Some say those who journey into dangerous places are ‘stupid’ and I won’t argue with that description. ‘Nuts’ is another popular adjective, and ‘crazy douchebag’ packs a nice punch, don’t you think?
I admit that I’m all of those things.
But I’m also a big coward.
Whenever I hear someone say, “You’re brave!” I look over my shoulder to see who else is in the room. “Wait — you’re talking to me?” I’m just a normal city girl who loves good design, frothy cappuccinos and boutique shopping.
When challenged beyond my comfort zone, I cry, shake, grow nauseous, and ride the porcelain bus. Even small everyday things scare the hell out of me, like speaking on the phone, or weeding the garden. (Snakes! Spiders! Snails!) Acrophobia, agoraphobia, thalassophobia, ophidiophobia —paste an ‘ophobia’ on the end of any string of letters and I’ve probably got it. I could power a city with my anxious energy.
But still, I embark on big adventures. Here are some reasons I return to dangerous places for repeated doses of terror:
The best destinations are not in brochures.
If I’m willing to go through some sheer terror, then a world of opportunity opens up. No longer am I limited to bus tours, gentrified destinations, Club Med, drunk backpackers, and tourists in thongs. I can go anywhere at all. Destinations that require a little hair-raising danger to get to are most often crowd-free, intact, and all mine.
Adventure makes everything beautiful.
When I arrive on the other side of pure hell, little things I usually take for granted feel amazing, like breathing, eating and not being dead. A mug of tea is warm liquid bliss. A bed transforms into the fluffy clouds of heaven. A hot meal with a glass of wine is orgasmic. Nothing is ordinary when I’m charged with the static electricity of being alive.
Safety is not in numbers.
Humans have a tendency to congregate in crowds. Ever notice how, if you walk just five minutes along a busy beach, you’ll have a large expanse of sand all to yourself? I once read about a ship that sank because, after a nonfatal collision, the terrified passengers instinctively huddled together on one side of the ship and their collective weight rolled the ship and sank it, killing many. People often die on Everest, not because of falling, freezing, or lack of air, but because human traffic jams prevent them from moving quickly to safety. Perhaps we share chromosomes with sheep, but flocking is a redundant instinct (except in rare circumstances). It’s when I separate from the pack and brave the elements alone that I find the empty expanses of beach all for myself.
Bonds form quickly when danger is involved. People who pursue adventure tend to be stripped back of the usual numbness that swathes our safety-obsessed society. Those who adventure are not always fearless, but they don’t let fears stop them. They’re realistic about their eventual mortality, which makes conversation raw and genuine. This honesty allows deep friendships to form quickly. The usual filters used to find friends —age, job, possessions, wealth — aren’t there, because sharing an adventure is the bonding factor. While sailing the Pacific, my very best friends were in their 60s.
I never regret it.
No matter how big the challenge is, no matter how much I suffer through it, I never regret having taken it on. I’m buoyed by a lasting sense of pride from knowing what I’m capable of. If I can do that, I can do anything. Life becomes easier.
Being scared isn’t a valid excuse.
I’m lucky that the people in my life don’t let me get away with shying away from challenges because of fear. “I’m terrified,” is most often met with, “Hmm. So when are you leaving?” As much as I try to use fear as an excuse to avoid danger, nobody buys into it. In my household, “I’m scared” holds as much importance as the dog’s farts.
Do you like adventure? Why / why not?