It’s the siren song of our website, the irresistible call of the wild. Life’s about getting outside and making the most of every minute, right? But what happens when you don’t want to go on an adventure, even a microadventure, or simply can’t? Our Editor Tim is finding out.
I shared a text post ironically the other week. Anyone who knows me, knows just how juxtaposed this is with my actual lifestyle.
The thing is, this harmless post got me thinking about the challenges of the last few months. It got me thinking about the rhetoric of the site and how it applies to our readers. It got me thinking about privilege.
Often, when I’m chatting to people, they get this far off look in their eye.
‘Man, you go on so many adventures, your job is so cool.’
I’d often try to correct them. I work 9-5 at We Are Explorers and my adventures have been mostly self-funded. Adventure, I thought, is there for anyone willing to take it.
But I’ve stopped correcting them now.
The first thing I realised was that, despite mostly funding my own jaunts, whether they be surfing road trips, chossy multi-pitch climbs or multi-day backcountry skiing missions, the job was still offering me a lot that I was taking for granted.
Access to free gear and pro-deals, a boss who was happy for me to take some negative leave, a job that inspired me to get out and chase the outdoors. Though small, these things were making it easier for me to head out on the weekend for a no-reception rendezvous than it is for the average Joe.
But it still didn’t seem like quite enough. Was my ability to get out, weekend after weekend (and sometimes on weeknights) really that special? I was starting to get imposter syndrome.
The goal of We Are Explorers is to ‘inspire a movement of everyday explorers, capture the spirit of outdoor adventure and amplify the beauty of the natural world.’ My job as the Editor is to understand that audience of everyday explorers and inspire them to get out there and make the most of it.
Well that wasn’t going to happen if I thought everyone was a bit lazy.
Adventure is a privilege in many ways. You need to be healthy, you need disposable income, and you need time. Privilege is a big reason why adventure is so white and the outdoor industry is so male-dominated. It’s more available to you when your life is less challenging. In fact, there’s a big argument that the reason ultramarathons and similar endurance events are becoming so popular in the first world is because our lives are becoming so easy.
It’s a bit of a contradiction, surely on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs going out on adventures would sit near the non-essential top. But isn’t spending time in nature a physiological need? And do we need hardship, contrived or otherwise, to truly thrive?
It took a few events (and maybe a bit of growing up) to realise how lucky I was, and how lucky we all are, every time we step out the door for an adventure.
My Mum Got Sick
My Mum’s just pushing 60, but a few years ago she started acting strange. After a raft of appointments, we eventually determined that it was Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a rare neurological disease that’s kind of like Parkinsons, but worse.
As the disease started to get serious in the second half of last year, as my parents have moved out of the family home into a nursing home and I’ve seen my Dad’s sadness as he loses a life partner, suddenly adventures felt like an indulgence. I felt guilt every time I wasn’t with them. I deleted countless Instagram posts that simply reinforced the myth that everything was fine. It wasn’t, and no one’s life is perfect, but I was feeling this one a little more.
Other times, I just wanted to lie on the couch. Or water my plants and go to a cafe. And I felt guilt there too – shouldn’t I be making the most of every moment? I wasn’t depressed, but more than ever I felt the need to recharge. To simply be, and enjoy the small interactions that make up a day – even if it was just to prove that they were still there.
Sometimes, it feels like my world is on fire. That’s dramatic, but the metaphor holds. Fires don’t just burn you and leave. They keep hurting, and consuming, and you feel powerless to stop them.
The Country is on Fire
As the bushfire disaster began its march across the east coast, making our air unbreathable and threatening the homes of our loved ones, it became harder to bring the same energy to my writing.
The guilt was seeping in again and every post about swimming under waterfalls and road trippin’ in a van suddenly looked insensitive. Why should we be so lucky? It wasn’t just our website, across the board, good-time nature publishers and tourism boards have had to soften their message. It’s incredible how quickly these places were taken away from us.
Once the danger fades we’ll head back to our wild places. Some will recover, but others will be forever changed.
One thing’s for sure, we can’t take these things for granted. Australians and New Zealanders are lucky to live in such stunning natural environments and have the leisure time to enjoy them. But both of these things are fragile and need to be cherished. It’s not enough to simply enjoy time spent in pristine nature, we need to give back; volunteer, protest, and get politically active, because the environment can’t defend itself.
It’s About Balance
Ultimately what I’m discovering is that it’s about balance, and finding one that’s fair to yourself and the people around you.
Spend time hiking on the weekend, but spend time with your family on others. Get up and chase a sunrise swim, but don’t feel bad for enjoying a sleep in either. You might even try and keep your microadventures really local and low impact, and only jump on a plane for really special occasions.
There’s a framework I’ve seen bouncing around the web that suggests making time for one microadventure a week, one regional adventure a month and one extended or international trip a year. Sure it’s a bit contrived, but it really gives you an intentioned way to plan your trips.
And intention is important. Because being present is important to really value what you have; without guilt or vacuous desires dragging you off the ridge and down into their gullies.
Adventure is a privilege, use it wisely.
Feature photo by Tim Ashelford | An off-track hike in Yerranderie that has now been burnt