What Is Adventure Anyway?
Not all adventures have to be exciting and death-defying. Or a tough slog. Or any of those things you see so many people posting on their socials. Adventures can be easy and low-key and they can bring something equally as fulfilling into our lives.
Sometimes we get so caught up in doing the ‘big things’ that we lose sight of the everyday things that can bring so much joy.
In our hiking world, we see people striving to achieve that harder or longer hike. And that is awesome! Nothing wrong with wanting to do this at all! Here at Summit Strength, this is what we love helping our clients to achieve. But what I sometimes see is that on the way to their goals, they become so focused on the end game that they sacrifice the joy of other things along the way. The little adventures that are so good for mental and emotional health.
If you’ve ever been forced to stop hiking for any reason, maybe through illness, injury or life circumstances, you might recall the sheer joy you experienced on that first hike back. Your senses were overloaded! You noticed the glistening dew on the trail, breathed in that crisp mountain air, listened to the wind whispering through the trees. You noticed how your body moved. All the things you’d not realised you’d missed. But then, as you became stronger and got back into the routine of training and hiking, you started to take those things for granted again and didn't even notice them anymore. Sound familiar?
I’ve recently returned from a hiking hiatus of sorts. I have to say, it's been quite the revelation! A couple of years ago, I was training for a multiday hike; my first ever. I trained hard. And I loved that feeling of being strong and able to do things I’d not been able to do before. At that time, more often than not, you’d have found me looking for the next hard climb as I wanted to push myself to see what I was truly capable of. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting those personal challenges; they can be life-changing! They were for me and will likely be for you too. But somewhere along the way, without me realising it, my adventures became all about that without incorporating any of the gentle, feel-good stuff that had attracted me to hiking in the first place.
A couple of weeks ago, I took myself off on a short hike, my first in months. No loaded pack, just some water, a snack and my first aid kit. I strolled. I stopped lots of times to look up in case I could spot koalas in the treetops. I wasn’t thinking about elevation gain, aerobic zones, pack weight or any of that stuff. I don't think I even looked at my Garmin! I spotted some wallabies. We chatted for a while. Well, I chatted; they looked at me with bored curiosity. I noticed the amazing formation of the trees and the stunning colours and patterns of their bark. I lifted my face to the sun and basked in the golden light after many months of grey skies. I finished that hike feeling amazing! Fulfilled and full of joy. What an adventure! And not a huff or puff in sight!
Last week, I took a fab group of women along with me on a hike that I’d done a million times before in one format or another. However I’d moved away from the area recently so this was like returning home. I knew the hike itself was going to be longer and harder than I’d done in many months. I’d been struggling with ongoing covid issues which had led to a considerable reduction in my fitness. I was a little anxious because I didn’t know how I’d go. I thought the adventure would be in just getting through that hike. But no, the adventure was what happened in a short section of that hike.
There was a section of track we walked that I had walked 5 years previously with my daughter. It was ANZAC Day 2017. The day I did my first ever hike. On that day, we rose before dawn and made our way to the Dandenongs (Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne). It was so misty we could barely see a few metres in front of us. The sun was only just beginning to rise and that was when the forest took on a life of its own. Birds began to sing and the early morning sun lit up a sea of autumnal leaves of gold and red. We saw a lyrebird! My first experience of seeing one in the wild. This hike was life-changing. It was the hike that got me hooked on hiking.
So when I walked through that small section of trail with the gals, I was transported back to that time 5 years ago. I felt all those feels again. I was back in 2017 and seeing it all with new eyes.
I didn’t share any of this with the group. It was a moment I wanted to keep for myself. A very special memory that I felt would’ve been lost in the telling at the time. This was my adventure; it was an adventure in my head and in my heart and soul. It didn’t have anything to do with the many hills we climbed or whether I was able to finish that hike.
Don't Forget To Have Fun!
Your hiking adventure might not look like what you think it ‘should’ look like. It might be what the hike represents rather than the hike itself. It might be a 500 metre walk after you've been ill or finally got that wretched moon boot off. These are milestones and awesome adventures in their own right. They are worth celebrating!
Also as adults, we tend to forget how to play. Bring the fun back into your hiking. Or just into your life in general Playtime isn’t just for the kids! We need it just as much, at times, even more!
During Covid lockdown, people became creative with what their adventures looked like. Often, these adventures were more about mental health than physicality. Our adventures saw us discovering our own neighbourhoods which we’d often previously driven through on our way to somewhere else. We walked around the streets and found parks and gardens. Spoonvilles! Teddy bears in windows and chalk rainbows on footpaths. We connected with our neighbours. Interacted with our urban birdlife. We engrossed ourselves in the online streaming of birds nesting, penguins coming ashore. These were our adventures and they filled our souls when times were hard. For many, those adventures opened up a whole new world. And, although the pandemic is still with us, there’s been a return to a kind of 'normal'. Which also means that many of us have already forgotten about those small adventures that fed our souls so wonderfully in the previous couple of years. What happened? Why did we let them go? They can nourish us and keep us grounded. Bring them back!
Now, I’m not saying that the big gigs aren’t important adventures. Pushing yourself physically and mentally can be such a trip! The adrenaline rush and the buzz from ticking off a goal is pretty intoxicating. This is why I’m here, working for Summit Strength. I love working with our clients and helping them to achieve their big ticket adventures. I love seeing them progress and start doing things they never thought they could do. But sometimes, when training for the big adventure, we forget to do those small things that feed our souls. I did this. I trained hard for the Overland Track. I achieved that and then I wanted harder. Pretty much everything that came after the Overland was a personal test. And, yes, I loved it! But I wasn’t stopping to smell the roses. These days, I'm keeping up with the training because it helps me to achieve hikes without injury and fatigue and I know I can head off hiking at the drop of a hat. But I’ve returned to a more balanced approach. And I love this new added dimension to my life.
Let me share with you some examples of what some of my clients do to create mini-adventures. One, a nurse, travels between different locations to see her clients. Her job is hard, tiring and can be emotionally challenging. She keeps a hammock in the boot of her car. When she has time between seeing her patients, she’ll find a park, string the hammock up and take some time out by relaxing in the hammock. Such a small thing and yet, wow, how effective! An awesome little adventure to recharge the batteries. Another client has a picnic on her shorter hikes. She leaves all the stuff in her car, hikes for an hour or so and then sets up a veritable smorgasbord of gastronomic delights on completion of her hike! Others I know really embrace their mindfulness hikes. Again, these hikes don’t have to be long. A short stroll through nature, stopping often to close the eyes and engage the senses. Listening to the sounds and breathing in the scents of the surroundings. Another client walks to a local park from her home, meets with a friend, wanders around for a while and then they sit on a rug and paint beautiful paintings on small canvases. I’ve taken to throwing my little hiking stove in my pack along with some coffee and a snack and my hiking chair. I prefer this to taking a thermos of coffee because it just feels more fun. I started doing this during lockdown and I’ve kept doing it. I might only be doing a short walk to a local park but it feels like a real adventure!
So, what I’m getting at here is, don’t lose the joy. If Covid has taught us one thing (well, it’s taught us much more than one thing!) it’s that we never know what’s around the corner. Enjoy the small things. Make time for them. If you have a training session scheduled but you’re simply not feeling it, give yourself permission to bunk off and go on a mini adventure instead. It might re-balance you. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did and you might even find it to be so uplifting that you start to incorporate it into your everyday life.
Do you take yourself off on fun adventures? I'd love you to share the things you do to keep the sense of adventure alive.
About the Author
Andrea is a coach with Summit Strength, who specialise in helping hikers get strong and pain-free for their adventures.
At the age of 54, she discovered a real passion for hiking. But she also discovered just how limiting physical fitness and pain can be on the trail.
After signing up to one of the Summit Strength signature programs, she discovered just how much of a difference the right training can make to a hiker's enjoyment and comfort on their adventures. She knows that the journey isn't always easy and 'life' can sometimes impact on our training goals. She shares her insights and experiences with us in her blog articles.
These days, as an Online Adventure Coach with Summit Strength, she helps hikers all around the world get fit, strong and resilient for their adventures.
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Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.