The Fifth Law of Adventure: Adventures cluster together
I have been on trips where the adventures were all in the getting there and then in the getting out. The event itself was a little sparse, a few days when it was almost boring, if a day in the Sahara desert 200km from anywhere can be called boring.
The destination, as we know, is less important than the journey. Indeed the destination can be a veritable McGuffin, laughable even. I know of someone who would drive eight hours to look at the Caspian sea, stay half an hour and drive eight hours back again. The journey is everything, especially since it is on the journey, during movement, that adventure clusters are more likely to happen.
Adventures cluster together, they come in runs, like poker hands, then there may be a blank patch. But when you’re on a roll, keep going. I suppose all this means is that they do not obey systematic and mindless rules (or laws like these) there is an element of vitality, of living process about any adventure.
An adventure is as much in your head as anywhere else. An adventure is a way of categorizing a new experience as something valuable, enabling growth in some form or another. Categorizing the same experience as a ‘nightmare’ is also possible.
Searching for adventure looks childish on the surface. A serious person would surely leave this to grown up boyscouts and slightly deranged exSAS men? But though many adventurers are people with slight, how to say, ‘adjustment issues’, the notion that adventuring is for kids is sheer baloney. Modern life has the capacity to be rather more boring than most previous eras in history. We live in an era which requires one to ‘opt in’ to everything interesting. If you don’t and rely on what the culture offers to everyone (TV, mass events, jobs, politics) you will be short changed.
Adventure seeking – in whatever guise – is a form of opting in to growth experiences. Or call them learning experiences. But they are also a form of nutrition that have no other utility than to keep us interested in life and all its possibilities. Have I sold it enough?
1. It’s all in the people
My best friend as a lad was a boy my own age called Stuart. Together we always had amazing adventures. We took canoes down impassable rivers, dug lengthy underground tunnels, halted a forest fire, and on one memorable occasion detected aliens from Mars on a crystal set. Well, maybe. The point was- we both believed adventures would happen, we had a naïve faith in them happening and by golly they did.
I had another pal, a good pal, called Shorty. Nothing ever happened with Shorty. We hung about, watched TV, built a den that fell down. There was no spark, no synergy, nothing came out of…nothing, which is what we ask an adventure to be: something coming out of nothing, a creative act. Oh, of course, there are the countless adventures when stuff goes wrong, but there is good going wrong and bad going wrong. Getting seriously injured is a very bad form of going wrong. Anyway, nothing went wrong wrong, good or bad with Shorty, it was just plain uneventful. Somehow we managed to earth each other’s vitality; we became ordinary. Ordinary as in bad ordinary rather than good ordinary.
Some combinations of people are better than others. People you get on with should work better, but don’t always. People who like risk taking- well, that sometimes works, but not always. People up for ‘a laugh’ are usually good. People who are good at talking to strangers are also very useful. Awkward customers and inventive types are often a good bet, but by far the most important ingredient is enthusiasm and an ability to roll with the punches and ride the snake, not to suddenly dig your heels in because you got cold feet.
2. Cluster in terrain/equipment
Some places are better than others. I’ve mentioned places before, the more varied the challenge the more adventures will tend to cluster.
The equipment: a mountain bike will take you places an ordinary bike won’t. A packraft promises a whole zone of possibility denied bulkier bigger craft. A wheeled pulk, used for crossing rough ground in between patches of snow gave me the idea for the wheeled canoe- a short plastic Canadian canoe with detachable wheels similar to those on an all terrain sack trolley (you need better ground clearance than with bolt on launch wheels). With correct loading the ten foot long canoe becomes your ‘wheeled pulk’ that you drag through the wilderness. You can then canoe lakes and run rivers far more easily than with a pack raft, thus opening up a whole new range of potential adventures. I have a friend who did something similar but towed the canoe behind a bike, then put the bike in the canoe when he hit water. The advantage with the wheeled canoe is the increased load you can carry, including if you like a sail that could double as a tarp.
3. Be in a rush
Cross Europe by hitching all through the night. Race someone to get by train to Dogubayazit. Pedal as fast as you can along Chesil beach, if you can. Being in a rush sometimes causes lots of adventures to cluster, but only when you are travelling with another or in a group.
4. Don’t be in a rush
And the reverse is also true, especially when one is travelling solo.
5. Go somewhere brand new
If you have never been there before, the adventure ratio will be higher.
6. Look out for new developments
Fat tyre bikes burst (is that the right word?) on to the scene about ten years ago. They created a whole new world of adventure around snow and sand peddling, allowing trips that just wouldn’t have been possible on a bicycle before.
7. Go back in time
Go mountaineering in a tweed jacket, leather nailed triconi boots, a long ice axe and a woollen pair of breeches. The adventure – both in actuality and in your head, will be greater.