I am humbled. Inspired, but humbled.
I have just spent the evening in the company of true adventurers. 20 of them.
You and I might think that backpacking through Asia is adventurous. You and I might consider hiking Tasmania’s South Coast track to be adventurous. We might feel like sleeping under the stars in an Egyptian Wadi, or drinking cava with locals in the foothills of a Vanuatu volcano are adventurous activities.
But we would be wrong; entirely wrong.
Because to paraphrase Crocodile Dundee:
That’s not adventurous. This is adventurous:
Adventurous is walking 30 miles to find a tribe of pygmies to help you extricate your bicycle from the rotten wooden bridge through which it has fallen, so that you can continue on your 4000-mile solo journey around the African continent.
Adventurous is strapping your kayak onto a donkey to descend 4km along a precarious goat track into the world’s deepest gorge, in order to paddle the length of the Peru’s Urabamba River.
Adventurous is embarking on a solo female motorcycling adventure from Alaska to Argentina, then backing it up with another solo mission from London to Cape Town and back.
Adventurous is deciding that you are going to be the youngest female to row solo across the Indian Ocean; succeeding in less than 4 months; then immediately setting out on a 2 ½ year entirely human-powered quest to circumnavigate of the world.
These are just some of the amazing feats of human endeavour that the 20 speakers at Oxford’s Night of Adventure recounted in lively and impassioned voices in a bid to capture and inspire our imaginations and deliver their heartfelt profound message:
Just do it. What your mind can conceive, your body can achieve.
But surely, that isn’t it all there is to adventuring?
My mind can conceive of several escapades that my body would be more than happy to help it achieve – say drinking an ice cold G&T on every beach in the world, or dancing on a float in the Rio Carnival. Yet, these frivolous escapades simply don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, qualify as adventurous.
So what then does qualify as adventurous? Here’s what the experts said:
1. If the activity your mind has conceived seems completely crazy, dangerous, unachievable, and impossible to you on first reckoning, then bingo, it’s an adventure.
2. If your friends and loved ones tell you that you’re crazy and that your plan is impossible, then bingo, it’s adventurous.
3. If your mission will be mentally and physically challenging and scares the living crap out of you, then it’s most definitely adventurous.
4. If your mother calls you crying, saying “Why are you doing to this me?! What have I done to make you do this?!”, then bingo, it’s adventurous (Note: if you happen to have a Jewish mother, this last point does not count, and simply means you haven’t called her in over a week).
On the other hand:
If you have purchased a Lonely Planet or similarly insipid guidebook = not adventurous.
If you have made any kind of sleeping arrangements, or indeed, made any plans at all for your proposed expedition beyond the logistics of moving yourself and your preferred gear to your starting destination = not adventurous.
And if you have packed more than you carry on your back, on your bike, in your kayak, on your motorbike, or strapped to a donkey = not adventurous.
Based on these criteria then, an adventurer is someone who is willing to ignore their better judgement, the advice of friends and loved ones, the tears of family members, their heart palpations, and a general sense of foreboding, to head off on an unplanned, unscheduled journey into the unknown.
Sound impossible? Well, duh.
But don’t fret, this isn’t a quantitative science. You don’t need to scale Mt Everest blindfolded, or unicycle the Grand Canyon to be adventurous. You don’t need anything like the stamina of Ranulph Fiennes, nor even the digestion ability of Bear Grylls.
You only need to do something that you find crazy and impossible; something that challenges and scares you. And there’s an added bonus: you don’t even have to go somewhere exotic to do it. You could just pogo-stick your way to work, or bicycle to every football game for a year. Anything really!
So come on, get off the couch, and go now! Do something challenging, scare yourself silly and have an adventure.
As for me, my adventure starts tomorrow with something that is perhaps not so challenging, but nonetheless terrifies me.
I’m going to have to negotiate peak hour on the London Tube.
Wish me luck!