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