On July, 20 1969 viewers all around the world watched spellbound as grainy pictures, beamed back from space, appeared to show a man descending a short ladder as he steps onto the moon.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong, as he became the first person ever to foot on a celestial body other than Earth.
The events of that day still cause ferocious arguments up to the present day. What is clear though is that the purpose of mankind is to explore; to push the limits on what we think is possible.
I would argue that 1969 was the last year of the “Age of Exploration” which started centuries earlier with the Spanish and Portuguese. That was the last big “first” that humans have achieved.
So are there no more big adventures to be had?
I think adventuring is now seen as some old relic of the past, as if it’s some waste of time. I think adventuring is central to human growth.
It’s not about going into the unknown to discover a new island, or a new species of monkey; those times are mostly finished.
It’s about setting a challenge for yourself, and seeing it through.
A great example of this is Wilfred Thesinger. Famous for his travels throughout Africa and the Middle East; he was known to adopt the living habits of the locals he traveled with.
In 1946 Thesinger became the first westerner to cross the “Empty Quarter” on the Arabian Peninsula. The Empty Quarter is known as one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, with sand dunes towering over 1,000 feet, and temperatures reaching over 130 degrees fahrenheit.
While recalling the first time he drank water without the need to ration it he wrote:
“For years the Empty Quarter had represented to me the final, unattainable challenge which the desert offered…To others my journey would have little importance. It would produce nothing except a rather inaccurate map which no one was ever likely to use. It was a personal experience, and the reward had been a drink of clean, nearly tasteless water. I was content with that.”
It is not about getting that perfect Instagram picture; adventure is an internal journey.
Now am I expecting everyone to go to risk their lives out in the desert to find adventure? Of course not. I don’t think that every experience has to be a worlds first; they don’t even have to be big.
Wherever you are in the world, there is someplace not too far from you that you want to see, but for one reason or another you haven’t. Start there and build upon that.
Breaking free from the rat race is difficult, but if you truly want to live a fulfilling life, I think it’s a necessary decision.
In a letter from Chris McCandles to his friend Ron, he writes the following:
“I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
If you haven’t read or watched the movie “Into the Wild”, I highly recommend you do so for some inspiration. While his story ends tragically, that doesn’t mean that yours has to as well.
If you’re ready for some big adventures, you can find these nearly anywhere:
• Skydiving – cliche, but man is it a rush!
• Scuba diving – A totally different world down there.
• Camping – No phones!
• Hiking – Find a trail, like the Appalachian, and go for a few days to see how you like it.
• White-water rafting – Or it’s little brother canoeing.
Modern technology has done an incredible job of connecting us, but we are more lonely than ever before. You can explore the Amazon and the Himalayas with google maps, so most people don’t even bother leaving the house.
The number one issue for nearly everyone is cost. Yes, it can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. The month I spend in Thailand cost less than a months rent back home. If you truly want to live an adventurous life, it’s within your grasp to do so. I will acknowledge that it isn’t for everyone though.
But for me nothing will ever replace catching the most stunning sunrise over ancient temples in Bagan; or swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines; or camping in Australia, surrounded by an army of kangaroos; or partying on a boat in Berlin for New Years Eve.
As kids it seemed like the world was one big adventure. You wanted to climb a tree, you found one and you climbed. You wanted to build a fort in the living room, you did it, and all your friends joined you. You wanted to stay up all night eating snacks and playing games, that’s exactly what you did.
But over time, people tell you to be realistic, to get a real job. The adventurous kid starts to give way to an adult with responsibilities.
Don’t loose that kid! The world doesn’t need more accountants; we need more people willing to take risks and challenge the status quo. We need more adventurers!