Would you like to live more adventurously? To have more unusual, exciting or daring experiences? To be willing to take risks or to try out new methods or ideas? I know that I certainly would.
Living Adventurously need not be about rowing oceans or crossing deserts. Rather it is choosing to approach every day with an attitude of curiosity, excitement, purpose and adventure. Amongst the frustrations and limitations of real life, I have a yearning to do a little bit more with my days. Becoming consciously aware of wanting to squeeze the juice from every day is the important first step.
1. The Doorstep Mile
The hardest part of any journey is beginning it. We would all like to exercise more, be more creative, cycle across Siberia in the middle of winter (OK, maybe not the last one!). We know what we want, but it can seem so daunting, such a different world to our present situation. I used to be critical of myself for how pathetic I felt about this struggle. But then I learned a Norwegian phrase which eloquently explains that the longest mile of any journey is stepping across your doorstep and starting. They call it ‘The Doorstep Mile’. I realised that this is a challenge we all grapple with! So ask yourself, ‘what is my Doorstep Mile?’, the first step in the direction you want to go. It has to be something so incredibly small that you have no excuse not to do it right now.
2. Conquer Fears and Barriers
I’d love to travel the world, but I don’t have enough money. I’d love to paint watercolours in the woods, but I don’t have time. I want to run my first marathon, but I am too old…
Almost before we have finished dreaming of living more adventurously, this voice in our head starts shouting us down! Some obstacles are genuine, but often they are just excuses to take the easy option, an opt-out clause that avoids the risk of failure, funny looks from people, or having to make any actual effort ourselves. Try replacing “I can’t” with “I choose not to” as an interesting thought experiment for clarifying whether a barrier is real (and needs a wayfinding around it) or whether it is merely our fearful selves thinking that “people like me” can’t do stuff like this.
“I can’t afford to go backpacking” // “I choose not to spend my money on a backpacking trip.”
“I don’t have the time to paint in the woods” // “I choose not to use my time to paint in the woods.”
“I am too old to enter a marathon” // “I choose to use my age as a reason not to enter a marathon”…
3. Find out what you Love. Then Shrink it
My head has always been full of big plans. “I’d like to cycle around the world one day!” “I’d like to write a book one day!”
So it is only recently that I have realised that many people struggle to clarify their big dreams. Apart from the imposter syndrome mentioned above, one regular problem is the paradox of choice. There are so many wonderful ways to live our one wild and precious life that the prospect of missing out on so much leads to a paralysis that results in doing nothing at all. You can do anything in life, but you can’t do everything. Once you accept this, you can begin to make a choice. So choose one thing — just one thing — that would help make your life more adventurous. And then shrink it to make it immediately achievable.
If you want to travel the world’s wild places for years on end, begin by having an overnight micro adventure on a work day: leave the office, escape the city, sleep on a hill, get back to your desk for 9 am. This helps you overcome inertia, build momentum, and figure out if this is actually what you enjoy. It also gets you into the mindset of living a little more adventurously every day within the good, solid, sensible framework of real life. Living adventurously is not a choice between being a crazy vagabond or a very boring person with zero interests outside of a job you hate.
4. Shrink it Even More!
You’ve come up with your massive dream. You have shrunk it to a realistic weekend-size so that you have actually done something, not just talked about it in the pub. Now you should shrink your ideas even smaller so that they can become part of the everyday. What version of your adventurous life can fit into your lunch break? Get out every day and take photographs on the street, go to the park and climb a tree, dare yourself to busk on the high street for 20 minutes… You can totally transform the narrative of your days, and the way you perceive yourself through actions as small and regular as these.
5. Think Laterally
For almost two decades my understanding of ‘adventure’ was ‘ride bikes, run up mountains, paddle rivers!’ Eventually, however, I realised that I was so accustomed to these exciting activities that they no longer filled me with nervous excitement and uncertainty. To get back the feeling of risk, doubt and thrilling trepidation I needed to look very differently at adventure. So I took up violin lessons and, seven months later, walked out one midsummer morning to try to busk through Spain with no money or credit card. It was one of the most terrifying and thrilling experiences of my life!
6. Remember the Feeling
Taking the first step towards living more adventurously is hard. The Doorstep Mile defeats most people. But once you have coaxed yourself to begin, remember the feeling! By inclination, I am not a particularly bold person. But through repeating the scary first step time and again, realising it was not nearly as hard as I had anticipated it would be, and relishing the reward that came from taking action, I have built a habit in myself of always looking to try to take the more adventurous option in my daily life. Doing so has changed my life very much for the better. A tiny everyday example: the thought of having a cold shower is horrifying first thing in the morning. But the memory of how exhilarated I feel after a cold shower, how the rest of the day now looks easy by comparison, and of how damned ALIVE I now feel, has helped me build a brief, daft daily habit of a burst of morning cold water torture!
If you are anything like me, you are a sucker for reading blog posts like this. ‘Ten Ways to Improve Your Life!’ ‘Here’s how to get huge muscles without exercise!’ and so on. The trouble is that I read them, think ‘I should do that’, and then never get round to it.
So as a final attempt to encourage you not only to try to live a little bit more adventurously every day but also to get on with today — right now! — visit deathclock.com. It is a wonderful website that very kindly calculates the date of your death for you. Stick the date in your calendar as a reminder that life is short, and that we should get on chasing our dreams straightaway. Good luck!
Alastair Humphreys is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and the author of ‘Microadventures: local discoveries for great escapes’