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I’ve been hooked on the idea of adventure since I was a kid.
Like Indiana Jones, I wanted to explore the world in search of wild adventures in foreign lands, narrowly escape from crazy encounters, discover long lost secrets, and search for buried treasure along the way.
Two decades later and nothing much has changed! I now travel the world full-time trying to make those childhood fantasies come true.
As I’ve spent longer on the road, though, I’ve realised that travel and adventure aren’t the same thing. You can’t just go travelling and expect to have an adventure.
Sure, you’ll see awesome things, go to incredible places, and meet lovely people.
Those things are a given. But adventure, as I understand it, isn’t.
If you’re wondering how to have an adventure, there’s a bit more involved. Adventure’s always on the menu when you travel, but you can’t just snap your fingers and expect it to land on your plate.
It’s all too easy to stick to the safety of the tourist trail and have a perfectly pleasant time. Nothing more, nothing less.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s just not an adventure as I see it.
For me, adventure’s a visceral experience. It’s the rough and tumble that comes from being totally clueless in a foreign environment. It’s the wild unknown that terrifies as much as it tempts you. And you don’t get there by staying safe.
You find adventure at the edge of your comfort zone, down the path less travelled, and in the chance encounters you happen across along the way.
Wondering how to have an adventure on your next trip abroad?
I’ve looked back through my personal travel experiences and come up with 8 tips that I think will help. Sound good? Keep reading!
1. Lean Into Fear
Being scared isn’t nice.
So it’s natural that most of us try and avoid fear at all costs.
Do that too much, though, and life gets a bit boring. You go to the same restaurant every time. You follow the same route to work every day. You visit the same countries on your annual holiday.
And so on.
Life becomes ordinary. Alas, anything short of extraordinary rarely features in the spirit of adventure. The best method I see to experience adventure, then, is to lean into your fears.
That’s where the magic happens. On the other side of fear lays greatness, and all that jazz!
I think adventure requires shock. You have to shake yourself out of your habits, routines, and from the underlying need for safety and security. And that’s scary.
Don’t do it, though, and you can only have an adventure if it happens to you. In other words, you’re reliant on the world delivering adventure to your door, which is far less likely- especially if you’re sticking to safe and well-trodden paths.
Leaning into fear is a key skill for grasping any possible adventures at your fingertips.
2. Take Some Risks
This point leads on from the last.
Risk and adventure go hand in hand. Think about any of your favourite adventurers (real or imagined). They all have a willingness- sometimes even a propensity- to take risks, right?
They jump out of aeroplanes, climb mountains, explore caves, step off the beaten track and take a devil may care attitude to their personal safety.
And they have adventures as a result.
I think there’s a direct correlation between your willingness to take risks and the likelihood of adventure. I’m not saying you have to put yourself in harm’s way all the time, just that accepting danger (of one kind or another) lends itself to something transcendent.
I mean, where there’s risk there’s reward.
Look at the stock market. The more risk you’re willing to take with money, the more you stand to gain (and to lose, of course). Being overly cautious on the road is a recipe for having an ordinary time.
3. Say Yes
So say yes more than no.
Remember the Jim Carrey film ‘Yes Man’? He plays a character who forever says no to things and lives a miserable life as a result. One day he decides to start saying yes to everything instead, and has a tonne of crazy adventures (along with getting into a fair amount of trouble).
The trick is to know what to say yes to.
For example, go for a drink with someone you just met at the hostel? Yes. Go for a drink with the strange man in the dark and scary alleyway? No.
Sleep in a mosquito net hammock in the middle of a jungle? Heck yeah! Sleep in the jungle without a guide, map book, or compass? Probably not.
Make yes your go-to response though. ‘Yes’ should be the starting point whenever an opportunity presents itself. From there, stop for a second to think it through rationally for any potential trouble.
Get into the habit of responding to possibility in the affirmative and adventure is just around the corner.
4. Put Down the Guidebook
Guidebooks are genuinely useful when you’re on the road.
You learn where to go, what to do, and how to get there. You get told where to stay, where to eat, and how to act. You get an insight into what a place has to offer without learning the hard way.
But that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Sure, it’s easy. Guidebooks makes decision-making on the road far more straightforward. You see a limited set of pre-verified ‘expert’ suggestions. You know that whatever you pick will work out okay.
You also know you’ll pay more.
After all, those recommended places can guarantee a steady stream of people coming their way. The prices go up as a result.
That aside, though, and it makes having an adventure difficult. Adventure and instruction manuals don’t really go together. They’re polar opposites.
Adventures are about risk; manuals are about mitigating it.
Be sure to set your guidebook down every once in a while. Explore a neighbourhood for yourself. Wander the streets, stop at the monuments and points of interest along the way, and be willing to get lost and give stuff a go.
5. Turn Off the Internet
The internet makes travelling easy.
More so than a guidebook.
With a computer in your pocket and access to the internet at all times, there’s no mystery to the road. And mystery is part of the fun.
Of course, it’s also part of the challenge.
With no internet and guidebook, you won’t know the best places to eat, the main attractions in a destination, the primary mode of transport for getting there, and so on.
It’s like stepping back in time.
All of a sudden you have to ‘talk’ (or sign, grunt, and play charades) with the locals for answers. You have to go to tourist offices and ask for information. You have to make mistakes, get hot and bothered, waste time, eat foods you don’t like, unwittingly violate local customs, pay more than you ought to, and walk into any other kind of trouble.
That, right there, is the fun of travel.
It’s those errors of judgment and unfortunate mistakes that you’ll remember and tell your grandkids in years to come. Do things the easy way and you’ll get home with no scars to show. And there’s nothing adventurous about that.
Turn the internet off. Disconnect as much as you can and where safe to do so. Adventure awaits!
6. Talk to Strangers
The best adventures I’ve had while travelling have involved other people.
I don’t think I’ve ever had an adventure worth talking about by myself. That’s not to say it won’t happen for you, it’s just that being with other people seems to increase your chances.
If you’re travelling solo, then everyone’s a stranger to begin with.
And, sooner or later, you’re going to have to talk with one of them! Make it sooner.
Not only will the people you meet make your trip so special, they’ll also become lifelong friends. And, on top of that, they might be better at embracing adventure than you.
They’ll suggest stuff to do that you hadn’t thought about, or wouldn’t have crossed your mind.
They’ll persuade you to do stuff you might not want to (which isn’t always a bad thing).
They’ll push your buttons, rub you up the wrong way, and wrestle your neuroses to the surface for all to see. That might be an adventure (or an education, at least) in itself.
Get talking to people. Be the first to say hi, and remember to say yes when they ask if you want to do something cool! If there’s one thing better than an adventure, it’s sharing the adventure with others. And for that, you have to talk to strangers.
7. Don’t Think Too Much
Paralysis by analysis.
It’s adventure’s kryptonite.
You can think and think and think yourself into oblivion. Thinking makes you cautious. It’s your brain piping up to make you respond rationally to a situation.
A cautious personality combined with uncertainty in the moment almost guarantees negative thoughts.
Thinking makes you turn your head from fear instead of jumping into it. Thinking makes you run away from risk instead of accepting it. Thinking makes you say no instead of yes. It makes you pick up the guidebook, turn on the internet, and ignore the strangers who might help.
Don’t think too much when you’re travelling. You want just enough to keep you safe, but not so much that you’ll stop yourself entering into adventure.
8. Go Somewhere Totally Different
It isn’t all about you though.
The environment plays a role in the potential for adventure too. Some countries and destinations are more likely to provide adventure than others.
Going somewhere you speak the language, understand the culture, know the food and have experience with the transport systems makes travelling far easier. And that ease can mean you’re fighting the tide in search of adventure.
Likewise, going somewhere with a reputation for order and conservatism, or that’s typically frequented by older holiday-goers (or even retirees) might make adventure harder to come by too.
In the same way, you could choose to go somewhere totally foreign.
Pick somewhere on the map you’ve never even heard of and know nothing about. Pick somewhere that makes you scared or has a reputation for chaos. Adventure is easier to find when there are fewer rules in place to stifle them.
Read more: The Best Places to Visit in Pakistan
Exactly How to Have an Adventure
Wondering how to have an adventure and see travel as the answer?
It definitely can be! But you can’t guarantee it.
In my experience, finding true adventure on the road comes down to your attitude, your decision-making, the people you meet, and a fair dose of luck. Approach your travels in an open and unguarded way, and it’s far more likely to happen.
Hopefully, this post will prove useful in your hunt for adventure, and on the road in general.