Adventure travel enriches our lives in so many ways, but why exactly do we return feeling so good? We turned to award-winning travel writer Bill Fink to sum up his opinions on why adventure travel is good for you.
Adventure travel pushes your limits, but doesn’t have to be extreme
You don’t have to summit Everest or wrestle an alligator–adventure travel of any level can provide a way to find your limits and provide a chance to push beyond them, ideally in a safe environment with expert guides. For some, the limit may be the psychological barrier of entering the crowded, teeming center of a foreign city. For others, it may be the anxiety of a first time camping outdoors. And for many of us, the adventure goal may be trying to conquer the shakes of actually surviving multiple days without Wi-Fi. Whatever the challenge may be, you’ll return home proud of pushing your limits to the next level.
Adventure travel gives you a story to tell—the journey is your destination
Adventure travel is about more than just snapping the Instagram-ready selfie at the summit. Adventure is the story of how you got there. The best adventures are the ones you can return home and share not a bragging list of achievements, but a meaningful tale of what happened along the way, ideally with some drama, humor, surprises, and insights mixed in. Yes, a photo of balloons floating over the mountains of Cappadocia, Turkey is pretty. But hiking there through local villages, drinking local raki hard liquor out of a sheep’s stomach canteen, stumbling through a soccer game with scruffy kids, losing track of time with a rug merchant until the guide’s dog Hashmet tracked me down like a lost lamb and barked until I returned to the group on the trail, and then I saw the balloons, now that’s adventure travel!
Adventure travel provides perspective about yourself and the world
One blazing hot, dripping wet afternoon, hiking over mountains through the rice terraces of the northern Philippines, I was soaked in sweat, the dust turning to mud on my face, leg muscles burning from effort, mouth dry from thirst, I felt I was bravely conquering a challenge few could match. Then two local kids, about eight years old came trotting past me. They were chatting away, gave me a cheerful “Hi Joe!” and continued up the hill carrying their school backpacks which were about half as big as they were. I stopped, stunned. My extreme expedition was simply their daily commute to the classroom. Adventures like this can provide perspective on just how easy we have it at home.
Adventure travel teaches new skills in surprising ways
This isn’t to say you’ll be using mountaineering or white water rafting techniques back in the office, but lessons learned during adventure travel can actually improve your regular life. For example, while on a rock climbing trip, stuck roped in half way up a cliff, I finally truly got it, that yes, the instructors were right when they said I should power my climb using mostly my legs, not my arms. Back home, unloading my luggage from my car, I heard the trip leader’s voice in my head: “Don’t yank with the arms, don’t pull with the back! Legs have the biggest muscles in your body! Use them!” And thus imagining I was conquering a 5.12 technical climb, I finally got my suitcase upstairs without wrenching my back. There are many other opportunities to train your mind body for regular life while out on adventures.
Adventure travel creates a team for success and life-long friendships
Adventures are not only more fun with friends, but teamwork can be essential for achieving your goal. Your adventure “team” is not only the staff helping make it happen—the porters helping with the gear, or the guide giving advice, but it’s also fellow trip-members sharing encouragement to get up that hill, or maybe even that Austrian guy who shares the bottle of schnapps he’s been saving for a cold night at the campsite. Shared successes (and failures!) are bonding experiences that last long beyond the trip’s conclusion. It’s about becoming part of an international club of adventurers with a common experience of travelling beyond the ordinary.
Adventure travel offers escape—a chance to tune out, unplug, and look inward
One of the best things about adventure travel is escaping the humdrum at home to experience exotic spots and do wild things. What seemed important and stressful at work just disappears when you are living in the moment descending raging whitewater rapids or clambering up to a jagged mountain peak. But in the immortal words of Buckaroo Banzai “No matter where you go, there you are.” So just as you take a step away from your regular life, tune out of your office stress, unplug from your computer in a distant land, you’ll have a better opportunity to reconnect with yourself, reassess what’s really important and return home recharged.
Adventure travel is good for you, and the world, too!
Many destinations defined as “adventurous” gain that classification because they lack the quality of life, the infrastructure, and First World comforts. Getting far off the beaten path often means you’ll be interacting with locals who lack the basic necessities that we take for granted at home. Done right, Adventure Travel provides jobs, training, and a line of work for locals in an environmentally friendly, sustainable industry. Friendly interaction with locals does wonders for promoting international relations, opening the world for others as they do for you. So when you’re on that next adventure trip, think not only of why it’s so good for you the visitor, but for how it can positively impact those who live there already.
Bill Fink is an award-winning travel writer whose stories have appeared in over 50 publications, including National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, and Lonely Planet’s “Best of Travel Writing.” Tales from his many hikes can be found at www.billfinktravels.com, and tweets from the trail @finktravels.