Adventure is not outside man; it is within.
~Ray Stannard Baker
When we were children, we were constantly pushing our boundaries, learning what we can do, and then going beyond what we have done. This involves taking risks, trying new things and learning about the world. For a child, everything is an adventure and horizons are constantly expanding.
As we get older, it is easy to become jaded—life becomes routine and we lose our ability to see new things even when they are right in front of us. We begin to acquire commitments and responsibilities, and we tend toward living safer, more stable lives. But does that mean that we shouldn’t continue to take risks or do exciting things? Absolutely not.
Adventure and stability are not mutually exclusive.
Being adventurous does not necessarily mean risking life and limb. It can mean challenging our preconceived notions (about politics, religion—anything that is important to us). It can mean regularly going outside our comfort zones.
Take Stan for example. He has a good job estimating costs for a manufacturing company. He is 32 years old, lives with his wife of six years, and has one child and another on the way. He lives in the suburbs and drives a sensible car. For vacations, Stan and his family spend a few weeks at the beach every year. Stan is slightly overweight, balding and sunburns easily. His personality is extremely even. But Stan also writes poetry. His work explores deep and strong emotions. It covers the darkest side of despondency and anger, and the most intense side of infatuation and obsession. He shares his poetry with his wife, but no one else. For him, it is extremely personal.
Then there’s Megan. Megan is a freelance photographer. She is very physical and enjoys running, bicycling and hiking with friends. She has run in several marathons and ridden in cross-country bike races. She loves to go out dancing on the weekends. She is not promiscuous, but enjoys the company of men. She does not have a steady boyfriend. Megan has many acquaintances, but very few close friends. But she is outgoing, friendly, and is liked by everyone she meets.
Who is more adventurous, Stan or Megan? Both are pushing themselves, experiencing excitement, and expanding their horizons. Stan’s adventures are emotional, but he is not very physical. He goes well outside his comfort zone, but only internally. Megan’s adventures are very physical. She pushes her limits and regularly explores what she is capable of, but she stays in a very safe place emotionally. Which is preferable?
Adventure can be cerebral, physical or emotional, and none is better than any of the others.
What about risk? Is risk an inherent part of adventure? An argument could be made either way, but I think risk must be an aspect of being adventurous. There are different kinds of risks. There are risks that are obvious, such as the risk of dropping a motorcycle at high speed or the risk of emotional pain while trying to win someone’s heart. The risks that we take don’t necessarily have to be dire in order to be adventurous. But it is also true that the more we risk, the more rewarding our adventures can be.
I always get a bit antsy when I don’t have some measure of risk in my life. I do things that could hurt me, emotionally or physically, but I don’t think I’m exposing myself to risk just for risk’s sake. I think I engage in these activities because they allow me to know myself better; to know how I handle adversity, to know how I handle pain. But it’s not just that. I like adventures. They are fun! They are exciting!
Attitude has a lot to do with how adventurous we are. There are people who believe that taking risks might threaten their stability, whether that’s financial stability, emotional stability, stability in one’s world view or stability related to health.
You don’t have to jump off a cliff to be adventurous. Adventure—and the associated risk—is a matter of degree. If you can keep the attitude of a child, and maintain a fresh perspective and openness to trying new things, every day can be full of little adventures.
And this can make you more open to big adventures.