I’ve been asked a lot about what I do and the benefits of adventuring, travelling / being outside in nature for our mental and physical health. It’s not easy to provide a simple answer.
So I’ve set myself the task, to begin to unpack this in a few key points, in order to provide an answer based on my own personal experience and perspective of a well travelled 56 year old white man brought up in a western value system.
I invite you as the reader to consider your own thoughts from your unique experience and perspective too, so that together we can shine a light on some universal, and perhaps not so universal benefits.
My hope is that this will be useful, especially to anyone wondering about how they can look after themselves better amongst all the noise and stress of life.
#1:My lived experience tells me that Adventure, small or big, is a revolutionary act of freedom
"To adventure is to leave our safe harbour and set sail into the unknown. It’s how we grow and get to know more about who we are."
In 1992, inspired by Michael Wood, the travel writer, I packed a small shoulder bag, and travelled solo through India. It was a life affirming challenge. I developed cultural competency and plenty of grit! I’ve since learnt that that same grit can be developed by sleeping in a tent in a local wood!
“Adventure Revolution” by Belinda Kirk is an excellent read and provides empirical evidence and plenty of inspiration on the power of an adventure challenge.
#2: adventure can happen anywhere
Experience tells me that Adventure, as John Muir says, is really also about going in. This connection, when it happens, is really one of the rare freedoms we can experience on a day to day basis.
"The beauty of deciding to go on an adventure, particularly one that involves an immersion in nature, is that you don’t decide to go, you just do!"
Slowing down with the natural sounds and rhythms of nature really helps us to find precious moments of awareness, so crucial to allowing us to make real choices. In this way we can say that adventure in nature is a powerful teacher. It’s not always a comfortable experience, but perhaps a necessary one.
Around 15 years ago I wild camped in Dartmoor, UK. Natural silence, a bed of moss (occasional tree root) , a canopy of wise old dwarf oak trees and stars gave me the deepest and best sleep ever! At the time I was going through a difficult end of my marriage, so a deep restorative sleep was priceless! Many years later this experience inspired our WILD24 Adventures in Dartmoor.
To appreciate the value of nature connection and natural silence, have a watch of this beautiful short film called “Sanctuaries of Silence,” featured on the Global Oneness Project.
The Global Oneness Project aims to encourage young people to broaden their perspectives and worldviews while fostering inquiry, empathy, resilience, and a sacred relationship to our planet.
#3: Adventure strengthens meaningful relationships
While I love and value solo adventures I strongly believe that adventuring with others is a great way to strengthen relationships.
Undertaking a large or small adventure with friends and loved ones really creates a shared experience so important for bonding, building trust, creating meaning and a sense of achievement. A simple walk in the local countryside can be hugely mood enhancing and creative. I’ve found I talk more freely and as time slows I listen better. I believe I even measure the passing of time through my solo and shared journeys. Powerful stuff shared adventures.
I’m so grateful for the cycling adventure to the Barcelona Olympics from Oxford and back with my oldest buddy Darren. It took our childhood friendship into adulthood.
My wife (Carrie) & I walked the length of our local long distance walk (Ridgeway), which helped us connect to and develop a love of our local landscape.
With Josh I climbed Mt Toubkal in Morocco. It was on our long descent that The Living Project was conceived into the world.
I’ve recently moved to a new country. Once again running and cycling adventures are helping me make new friends. In adventure I trust.
#4: adventure is an essential tool for growing up and staying young
My love of travel, adventure and getting outdoors into some wild places has led to wonderful opportunities to lead others and earn a living. I have seen first hand how beneficial adventures are, particularly for young people.
The Children & Nature Network believe that the well-being of children and the wild places we love are inextricably linked in a myriad of ways.
"For young people stepping safely outside their comfort zone, into the wild, develops resilience, confidence, life skills and can give a powerful new sense of what is possible."
Imagine never having climbed a hill to summiting a mountain, never having responsibility to manage a team and finding a voice and confidence to lead others. Imagine overcoming fear and knowing you can and did survive with the help of others. Imagine really feeling the wild, so much that you start to feel you are really wild nature yourself.
Once you see this you can’t not see it and only one thing remains, to get back out on an adventure and take others with you!
There are many organisations that will take young people on safe adventures in and to wild places. I've worked with some great people and organisations, World Challenge, Wilderness Expertise & Borderlands Sri Lanka. At The Living Project we believe that adventure is an essential tool for growing up and staying young.
#5 you don't have to go far to go on an adventure
Adventure is not always about going far. Adventure can take place in your own home / garden or local area.
During the great sequestration, we were unable to go far, so we adapted.
For me this period coincided with a shock cancer diagnosis (3 years on I'm still fit and healthy). Once the shock subsided I decided to review my physical and mental wellbeing and to take action.
I set myself a target of running a 100K Ultra Run, despite some well meaning advice. My main aim was to just run slow, to leave my front door and spend hours exploring new places around the beautiful Wiltshire Downs & Ridgeway. I’ve always run, but it has been about going fast and times. I believe I benefited greatly from this experience over a period of two years.
It lifted my spirits, it connected me with nature and ancient landscapes and it gave me meaning. Of course I got fitter and stronger. Ultimately I was able to share the 100K Ridgeway event itself (self organised) with my family and friends.
Alongside this I began daily breathing & cold water immersion as instructed by Wim Hof. I believe that this dual practice really kept me strong and relatively illness and injury free. I call this an inner & outer adventure.
In summary, my lived experience has confirmed that Adventures are good for us
Adventure is a revolutionary act of freedom.
Adventure can be big or small, local or in far away wild places.
Adventure, as John Muir says, is really also about going in.
Adventure is a great way to strengthen meaningful relationships.
Adventure in wild places is important for the well-being of young people and the future protection of wild places.
So, what is my perfect Adventure right now?
I want to experience a wild landscape, which means one that engages all my senses in a myriad of ways...
"To see an expansive wild landscape without visible modern technology. To hear the silence of nature, such as the creaking of tall tree branches in the wind, a cuckoo call and human voices. To taste the salt on the wind and foraged bitter flowers. To smell the moss and damp earth beneath me as I slowly drift off to sleep under a canopy of stars.To feel the invigorating cold of a gently flowing natural river and warmth of sparkling fire embers."
When Josh and I dreamed up and launched The Living Project into the world, we set a powerful intention, not a goal, but a seed that contained all of our values and beliefs about life that could guide and inspire us. This is what we arrived at.
"Go on, plan an adventure."