Nice guy and leading US writer and adventurer, Ken Ilgunas, author of the superb Walden on Wheels, (and with whom I went on an adventure down a tunnel in Scotland) was kind enough to send me his thoughts on adventure.
-Adventure evolves. What was once adventurous may – with repetition – become mundane. The professional skydiver who daily tumbles into the air is as much an adventurer as the secretary who daily reorders her filing cabinet. Inversely, the agoraphobic’s walk across the street could be just as intrepid as the astronaut’s first leap across a lonely planet.
-Adventure is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t matter what it means to other people; just what it means to you. What may seem like a sorry adventure to some (some simple road trip), may, for someone else, bring about a flurry of wild, pre-adventure ecstasies, perhaps as intensely as those felt in the breasts of explorers before their most daring expeditions.
-We know a journey will be a proper adventure when we not only feel frightened by it, but recognize its potential to spur personal growth. That which merely frightens us (i.e. bungee jumping, skydiving) is more a cheap thrill than an adventure. An adventure, or a true adventure, rather, also represents some chasm within us that must be bridged. It must confront the very beasts that haunt our dreams, block our paths, and muffle the voice of the wild man howling within all of us. It’s an opportunity for a psychic breakthrough. This adventure will not necessarily transform us into someone else; rather, it can show us who we’ve been all along.
-Adventure is the exploration of the unknown. The experienced hiker/climber/traveler may very well experience adventurous moments, but he is no adventurer. The naïf, rather, must relentlessly conjure courage and conquer fears. The climbing guide or common seafarer function as machines, reading the manual of routine that repetition has imprinted in their heads. The naïf explores his self as much as he does the land around him. It is he who, in bounding over unexplored terrain, reshapes the contours of his mind.
-The true adventurer is a paradox. He is self-centered, yet sacrificial. Living for others is eclipsed by his need to live for himself. Yet, his very life comes secondary to the fulfillment of his dream: his mind is so fixed on his prize that he is willing to forfeit his life to attain it. That’s because his dream is more precious than his life. Could it be that it is this hellbent resolve that has populated the distant islands of the Pacific, put men atop previously-unclimbed, cloud-covered peaks, and sent the European explorer sailing along an arc of an endless ocean? His self-centered dream could be everyone’s salvation.
-No matter how mapped the world becomes and how much wildness gets paved over, adventure will forever exist because we’ll always have the boundless and one-of-a-kind wildlands within ourselves to explore. -To some degree, naiveté, though a shortcoming in most any other situation, is a prerequisite to adventure. (Stupidity can be an outright asset.)