As I made the awesome snap decision to turn my already planned speaking tour of the UK into a month long cycling adventure with lots of silly rules thrown in for good measure, I realised I’ve formed some great habits over the years that help me live an adventurous life with fairly minimal effort.
As a result, this year is shaping up to be one of busiest, most exciting, and fulfilling years of my life, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to write my first ever listicle (something I’ve avoided so far because they seem to have multiplied like rabbits all over the internets and as a result I’m starting to frame all of my thoughts in helpfully numbered lists! When did we forget how to read, people?!).
I’m going to turn this into a bit of a mini-series because I think each of these habits deserves a lengthier discussion in their own right, so I’ve tried to keep the detail brief. Let me know what you think at the end, especially if you have any other habits that you think I’ve missed.
1) Build freedom into your life
There is adventure all around us, all the time, but a lot of us have lost the freedom of mind, time and movement to pursue that adventure.
Be free of mind. Foster a mindset that values freedom above things like security, wealth, or prestige (by all means pursue all three of these things but do so in an effort to attain greater freedom and not for their own dubious merit).
Recognise your own power of choice, your power to change and direct your circumstances to allow you to live according to that value.
Break out of the mental straight jacket that advertisers have had you wearing since infancy, and remember that adventure does not require huge investments of time and money into training and equipment.
Create more free time, or flexibility, for yourself. Be self-employed, start your own business, negotiate flexibility into your job so that you can take long weekends of afternoons off.
Be free to move. Don’t get into debt, contracts, careers, or relationships (either with people or concepts such as the need to impress your peers with your fancy new car) that are not obviously worthy of the sacrifices they demand of your freedom of choice and movement.
2) Choose where you live
If you live in a city the chances are that your living expenses (rent, transport, entertainment, even food) are considerably higher than they would be if you lived somewhere else, and that – except for the very privileged – your wages do not reflect that difference anywhere near adequately enough.
By sheer brilliant good fortune, that somewhere else is not only a much cheaper place to live (meaning you can work less if you want), it is probably also much closer to exciting outdoorsy places like national parks, crags, clean rivers and mountains, making it cheaper and easier to go and enjoy them!
Of course you don’t need to limit yourself to your country of birth, and living abroad can be an adventure in it’s own right. I am an extreme example of this as I base myself in 2 or 3 different countries or places each year trying to find the right mix of cost, lifestyle, and ability to get work done.
(See #1 above if you think you can’t choose where you live).
3) Plan your year with adventure in mind
Check out this post to see my process for planning my year. You’ll see that adventure is in my list of seven areas of my life that I think of as important enough to plan specific goals. Doing so means that I am far more likely to actually pursue those goals instead of just dreaming about them.
For instance my running goals have already helped me have a tonne of cool experiences and meet some lovely people (and I have loads more planned), and I’m forcing myself to actually take holidays and weekends off because I’ve stressed their importance to me at the start of the year (my default position is workaholic).
4) Nurture your own view of yourself as an active, curious, adventurous person
I call myself an explorer because it helps me live according to values and goals that are important to me. Start viewing yourself as an adventurous person and you will be more likely to do adventurous things.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
5) View all travel as an opportunity for adventure
The one that inspired this post. On my way to Indonesia I’ve decided to fly out of Mumbai so that I can run a half marathon even though it means a full extra day of travel and a ridiculous race in the middle of monsoon season. It’s going to be awesome.
You can sleep on top of hills instead of in hotels, take the train instead of the plane, fly into a different city than your actual destination and take in the sights before travelling by local bus to get where you need to go.
It doesn’t matter that you can afford to sleep in a nice hotel: choose to use Couchsurf or AirBnB because you’ll meet new people. Same deal with local vs luxury transport. If it’s uncomfortable it’s more memorable and memories are worth way more than numbers in your bank account when you’re on your death bed.
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“MAKE BABIES WITH ADVENTUROUS PEOPLE”
“…if you can find a partner who shares a love of adventure then you are far more likely to spend the thousands of weekends you have together outdoors instead of shopping for cushions or drill bits”
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6) Hunt out & recognise the adventure on your doorstep
There really is adventure everywhere and I commend Alastair Humphreys on his marketing of Microadventures as a way of encouraging people to get outside more, sleep on hills, take new routes to work, and generally inject a bit more adventure into their lives.
Choosing where you live with care means you can multiply your choices, but the actual opportunity for adventure is really the same for everyone – it’s the number of hours, days and nights that you are alive and healthy enough to be active.
I would certainly agree that a night helping scientists search for river toads in a rainforest is a lot more adventurous than a night sleeping under a duvet in your back garden, but that doesn’t diminish the act of sleeping outside in your back garden!
7) Make friends (and babies!) with adventurous people
This might be the most important tip of all. Most of us like to spend at least some of our free time with friends, so if your friends are happy doing the same sedentary things every weekend or whenever you hang out with them then that’s what you’re going to spend a lot of your free time doing as well.
By all means encourage your friends to go and spend a night in the woods with you, but don’t be afraid to make new friends. Join outdoors clubs (running, rowing, mountaineering, climbing) and societies (the RGS, Explorers Connect), go to talks by adventurers and events about exploration or the outdoors. Pick a hobby and pursue it.
You’ll not only be inspired by the people you meet, you’ll be organising trips and adventures with them in no time, and instead of watching football over a pint, you’ll be reminiscing about the horrendous weather you just survived while sleeping out on a cliff top in just your bivvy bag.
As with friends, if you can find a partner who shares a love of adventure then you are far more likely to spend the thousands of weekends you have together outdoors instead of shopping for cushions or drill bits.
8) Make things harder than they need to be
This is a general rule that can be applied to most of the rules above, especially #5 about travel. But once you’re comfortable bivvying out, try sleeping outside without a sleeping bag. Don’t just cycle from Lands End to John o’Groats – do it without any money or try to give a lecture about climate change and the fossil fuel industry every day of the journey.
This idea is the one that injects the kind of creativity and humour into adventures that makes them even more memorable than they would be otherwise.