Exploring the link between smells and adventure

Today we are going to conduct a bit of an odd experiment. Just for fun, let’s see if certain smells trigger memories of swashbuckling adventure.

What we’ll do is respond to each smell listed with an adventurous memory. It can be anything—travel, rafting, hunting, you name it. A one word response is perfectly acceptable. Try to go with the first memory that comes to mind.

I’ll include my responses to each smell in the comments below.

If there happens to be a smell you’re unfamiliar with, skip it and include your own. We’ll start with 10 for now, and perhaps add more if anyone actually thinks this exercise is worth their time.

OK, here we go.

1. Neoprene

2. Smoke

3. Sunscreen

4. Burnt food

5. Bug repellent

6. Rain

7. Oil

8. Pine

9. Beer

10. Freshly cut grass



  1. neoprene – ???
    Smoke- grandmother’s car
    Sunscreen – Jones Beach, beach vacations, etc
    burnt food – everyday in my house haha!
    Bug repellent – camping
    Rain- I don’t know but I Love that smell
    Oil- Baby oil? Motor oil? – not sure…?
    Pine- Christmas
    beer- my youth, parties, concerts, etc. (so nostalgic)
    Freshly cut grass – nothing specific but again, I love it.

    This was a very cool and unique idea. Thanks. (right now I’m supposed to be paying attention to this seminar so this was a welcome relief! Haha)

    1. Nice response! Interesting how smoke reminds you of your grandmother’s car. I take it she was a smoker. Or was her car always on fire?

      I’m glad I was able to provide a welcome diversion!

  2. 1, neoprene–white water rafting in COLD water…squiggling into the wet suit
    2 .smoke-campfires…why is it no matter where you sit, the smoke always blows into your face?
    3. sunscreen–slathering the kids when we went to the beach
    4. Burnt food — generally we set off the smoke detector when we don;t clean the oven in a while, but no burned food
    5. Bug repellent—hiking and camping as a kid…and still got a ton of mosquito bites
    6. rain—-the sound of rain more than the aroma…but that first scent when it just starts is fresh if you are out in the country
    7. oil– not thinking of anything
    how about gasoline—for years I loved that smell, and then I got old enough to pump the gas and it was too much
    8. pine—in Nashville they collect the Christmas trees and chip them, and then spread them on the walking trails in one of the parks…it smells great for weeks
    9. Beer–I guess my youth did not revolve around beer, in fact I disliked beer a lot until a trip to Germany in my mid 20s
    10. Freshly cut grass — besides causing me to sneeze, definitely a memory of childhood when my dad would use the push mower….no motor noise or exhaust, just the click click click

    1. Great stuff here! Have you tried the “I hate rabbits” remedy for campfire smoke in the face? Supposedly it works, but personally it does nothing for me. In fact, it seems to bring on more smoke! Perhaps if we can answer that question—why does campfire smoke always blow into your face?—we can begin solving some of life’s biggest mysteries.

  3. Neoprene – Scuba Diving
    Sunscreen – Just sitting at the beach
    Burnt Food – Camping
    Bug Repellent – Kayaking (and hiking)
    Rain – Standing under a shelter tree at a cliff face hoping it passes before the granite is saturated, savoring the smell of the dirt and rock mixed with the rain.
    Oil – Snowmobiling in Colorado. Which I didn’t really enjoy, mostly because of the gas/oil fumes…
    Pine – Not technically adventure, but building my railroad (the frame is wood)
    Beer – Had plenty of adventures, just don;t remember a lot of them 😉
    Freshly Cut Grass – not an adventure, but being at a baseball stadium on a perfect summer day.

    1. Wait a second. You own a railroad? The Union Guapo, perhaps?

      Great responses, especially to “rain” and “freshly cut grass.” Summertime and baseball, man. I just looked up the Padre’s Opening Day. Soon enough!

      Where’d you go snowmobiling in Colorado?

      1. I have a small HO gauge model railroad.
        The snowmobiling was during a week stay at Steamboat Springs one winter. I was the only one who managed to tip his snowmobile over!

  4. neoprene – ?
    smoke – campfire
    sunscreen – sand
    burnt food – baking pies
    bug repellent – Assateague Island
    rain – mud and earthworms
    oil – my vintage sewing machines
    pine – my grandfather’s land
    beer – ugh!
    freshly mowed grass – my teenage son

    That was fun!

    1. Sweet! How many vintage sewing machines do you own? And I take it you make your teenage son mow the lawn. Nicely done!

      I’ve never heard of Assateague Island. I’ll have to check it out someday. I’ll be sure to pack the bug repellent.

      1. 5 vintage machines – I laugh at myself because I never understood why men love the smell of motor oil and the sound of car engines (I live in a racing town) until I realized how much I loved the smell of my sewing machines and favored the sounds of certain ones over another. My Singer Featherweight purrs like a kitten – you’ll never hear that on a modern machine. 🙂

        And are you kidding? My son begged me to let him mow the lawn for years until I thought he was finally old enough and gave in. Can’t get him off the mower now.

  5. Hi,
    Smoke: Open fire
    Sunscreen: Beach
    Burnt food: Beach
    Bug repellent: Camping
    Rain: Floods
    Oil: Car
    Pine: Forest
    Beer: Barbecue
    Freshly cut grass: Husband. 😀

    1. I’m loving the last two responses to “freshly cut grass”! Clearly a man’s place is in the yard, mowing the lawn!

      Does rain usually mean flooding where you’re at?

  6. 1. Neoprene – Don’t know the smell, but now will always be associated with Eric making me google it.

    2. Smoke – Nicaragua, early morning streetside cooking fires.

    3. Sunscreen – Spring Break, Ft Lauderdale. The only time I’ve ever sunburned in my life and the last time I wore sunscreen.

    4. Burnt food – Camping, Smoky Mountains

    5. Bug repellent – Hiking, Australia…Walkabout brand repellent.

    6. Rain – The tin roof of the house I lived in in Negril, Jamaica.

    7. Oil – The time in college when me and 3 friends poured a bottle of olive oil on my kitchen floor and…oh wait, never mind….

    8. Pine – Hiking, Hoop Pines, Magnetic Island.

    9. Beer – See answers 3 and 7

    10. Freshly cut grass – Hunting dinosaurs with my brother on any given summer late afternoon.

    1. Awesome responses, Alex! I especially dig 2 and 6. Sounds like you and your friends had some fun back in the day. So tell me. Did you and your brother ever track down any dinosaurs?

      1. Bigfoot and I used to have beers down at the pub before he disappeared. Apparently he’s been freaking people out since. Tell him hey if you see him around.

  7. 1. Neoprene: Surfing. Or whitewater rafting. But mostly surfing. My wetsuit has a pretty funky smell to it by now.

    2. Smoke: Huge wildfires in Arizona and California, especially at night. You can smell smoke all over town.

    3. Sunscreen: Walking along the boardwalk here in Carlsbad, California. Everyone smells like sunscreen. That’s not very adventurous though, so I’ll say slathering on sunscreen during a beautiful blue bird day last month at Snowbird, Utah.

    4. Burnt food: Basically any time I decide to do the cooking in camp. Fail.

    5. Bug repellent: Peru. You could smell the repellent I used in Peru from a mile away.

    6. Rain: The pitter-patter on the leaves in the jungle. Or the pitter-patter on the tent. Surprisingly, rain leaves a distinctive smell on both leaves and tents.

    7. Oil: I know T-9 is technically more of a lubricant than an oil, but it smells oily. I use T-9 to lubricate the chain on my mountain bike.

    8. Pine: A buddy and I floated a canoe on a small creek through a park full of smelly pines near where we grew up. We only floated it because we’ve never seen anyone else with a boat on that creek.

    9. Beer: The first sip of beer after a long hike in the hot sun smells so great!

    10. Freshly cut grass: I have to agree with Guap on this one. Baseball stadium, beer, peanuts, sun, freshly cut grass, awesome.

  8. 1. Neoprene Swimming in La Ronge

    2. Smoke Forest fire at Prince Albert National Park

    3. Sunscreen Wandering in Rome

    4. Burnt food Wiener roasts

    5. Bug repellent Houseboating on Lac La Ronge

    6. Rain Pretty much any ball tournament I ever played in

    7. Oil Caprese Salad in Sorrento (the olive oil variety)

    8. Pine Banff

    9. Beer To many memories

    10. Freshly cut grass I’ll go with ball fields

    1. Excellent list, John! Nice twist on No. 7. Houseboating on Lac La Ronge sounds like a blast. When you say ball tournament, are you referring to baseball?

      1. The houseboating thing is amazing. La Ronge is a huge lake with a zillion islands. Once you leave the dock, you may not see another person for the entire time you are out there. It is fairly remote, 400 km north of Saskatoon. You can literally feel your blood pressure dropping as you head out. Such deathly quietness and beauty. It is staggering. The first thing that entered my head was the unbelievable olive oil in Italy. We get the seconds in North America and they keep the best for themselves i think. Definitely baseball (slo-pitch).

  9. 1. Neoprene – Great White Shark cage dive in South Africa

    2. Smoke – Mum in the 1980s

    3. Sunscreen – Australia summer

    4. Burnt food – All male drunken share house

    5. Bug repellent – Kakadu, no repellent = huge welts

    6. Rain – That it doesn’t rain in Seattle anywhere near as much as people not from Seattle would have you believe

    7. Oil – Wrestling in certain “gentlemans” clubs

    8. Pine – A terrible “outdoorsy” deoderant I purchased recently

    9. Beer – Once a form of currency in Australian university in the early 1990s 😉

    10. Freshly cut grass – the horrors of being forced to mow the lawn when I knew I would get severe hayfever

      • And the winner in the “Most Epic Scent Memory” category goes to Deano, for “Neoprene, Great White Shark cage dive in South Africa.” Congratulations sir! Surely you have a speech prepared.
      1. Thankyou to all fellow travellers for sharing their adventures and experiences, and a big thankyou to the Sea Lions of “Shark Alley” for being more appetizing than me! There is one other scent memory from that adventure – the smell of 50,000 Sea Lions!

      2. Gansbaai in South Africa (near Cape Town) or Port Lincoln in South Australia are the 2 best known spots (I went in South Africa as back in 2004 it was much cheaper than Oz).

  10. 1 – Neoprene: Hehe, an old wrist brace back when I used a rowing machine a lot. No adventure required….
    2 – Smoke: Just fun memories of Scotland in winter, staying with friends who owned real fires.
    3 – Sunscreen: A couple of weeks adventure in Crete in my mid-20s. In particular I recall hiking Samaria Gorge in ridiculous temperatures and scorching sun. Thank God for sunscreen…
    4 – Burnt food: Don’t have any real memories here. And certainly it’s one thing I never do at home – not because of my great culinary skills, but merely because my smoke alarm has a very low threshold for heat in general. Regardless of outside temperature, I generally have to open the windows and use kitchen fans when I’m doing any hard-core cooking! Otherwise my neighbors all get to know I’m cooking…..
    5 – Bug repellent: I associate this with “anything I do when there are bugs out”! Bugs adore me. Must be my pale, pasty English skin. I never go anywhere without a can of repellent in my car/bag!
    6 – Rain: Camping in the Scottish Highlands in my 20s.
    7 – Oil: My main oil-related memory involves olive oil too! Worked with an Italian for a few months about 7 years ago, & he’d cook for me occasionally. I tell you, it’s in their genese to be able to produce spectacular food creations from a few everyday pieces of produce, and a little olive oil! The best salad dressing I’ve ever had was his combination of just olive oil and salt.
    8 – Pine: Ah, a trip to Banff, Canada a few years back in December. “Spectacular” just doesn’t halfway describe that location. I had the pleasure of staying at the Banff Springs Hotel, it was like living in a fairytale for a few days, surrounded by unlimited pine trees in the area. Beautiful memory!
    9 – Beer: My most fun memories with beer come from my time spent living in the north of Scotland in my 20s. The friends I made there have become my best friends, even 20 years on!
    10 – Freshly cut grass: My granddad 🙂 He was my hero, he pretty much raised me really. And he was an avid gardener, so in the summer, his lawn was always meticulously kept.

    1. Great list! Man, I really need to get up to Banff. I’ve heard nothing but great things about that area. You have some fairly adventurous scent memories! Scotland, Crete, bugs, Banff—all awesome! Well, except the bugs.

      I should probably make a few Italian friends.

      1. Hehe! Yeah, the bugs not so good. But I can advocate for Italian friends…..I found a few when I moved here to MA. I keep on their good side!

  11. 1. Neoprene- surfing in ventura ca
    2. Smoke- freedom on the trail
    3. Sunscreen- mojave desert
    4. Burnt food- moms cooking
    5. Bug repellent- smell of yuppies in the high sierras
    6. Rain- growing up in oregon
    7. Oil- rebuilding drag motors
    8. Pine- hiking anywhere
    9. Beer- oregon! more breweries per capita than germany! 802!
    10. Freshly cut grass- just tryin to make a buck growin up

    1. Nice! I just passed through Ventura today on the way home from the Central Coast. Surf looked so-so, but there were a few dudes out.

      Are you freaking serious with the amount of breweries in Oregon?! I knew Oregon had a ton of breweries, but 802? Damn! An Oregon brew tour is sounding good right about now.

      I take it your mom isn’t the best cook. Ha!

      1. haha yea throughout the state, there is 802 the last time i checked. hell theres like 16 registered breweries in bend. I miss Ventura! awesome area with good people. just to expensive to live there!

      2. So needless to say, you Oregon folks like your craft beer. Nothing wrong with that! We have quite a few craft breweries here in San Diego, especially around where I live in North County.

        Yeah, Ventura is great, but it isn’t exactly affordable.

  12. Ooh fun! =P
    Couldn’t answer all of them but here’s the ones that got an instant memory:

    2: smoke – campfire
    3: sunscreen – Nellie Lake
    4: burnt food – cooking pizzas on a backcountry camping trip
    5: bug repellent – about to start paddling the swampy marsh smacking my bug-bitten legs >(
    6: rain – downpour while paddling on a lake
    7: oil – making pancakes 🙂

    Ahhhhhh I wanna go camping!!!! =P

    1. Good stuff! You have to share your backcountry pizza recipe! Chances are highly likely I would burn the pizza too, but hey, it sounds pretty damn tasty!

      Do you get out and camp a lot? We just got back from camping up on the Central Coast. Good times, for sure.

      1. Hey Eric! I actually got this awesome pan for camping last year, with the folding handle. It’s totally non-stick. We didn’t even have to use oil half the time!

        The pizza is basically using small tortillas. On half of it you put the tomato sauce, shredded cheese, pepperoni slices (found these thin pre-cut slices in the grocery store last year and they were awesome), thin slices of pre-cut green pepper … and I think that was it but I’m sure you could add whatever else or substitute. Then fold in half and put it in the pan (so you can cook two at a time).

        I go on a backcountry canoe-portaging trip every year pretty much. My favourite place is Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario. I can never get tired of it. It’s absolutely beautiful. Going again this summer! 🙂

        Where exactly did you go camping?

      2. Good find on the pan! I don’t know about you, but I get really stoked when I buy a cool piece of camping equipment. Dorky? Definitely.

        The pizza sounds great! A lot of people don’t realize that you can eat well in the backcountry with just a little planning.

        I’ve wanted to go on a canoe-portaging trip for a long time now. Killarney sounds really nice! Have you paddled the Boundary Waters?

        We camped at the Plaskett Creek Campground in Big Sur. I dig it. Plus it’s right across the street from Sand Dollar Beach, one of my favorite spots on the Central Coast.

  13. Believe it or not, my son IS a lumberjack! In Montana…..he doesn’t look like the Brawny towel guy, buy
    you wouldn’t want to wrestle this “timber-feller”. LOL!

    1. No kidding?! That’s too funny! Yeah, I would imagine a lumberjack isn’t exactly the type of dude you would want to mess with. How long has he been lumberjacking?

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