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The Seven Laws of Adventure

Law 1: adventure is a decision

You decide to post a letter. You decide to go out and post a letter dressed as a giant chicken. One is very definitely an adventure. Does that mean an adventure is just another word for a new experience? Maybe. But as soon as you repeat it, it ceases to have the adventure quality. This is why thrill sports can soon cease to be adventurous- the addiction is to the thrill, not the newness of the experience. 

Law 2: some kit can help create an adventure

If you have the ‘right kit’ you can get to some interesting places. If you have ropes you can go climbing, if you have a kayak you can go down whitewater. But kit can be very limiting too. You can tell yourself you can’t do X until you have the right boots or tent. I met a guy who wanted to spend £10,000 on a landrover in order to ‘have adventurous times’ with his family. Imagine how many trips you could make for £10,000? What he imagined was that merely owning a Landie put you in a ‘zone of adventurous possibility’. Just having the ability to go offroad, even if you didn’t, felt good. It was like having a military watch when you worked in an office. The zone of adventure isn’t actually adventure though. But being in the zone can get you involved in adventures as you are now edging towards the right mindset. So a big bit of kit can SOMETIMES be the right decision. It’s a hard call. When you have developed a better adventure mindset the lure of kit is less. You realise you can do things with homemade kit or cheap stuff bought on ebay.

Law 3: An adventure breaks new ground


You go on a walk for the first time- it’s an adventure. You go on the same walk a second time, it will be less of an adventure. Or maybe not one at all. Breaking new ground is essential.

You could break new ground by doing a journey in a different way. In a way ‘breaking new ground’ is the essence of innovation. You have a worthy hunch, a pretty good inspiration and you try it out; the whole experience is an adventure.

Either the challenge, or the solution to the challenge involve creativity.


An adventure sets up a challenge. This means solving a problem. The problem could be ‘which way to go’. Or it could be ‘get over this obstacle’. Or it could be ‘make this journey in a new way’. The solution could be pure luck, or a great inspiration, but it cannot be purely automatic. An adventure can occur when we deliberately limit ourselves, make things hard for ourselves. Jason Lewis spent 13 years going around the world by human power alone. No engine or even wind power allowed. This limitation created lots of problems he had to solve creatively, thus generating a vast quantity of adventures.

Law 4: an adventure takes you out of your comfort zone

Adventures can happen indoors but they usually don’t. We live indoors and this is our comfort zone. A luxury hotel is great after an adventure, but the adventure won’t happen there: it’s a comfort zone par excellence. Thrill riders like to stay in a mental comfort zone- each thrill must resemble the last. Whereas the adventurer wants to put him or herself in a place where you can’t predict exactly what you’ll experience. This place is always a little, or a lot, outside your comfort zone.

Law 5: Adventures cluster together 


Adventure can be like hitting a roll on the roulette table. You never win on a regular basis. It’s either feast or famine. When you have one adventure, when you are in an ‘adventure mindset’, then you’ll have many more. You’ll start putting yourself in places where more adventures are likely to happen, but equally as important, you’ll be looking and seeing possibilities that you missed before.

For outdoor adventure, the less uniform the terrain, the bigger the adventure cluster, the more remote the terrain the bigger the adventure cluster. 


I spent three, three month periods, crossing northern Canada by birchbark canoe. On the first section there were no rapids and one big lake crossing but we were in a very remote place. On the second there were two sets of big rapids. On the third there were rapids, lakes, ascent and descent of rivers, transporting the canoe over mountains and hiking to the sea. The third section was the most adventurous even though it was less remote than the first. Less uniform terrain trumps remoteness- but only just. Remoteness can be defined by distance from other people. This includes satphone distance. If you are rowing the Pacific but satphoning home everyday you are not remote in one sense.

Law 6: Set out without knowing where you will sleep that night.

This really is the essence of adventure. This is why a simple hitch hike over night can be more of an adventure than a carefully planned expedition. On exepeditions the adventures are caused very often by the cock-ups. With no planning of where you sleep you up the adventure level considerably.

Law 7: On every adventure there will come a point when you have to trust yourself

This is connected to being outside your comfort zone. You have to trust yourself and not a rule, or someone else. Most of us, when we get outside our comfort zone, repeat behaviours that worked inside our comfort zone. Or we ask for rules to follow- usually safety rules. But what you really have to do is develop self-trust. You need a nose for a good direction, a right choice. You can hone this by making instant decisions in situations where you won’t be too harshly punished. If you note your first feelings about some decision see how it pans out: was your hunch right?



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