Every journey we take has the potential to inspire, challenge, shape and teach us. These journeys can be as simple as a walk in your local park to a major expedition across oceans and to the top of mountains. It is important to note that we are talking about outdoor journeys in this article, although there is incredible value in exploring the world and your life from within your own mind and your own home. Today we want to talk about the range of benefits that outdoor exploration and journeys can provide us and what we believe to be the most powerful regions of discovery.
There is no doubt that the magic starts from the spark of an idea and continues through every single stage of the journey - from planning logistics to the physical undertaking of the adventure to sharing your story with the wider world. Both of us have done our fair share of adventuring around the world - we’ve climbed mountains, canoed rivers, sailed oceans - but we’ve also explored and enjoyed our local backyards, parks, beaches in the UK and Canada. We hope this will inspire you to see adventure everywhere you look and will encourage you to undertake journeys of all shapes and sizes as well as reflect on those you’ve taken already. They truly are one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in your life - so let’s get exploring.
As you travel through a new environment filled with unfamiliar smells, sights, sounds and faces - one of the first regions of discovery is cultural. People, whether it’s in your local town, a global city or a mountain village half way across the world, are fascinating. Their lifestyles, behaviours, values and also their connection and relationships to one another and the world around them often appear magical and vastly different. Exposing ourselves to different cultures is one of the most rewarding parts of travelling and adventure. It’s a chance to experience and learn about different ways of living and interacting with the planet.
But it’s also an opportunity to reflect on your own culture. The version of the world you grew up in, that’s shaped you and the culture you choose to, or currently, live in. If you are coming from cultures similar to ours - urban city centres or even small towns and villages in North America or Europe - very often with international and remote expeditions, you will have the chance to experience cultures and communities that have a very different worldview and relationship to one another and the environment around them. We encourage you to be open, curious and respectful to other cultures as you plan, experience and share your journey. This can be one of the richest and most fulfilling aspects of your adventure and if given the chance, it has the potential to shift and shape your thoughts, behaviours and approaches to all or many aspects of your life.
Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons we as human beings undertake journeys, is to experience far off places and new environments. Our need, or in most cases, is to discover and explore the world is deeply rooted within us. However, as anyone who is planning an adventure will soon realise - there are fewer and fewer “new” places to discover and so we must be innovative and creative in the ways that we approach journeys.
Instead, we think there is a different form of discovery - not of “new” spaces and places - but instead, the discovery of Environmental awareness and connection. Anywhere you travel will be new to you. Never forget that. But the way that we experience these diverse ecosystems and environments matters - we encourage you to take journeys that will demand a close interaction with the ground, water, flora and fauna of the place you are exploring. This direct and intimate experience allows us to reflect on the interconnectedness of the world and our role within that wider web of relationships.
When you experience different cultures, one of the most fascinating aspects is how people around the world relate and act toward their environment. As mentioned in the cultural piece above, if you are from urban areas, towns or villages in North America or Europe - despite your best efforts and intentions - our societies have become increasingly disconnected from our ancestral environment. When we experience cultures that rely on nature to stay alive, like the Yukon, or we rely on the environment to keep ourselves alive on remote expeditions, we tend to reconnect to the planet and learn or re-learn that it provides everything we need to not only survive but to thrive! In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, it accounts for human need but not for human greed. This return to simplicity and direct reliance on the environment around us often creates and strengthens our connection to the world.
When reflecting on adventures we’ve undertaken, both of us agreed that the region of Personal discovery is undeniably interwoven and creates the foundation for all other regions of discovery. But, there are aspects of it that deserve to be separately explored. We believe there are three distinct parts of the personal experience of journeys that are powerful and enlightening to the adventurer. These are Psychological, Physical & Spiritual aspects, and they can be seen as smaller internal journeys within the trip as a whole.
The psychological journey you experience when on an expedition or adventure will often be characterised by your interaction with other people (or lack thereof) and yourself. If undertaking the journey alone or as part of a team, each will have it’s own sets of strengths, drawbacks and psychological challenges.
When adventuring as part of a team or alone, we have the opportunity to learn in-depth and first-hand about interpersonal relationships with others and our selves. When travelling with others, you tend to learn very quickly about people’s likes and dislikes, annoying habits, skills, characteristics and things you can learn and teach one another. What’s actually most powerful about experiencing journeys with other people - in some cases under pressure and in life-or-death situations - is that it provides us with a valuable opportunity to reflect on all of these different aspects in ourselves and how we show up in the world.
As with mental resilience, physical resilience plays an equally integral and interconnected role in adventure. Just as you train physically for endurance and the challenges you will face - so you train your mind.
It is so important and educational to listen to your body when you are on a journey. Your safety and health must come first, but learning the difference between a life threatening exhaustion and just “feeling the strain” is vital. Obviously, you wouldn’t head out on a 3-month canoeing expedition having never canoed before - that’s a no-brainer. However, it is the training of your mind alongside your body that can make all the difference. It will allow you to understand when you have gone to far (and are putting yourself or your teammates at risk) or knowing when there is more gas in the tank and you can push further. It is amazing that on expeditions, people always surprise themselves with their ability to physically and mentally overcome obstacles when needed. This is a sign of good overall preparation.
This is an aspect of the personal journey that takes different forms for different people, but it is an integral part of any expedition. For some it is feeling a greater connection to a deity or a closer connection to nature and the earth - this is an aspect almost always experienced in one form or another. We encourage you to be open to this - to feel it, explore it, explain it to others if you can and talk about how it affects you. It may be moments shared with your teammates, or on your own. It may be a view that takes your breathe away or a feeling of complete calm as you sit by the fire. It may be the case that your exposure to other cultures will also create or enhance your spiritual experience while on your journey. In cultures that have strong beliefs about deities, spirits and the earth - your likelihood of having a profound spiritual experience are increased. Above all, seek your own version of this and if you choose not to seek it, at least be open to it finding you - we are confident it will.
One of the most incredible parts of being on an any journey is the physical and psychological spatial separation from everyday stresses of money, commuting, work, social media - to name a few. Expeditions and journeys allow us the gift of survival and simplicity. Our main tasks for each day are getting from Point A to Point B and living to tell the tale. It’s a pretty liberating experience - but as with any adventure not without it’s moments of fear and frustration. However, the challenges faced out on adventures have very different manifestations and are often simpler than what we face at home - in the sense that they can and need to be dealt with straight away. There is no ignoring blisters on your feet when you are hiking for 9 hours a day, just as there is only one way to deal with a confrontation between you and your teammate. You don’t ignore things, you don’t procrastinate. you solve things and you solve them as fast as you can. No time for anything but forward movement. It’s a glorious approach to life that we’ve unfortunately become unfamiliar with.
As you undertake a journey, there is guaranteed to be at least one moment where you feel breathless with the vastness of the world, how small we all are and how short our time is here. For some it might be bobbing on a sailboat in the middle of an ocean, for others it might be sat on the edge of a cliff staring over endless swathes of pristine forest, or maybe it’s just lying in your tent listening to the rainfall around you. Regardless, these are magic moments. The piece of space and time when you have a choice to make. You can choose to see yourself as insignificant and powerless or you can choose to try and understand where you fit within this world and explore your sphere of influence. This is the influential region of discovery.
These moments are an opportunity to reflect and understand that your actions inspire others. We believe that ninety-five percent of the people you inspire in your life you will never know about. This is the curse but also the blessing of the modern world - we are increasingly connected yet disconnected. You can reach people with your stories of adventure and meaningful thoughts - yet most will not let you know that your actions shaped their values and behaviours. So just as we shape others through our experiences and stories - we are shaped ourselves. There are many interwoven and empowering experiences that join together to create the larger journey - your journey. We encourage you to be open to the magic that happens when you choose to adventure and please allow yourself to explore all of these regions of discovery.
We promise you won’t regret it.
This post was Co-written with Geographer and Filmmaker, Jen Pate. You can find out more about Jen at www.jenniferpate.com and www.windmill-lake.ca
Pic (1) Credit: Tom Long