I recently answered some questions to a phoney online blogger. The questions were slippery, and I stupidly wasted too much time. But I suppose, like any good load of bollocks, they got me thinking. At the heart of this was the leading question;
Beau, why are you an adventurer? First of all, am I? I have been asked this question many times before. Who is this person? Has the job description for ‘Adventurer’ changed over time? What defines me as this person, if indeed I fit this bill? It essentially resolves around the tension between others and myself. What others think; shadowy definitions of hard-case heros and heroines, in conflict with my own ideas of self. Others identify me (as least the role of the person undertaking some of my journeys) as an Adventurer. I’m not so sure. Maybe, the older I get, the less I trust the black white or byline below someones name. Am I comfortable with the badge? Blazing away life, slaying dragons, swashbuckling hazards through unusual and exciting experiences? I suppose it’s all about context. I’m reading a book at the moment set in a place and time of my grandfathers’ era. A time of young adulthood, Australia in the early 20th century. Richly described rural places surrounded by bush and dirt and small communities. To live in this time was a lot harder than my modern ways. They slept harder, walked longer, and worked physically tougher lives with less time off. Fistfights were common, as were food issues and a shortfall of education. Life was one long problem solving enterprise. Daily and never ending. Horse harness’s to be re twitched, boiler engines un-blocked, boots cobbled or axe heads married to a self-hewn handle. And (100 years later, perhaps romantically- like a modern day wine maker) they loved it. The rough and ready, practical existence. The accountability, reality. A week in their lives today would be considered an adventure to some. And highlights my point. Today I can head away and experience different ways of living, problem solve, travel long distances in a day, sleep rough and have difficulty finding food and water. Then tell of this tale as adventure. Really, its just living. And perhaps, like my grandfathers, one of the most enjoyable parts of life. A problem solving, physical way of day-to-day living and moving.
I suppose, to use another popular term; ‘action’ (a whole wing of the DVD store) is on telling us of extraordinary tales through ‘action’ living. Aside from the absurd blood/guts/shooting/heroics of the film characters, such an engagement in life should really be ‘normal’. Where we are all engaged in the pursuit of something a little edgy. More so, physical, and challenging. Some, I suppose, look for this more than others, or pursue it more in the modern era. And this is where I find myself, again in contrast to others perhaps, actively looking and pushing for these realities and challenges. And so, to position myself then in the contemporary world is where I suppose I can, and have to answer this question. Quite simply, I adventure because I hunger for a raw sense of newness; different ways to live a physical and practical life. New hills, mountains, coasts, horizons, people, culture and all the fine detail woven throughout.
It’s a big question, easy to answer in one regard as there is so much to see and do and test ourselves against. Harder, as I’ve touched on, when you compare this modern take on things to the life and times of our forebears, who had staggeringly less resources, geographic knowledge (in a 2 dimensional sense only) and outside support/networks/contingencies (all the things Adventure programming now has to have- in spades, before leaving the carpark), and who were hands down, braver decision makers in the face of all this. Is adventuring a recent trend or has it always been part of our human history? I teach this very question. It takes several weeks to brush over the particular eras of human history that have in some way shaped this idea of adventure. It’s a journey all-right; through the myths, travels, braveries, wars, explorations and expeditions. From the mythical ‘classical’ era of the Greeks and Romans, the Ilidad, Homer, Ulyssess, to the more tangible contemporaries of the Mercantile, Victorian eras. There is always a great risk for great reward; justice, morale, country, resources, power, respect, dominance. Larger themes were inherent before ‘self’ became a key driver. The existential outweighing the flag, or first, hardest or impossible. It has always been a trait of ‘what’s next’, what’s new’, ‘why not’. We now walk because of this.
The modern adventurer is a chip off our predecessors as explorers. Longer, less known journeys in the face of complete isolation, accountability and acute skills. We can certainly ‘push off’ this way now, with this form of detachment (to the outside world, and the deep knowledge of resource and security that this brings) but few of us do. I have not read as many adventure narratives as people think. Its all people think I do actually, and so often it’s all I receive at Christmas or birthdays- or at least did: Adventure stories. There are however some that are particularly haunting, or poignant. Lindeman’s solo voyages at sea are epic. And I mean epic. I have personally not touched, or ‘been to’ some of the human, and epically proportioned ‘world-at-scale’ elements Lindeman experiences, and describes, of his time at sea. Two crossings of the Atlantic shortly after WWII in vessels of similar size, capacity and seaworthiness to my own sea kayak. His ‘departures’- a term I use often for the human leap of faith into the unknown world of the sea, are what I consider amongst the most daring of our species. No doubt there are many of a similar caliber, but rarely is it justified in text, or story (or now; film) like this. A masterpiece of human endeavor (and importantly storytelling) that lives well beyond the life, dates and era of the journey. Like Epic, I don’t say this lightly either ‘A masterpiece’. A true act of sublime exploration. Of self, land and seascape fused in tension. Of human hardship to a degree most will never experience. Of living through the untouchable. The mind and body at a tight threshold, and then tested some more. And for long periods of time.
Exceptional stories of adventure, when given a voice, a cover-to-cover narrative, tend to define what many of us now think of ‘Adventure’. Contemporaries that become our icons and pillars of a particular genre of human- The Adventure Culture itself. A story, character and scene to compare all others. And lastly, it can, and is, a mix of adventure, and narrative talent. Of making the journey- of departure and homecoming (sadly not a factor for many of the boundary pushers), and putting it to words that can be interpreted so imaginatively and explicitly by the public at large. Some modern epics I can list easily (By mistake- or not I suppose, when looking back at these, they all tend to be large sea or continent crossings. A good metaphor at play here Crossings- again, that crossing the threshold idea) John Muir; walk across Australia, Joe Simpson; Touching the Void/Peruvian mountain climbing, Lindeman; Atlantic, Gillette; Pacific, McAuley; The Tasman, Caffyn, Circum Aus, Pat Farmer, Run from Nth-South globe…many more. Some far better at portraying Adventure’ than others. These are the modernists who are continually shaping our definitions.
‘Do you see adventuring as a reaction to the growing lazy lifestyles?’ I’m torn. My initial response was black and white. People, in general, I was temped to blaze away with, are lazy. Those that are not are tireless and make up the slack for all those that are. But this is a useless brush stroke. We are not that simple and I don’t know many people outside of my own world. As in, I’ve not been around enough to really know this. I could say that other cultures, people in developing countries are far less lazy, and that as Westerners, our busyness if cluttered, impractical and in many respects at a tipping point. An era where we actually don’t actually do anything. We don’t produce a thing. It’s all infinite agenda items that are on a screen, on a list, represented by numbers or text. We justify our own vocational existence through manifesting roles for ourselves. Knowing little of the basic practical elements, raw and tangible, of our functioning world. It’s more complex that I have time to sit and dwell upon. Laziness is so, so complex. I was about to say that people like farmers, and builders are very unlazy people. But I have to stop. Am I comparing a farmer of today to a farmer of 50 years ago? Who is more practical- who is more lazy? A farmer today is more productive, but is probably heavier (overweight), knows less about the seasons, geography, and from a pragmatic view, less about how to fix things from the ground up. Is ingenuity replacing physicality? Sure. Does this redefine lazy? I think so. I suppose it’s who we are talking about and in what context. Obesity levels are on the rise in Western places…so so much is responsible for this. What’s your next adventure? I would like to contribute a masterpiece for peoples mantles/bookshelves/imaginative mind. I’m working on becoming a better story teller through smarter ways to adventure. More intense, accountable trips on a smaller scale (revealing larger implications/outcomes). In saying that, I’d love to ‘go long’ also on a grand 2+ years living the life of the nomadic explorer. Lots going on. Lots driving me here and there. (and yet, on the complete flipside of this, I’ve never been more at-home before on my small farm in the country).