Here's How Adventure Makes Your Life Better (And Anyone Can Do It)

While waiting for the elevator down this morning, one of my neighbors happened to walk by. He looked at me holding on to my bike with my yoga mat slung over my shoulder and carrying my visor and sunglasses. He said, “It looks like you are going on an adventure.” I said, “Why yes, that is exactly what I’m doing.”

I call myself The Adventure Therapist, so I must be in to skydiving and rappelling from cliffs, right? Nope. Terrified of heights. Probably won’t ever jump out of a plane. Definitely not into roller coasters, either.

Merriam-Webster defines adventure as “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks or an exciting or remarkable experience.”

The beauty of that definition is that it is subjective. “Danger” and “risk” can mean significantly different things to each one of us. To some, it can mean riding a bike down a highly trafficked street. To me, swimming with sharks seems dangerous and risky. But my perception of that experience would not be exciting or remarkable.

What’s the point?

I want you to subscribe to my theory that adventure can be used as therapy. That living a more adventurous life can decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Help you feel more fulfilled, more alive, more purposeful, and help you feel that you’re ‘living life to the fullest.’ (Whatever that means. Another highly subjective phrase.) So what is your version of kicking life up a notch?

When you hear the word “adventure,” what do you think of?
Climbing Mt. Everest? (Why can’t it mean going for a 2 mile hike in your state that you’ve never done before?)
Navigating a foreign city? (What about navigating Omaha, Nebraska?)
Backpacking alone in Europe for 2 weeks? (Have you ever tried going to dinner alone?)
Ziplining in Costa Rica? (When was the last time you climbed a tree for the hell of it?)

Adventure is not only for the completely fearless thrill-seeker

As a blogger, I have to be on social media whether I like it or not. And naturally I follow a lot of ‘adventure’ themed IG-ers. I realized that I was starting to feel intimidated by all the extreme things other people were doing. And then I was - shocker - second guessing myself. How can I be The Adventure Therapist and not even be willing to try bungee jumping when there’s this guy in the Grand Canyon literally doing pull-ups while hanging off the edge of a cliff?

Because it doesn’t matter.

It’s not about exactly what I’m doing, but the underlying concept. It doesn’t matter what your adventure looks like, as long as you are experiencing your definition of adventure. Awakening your senses in some way. Opening your eyes to new people, places, and things. Doing something differently than you normally would. i.e. Ride your bike instead of driving. Getting lost (which I did in Paris once. Great story now - not so fun at the time). Trying something new. Having your breath taken away by a view. Discovering. Wandering. Learning. Experiencing. Taking your version of a risk. Doing something that is your idea of dangerous or exciting.  There is a perspective shift that happens when you are standing at the top of a mountain you just climbed.  An understanding that there is something bigger and more meaningful than the hundreds of small, meaningless things we waste precious mental space and energy on.

When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. Adventure is what you make it. And whether it’s the travel, the discovery or just the feeling of letting go, the only way we’ll ever find out is to get out there and do it. Enjoy the ride. - Travis Rice, kick-ass snowboarder.

Adventure is also not only for the rich. I have been lucky enough to do things like get lost in Paris (again, didn’t feel very lucky at the time). But not everyone has the means to go all over the world in search of the risky and remarkable. But if it’s world travel you want, try working with a volunteer organization. Habitat for Humanity. A mission trip. Literally just do a Google search for “volunteering abroad.” You’ll find pages of options. Just remember while you are searching, it’s easy to make excuses.

Maybe you don’t have the time to go that far. Fair enough. Stop harping on what you can’t do or wish you could do, and start brainstorming what you can do. I find it adventurous to bring my yoga mat to a park and practice outside instead of in a classroom setting. It’s something out of the ordinary and routine, and something that feels freeing and liberating. For me, it counts. Instead of a normal dinner date-night, how about packing a picnic and going to your favorite outdoor spot? Cliche? Sure. But how often do we actually DO this stuff? Most people say they want to live and feel better, but don’t do the do-ing part. It doesn’t have to be complicated or extreme.

I think we can get to a place in our lives where we think, “Well, this is it. This is just how it is.” And maybe you are content with that. But if you want more, you can have it. We get wrapped up in what other people are doing, especially on social media like I did, thinking that if we want to live an extraordinary life it has to be extreme. Experiences are relative. I grew up in a very small town called Chesterland, Ohio. (Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like.) The most adventurous thing I did as a kid was play on a swingset. One thing I’ve always wanted to be able to do is ski, especially in really beautiful places like Jackson Hole and Telluride. But I’m in my 30’s and have never even tried on a pair of skis. (Unlike my best friend’s 2-year old who mastered the art of going downhill on her own last week.) So given my lack of previous experience, this particular “adventure” would absolutely include bunny slopes.

Food for thought. Do you remember the scene from Good Will Hunting where Sean (Robin Williams) talks to Will (Matt Damon) about the Sistine Chapel? Here’s the recap:

Sean: Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me... fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?

Will: No.

Sean: You're just a kid, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about.

Will: Why thank you.

Sean: It's all right. You've never been out of Boston.

Will: Nope.

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.…

That line has resonated with me since the first time I saw the movie in 1997. It made me want to see everything I could see, and go everywhere I could go. To take all the roads, traveled and less traveled. There is no substitute for experience.  Travel has been my adventure of choice. Life enhancing, with a lot less risk of stitches and broken bones. What is yours?  At some point you will have more years behind you than ahead of you.  What are the words you would currently use to describe your life?  Think about that, and then ask yourself how you feel as a result.  Making life better has a lot to do with your attitude and belief system. It CAN be different. And YOU can do it. It’s about having a journey, not comparing your journey to anyone else's. Whatever your adventurous side craves, listen to it.  

Be an active participant in creating a life that feels happier.

 

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