Lonely Planet Writer

The adventure of travel

I was inspired to write this blog post by a friend's plan to walk/ski solo from Russia to Greenland via the North Pole. This is my attempt to understand his dream, which is a nightmare to me; for him it's a big adventure, for me it's a huge case of masochism.

Image by treasuresthouhast

First off, adventure is very subjective. One person's adventure may be another's tedium. It is typically associated with risk to one's self, but this isn't always the case. The common element in all examples of adventure is its excitement. No one says they are having a boring adventure.

Image by Prince Roy

So what's exciting about an adventure? The trusty Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of adventure as 'based on Latin adventurus "about to happen", from advenire "arrive"'. What is arriving? Adventure is the arrival of the new. Almost all travel is an adventure to some degree in the sense that it is going somewhere different.

Image by Rodrigo_Soldon

The 'new' is a challenge to your way of life. Of course, this can happen in your hometown or Cape Town, just as long as you are experiencing something unknown. The ultimate 'unknown' is death. It is, as Hamlet says, the 'undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns'.

Image by Mark Broadhead

While even the most adventurous among us don't wish to experience this particular 'unknown', in Hamlet's 'To be, or not to be' soliloquy there is also this line: 'For in that sleep of death what dreams may come'. Freud famously said that dreams are wish fulfillment; we dream of pleasures that we wish to come true. However, he later corrected himself with traumatic dreams (eg where the dreamer relives painful experiences - psychological or physical). Rather than believing that people longed for trauma, Freud saw the repetition of these traumatic experiences in our dreams as a means to master them.

Image by Mark Broadhead

This is how I see adventure. Rather than submitting to tedium, adventurers engage with the unknown, of which death is the ultimate example. They master their fears rather than succumb to or destroy them. But even saying this is saying too much, for an adventure doesn't have a definitive goal, like a quest. They are as unique as the person who experiences them, whether it is walking from Russia to Greenland or walking in a strange city.

Further reading: the freedom of travel.

Get a whole 12 months of thrills in A Year of Adventures.