but I’m trying to get one soon and know what it takes.


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