There’s an old saying about writing that I just love: there’s no story without trouble. Funny how the same goes when it comes to having a true travel adventure.
I was lucky to hear America’s leading cultural anthropologist and adventurer, Dr Jeff Salz, speak about how adversity is the key to having a true travel adventure.
His theory is that easy times are the enemy. Adversity is a gift – it wakes us up from our everyday existence. The key to adventure is how we deal with this adversity – to return from the pit of despair and face our challenges with a joyful heart. By rising to the challenge and committing to being the best that you can be, you’ll not only have an adventure, but you’ll also become a better person and have a transformative travel experience.
Dr Salz is a fascinating man. His eagerness to express the joy of travel through his own amazing experiences make him instantly likeable and incredibly inspirational.
When Dr Salz was young he wanted to climb Mt Fitz Roy – one of the world’s most technically challenging peaks for mountaineers. He and his friends attempted the epic hike and climb but tragedy struck while they were abseiling down one of the treacherous cliffs – one of his best friends fell to his death. This ended Dr Salz’s first foray up Mt Fitz Roy, but started his lifelong quest to conquer the mountain. After multiple attempts, he’s yet to complete the task, but he’s not giving up.
“I don’t think the ghost of Fitz Roy is done with me yet,” he said.
After he told us this story, he went on to explain how he turned a road trip through Nevada into a travel adventure, simply by setting himself the unrealistic goals of seeing snow in spring and a real-life cowboy. His story was made even better by the fact that, before the end of his trip, he somehow did both!
With this as his context, he explained how every journey can be an adventure, and outlined his theory in six steps:
1. Leap before you look
This involves taking risks, stepping out of your comfort zone, following your hunches and seeking activities outside of what you would normally do.
2. Aim high
By envisioning and setting an unrealistic goal, you’ll push yourself to greater heights.
3. Give it all you’ve got
Through teamwork and generosity of spirit, you can achieve your goals. Work with your travel buddy and the people around you to enjoy all that your journey has to offer – and more. Always give more than you plan to receive and you’ll be amazed at how much you get back.
4. Work some magic
Think outside the box, allow for opportunity and magic will happen – you just have to be receptive to it.
“Interesting opportunities when travelling are dancing instructions from God,” says Dr Salz.
5. Keep in your bearing
Practice compassion and empathy with those around you and be ‘present’ in your surroundings. By doing so, you’ll experience a life outside of your own – even just for a short while.
6. Enjoy the view
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, take stock of the moment and you’ll be amazed at how much is actually going on around you that you would normally not notice. Reflect on your situation and express gratitude for what is happening around you – even if it is just to take a moment and smile at the view. There’s a reason for the adage ‘smell the roses’.
The beauty of these steps is that you don’t have to be on a holiday to exercise them. According to Dr Salz: “In truth … that’s where the real adventure lies, is smack dab in the middle of life. Nowhere else …”
So there you have it, the key to having a true adventure, straight from the mouth of one of the world’s foremost adventurers. And the best part is that every day can be an adventure. Will you take his advice? I certainly did. But that’s another story for another day.