adventure

The Fun Is Over: You Want This Trip To End, Now!

Have you ever been midway through a long journey when that all-too familiar feeling creeps in? You know which one I’m talking about: the very moment when you ask yourself “what am I doing here?”

You’re exhausted, frustrated, hungry, dirty, uncomfortable. The trip you’re on—the one which cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, the one you’ve anticipated for months—well, that trip now feels like a tedious, mind-numbing slog.

You daydream of clean showers with hot water and strong pressure. Your own bed, miles and miles away, calls to you with its soft, clean linens. The few wrinkled, tattered clothes in your pack reek of the road’s pungent concoction. There will be no washing machine. There will be no dryer. The food, bland and tasteless, has left you crippled and in pain at times.

The fun is over. You just want to go home. And now.

Can a traveler experience a more depressing feeling? Doubtful. But you’re not alone. Millions of travelers have been there, myself included. You’ll see them at the bus station, the airport, the hotel lobby, ready to go home. Blurry eyes, defeated postures, unkempt appearances, bad attitudes—they all look the same.

Don’t join them. You’ve put too much time, money, and effort into this process to let a few mind games dictate whether or not your trip is a success. If you get to this point, seek out the most comfortable and enjoyable activity possible. Splurge a little if necessary.

A hot tub, a slice of pizza, and a beer is typically all I need to get over myself and get back to enjoying my journey.

What about you?

The Top 11 Most Amazing Airline Passengers

Last week, I painstakingly compiled a list of The Top 11 Most Annoying Airline Passengers. This week, a tip of the hat to The Top 11 Most Amazing Airline passengers.

1. The Full Passport Passenger of Mystery

When TFPPOM nonchalantly reaches for their tattered passport in the check-in line, you take notice. Stamps of every hue cover what little passport real estate remains—a kaleidoscope of international swashbuckling on full display.

You have never felt passport envy until now. Where have they been? Where are they going?

2. The Well-Traveled Child

Wise beyond their years, this kid has toured 72 countries extensively by the time they’re 7. What’s that you’re working on, Lil’ Johnny? A coloring book? Oh, a draft United Nations agreement for peace in the Middle East? Carry on. Might you pass the coloring book then?

3. The Former Flight Attendant

Order them a scotch. Sit back and listen. Everything you ever wanted to know about the business of flying is locked up in The Former Flight Attendant. Fancy gossip? They have plenty of that to go around, too.

4. The Seat Sacrificer

Airlines will occasionally entice a willing passenger with overnight hotel stays and other perks if they sacrifice their seat for whatever reason. This is where The Seat Sacrificer becomes somewhat of a god. Most passengers are nowhere near as flexible with their iteneries, or even concerned with the airline’s dilemma for that matter. The Seat Sacrificer is a true team player free from the chains of schedules and priorities.

5. The Returning Military Personnel

Always a heartwarming story despite your personal opinion on war. Especially if you’re lucky enough to witness the actual reunion at the terminal with their loved ones—man, powerful stuff.

6. The First Time Flyer

I can board a plane here in California and be in New York later today. Big deal. This means nothing to me. Not so for The First Time Flyer. Everything about flying is equally mind-blowing and frightening. Take offs, turbulence, landings—each event is a notch in The First Timers belt.They even pay attention to the mandatory safety presentation.

If you’re sitting window, offer them your seat. Point out the Grand Canyon. Even if you’re over Tennessee.

7. The Book Reader

The Book Reader has a certain Zen like quality to him/her. So engrossed in the details of their book, they’ll rarely participate in lengthy conversation, if at all. No chaos, no drama, no attitude. Just a good book and a long flight. Do not disturb The Book Reader.

8. The Eye to Eye

You don’t know The Eye to Eye, but you two share something special, be it callous comments directed towards a Top 11 Most Annoying Airline Passenger or inside jokes on an event you both witnessed. You’re not friends. Not even acquaintances. Just kindred Eye to Eye spirits.

You’ll go hours without saying a word, but by the end of the flight, you exchange well-wishes and a few more subtle jabs at annoying passengers.

9. The Million Mile Business Flyer

The very definition of efficiency, these folks know how to fly. Given that a significant portion of their time is spent in airports and on planes, one would be wise to study their habits and techniques. Note the lack of oversized carry-ons. Ready for business. Precise. Calculated. Always calm.

One minor gripe, though, Million Mile Business Flyer: Lose the smug look on your face while cutting in front of us common folk en route to your short business class boarding line.

10. The Middle Seat Saver

Ever flown Southwest?  Then you know this trick. If the flight is not full, you and The Middle Seat Saver have an unspoken agreement to pile your stuff between you. Avoid eye contact with boarding passengers. The games we play.

11. The Roadblock

You’re about to miss your connecting flight. And nobody cares. Except for The Roadblock, who senses your desperate urgency. They’ll block traffic in the aisle to give you a jump on those few precious seconds. Good flying karma is coming your way Roadblock.

Socioeconomic Adventure Gaps: What’s the Solution?

Adventure is a state of mind, you could argue. Available to anyone, anywhere, with the right amount of determination and imagination, adventure is abundant in its infinite forms.

Let’s face it, though. Adventure is oftentimes cost prohibitive. Mountain biking, backpacking, traveling internationally, skydiving, whitewater rafting — you name it, certain components necessary to achieve adventure are simply not an option for many people.

The socioeconomic adventure gap exists, and it’s quite large.

This got me to thinking. What if the barrier to entry were easier? What if cost prohibitive adventures were accessible to everyone?

Let’s crunch a few numbers first. I’ll work within the confines of an activity which has given me countless hours of satisfaction and happiness at a particularly high cost: snowboarding.

General Costs Associated with Snowboarding (give or take a few dollars):

  • Snowboard: $500
  • Boots: $200
  • Bindings: $200
  • Snow Pants: $150
  • Jacket: $100
  • Gloves: $50
  • Goggles: $100
  • Lift Ticket: $90

For a grand total of: $1,390

Note that I did not include the cost of transportation to and from the mountain, or the cost of food/beverages.

Is a family bringing in about the same amount per month going to pony up that kind of cash for their kid to go snowboarding? Absolutely not. They’d be out of their minds.

This is where those of us in a particular community come in — whether you’re a climber, kayaker, snowboarder, or whatever. If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of extra gear collecting dust. What if we were to put our gear to good use by donating to somebody in need? What if we were then to provide our guidance and transportation and support and everything else associated with the activity?

So many of those barriers would be eliminated.

How this works, I haven’t a clue. Which is why I’d love to hear your ideas. Please do share.

Adventure: How Far Is Too Far?

You love a new adventure. But would you jump out of a helium balloon from high up in the stratosphere?

That is exactly what daredevil Felix Baumgartner hopes to accomplish today if the weather would just cooperate. Seems a little risky, right?

While “Fearless Felix” is no stranger to big jumps, his mission does beg an important question: When it comes to the pursuit of adventure, how far is too far? Is there a limit to what  you will attempt?

Consider the details that go into jumping out of what basically amounts to one of those cheap rice paper floor lanterns your wife always seems to bring home from Target:

“Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner will undertake a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and make a record-breaking freefall jump in the attempt to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour), while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.”

A stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet! A 690 mph freefall! Certainly no small feat.

Also, consider the following conditions which could easily take Felix’s life:

“…any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 21 Celsius below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as ‘boiling blood.’ He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.

To answer the question how far is too far, well, that is entirely up to you. People may find you a tad insane if you willingly choose to hurl yourself out of a helium balloon wearing a space suit.

And the thought of “boiling blood” probably prevents most of us from going forward. But you know what? If you want to go bigger than anybody has ever gone before, do it. Who cares what the “normal,” “sane” people say.

Just think of the stories “Fearless Felix” will tell.

There is one very important catch, though: Always consider your safety and your skill level. Always!

Watch the whole thing live in the video below. And don’t worry. Organizers said “there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.” Oh boy. Good luck up there, Felix.

What It Takes to Survive a Tedious Slog

You have 5 miles left. All uphill. Every corner you turn you’re sure is your last. The end must be near. You have to be getting close. Just a few more switchbacks.

Your legs are shot. Your knees feel like somebody bashed them with a baseball bat. Your ankles aren’t any better.

You hate life.

You’re over the scenery. It was nice and awe-inspiring and blah blah blah 16 miles ago at the start. Now it’s just annoying. And the heat. Don’t even mention the heat. You haven’t been this over-heated since you pulled an all-night dance party at your buddy’s wedding.

You top out to a point you’re absolutely sure is your final destination, and guess what? You still have 4 miles left. Mama Nature thinks you’re an idiot.

How will you ever survive this tedious slog?

I’ve got a few words for you.

Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

Those 3 words will get you through anything. If you can imagine a beautiful bounty of bacon, beer and pizza at the end of your long, dusty, and irritating trail, you’re golden.
You will survive your tedious slog. I personally guarantee it.

Now I understand bacon, beer and pizza may not be available the moment you get off the trail. This is perfectly acceptable. Clean up a little, put deodorant on (or don’t, up to you), head to the nearest town. Somebody, somewhere, is serving bacon, beer and pizza.

BBP is magical inspiration, and not just for hikers. I’ve stood at the end of marathon routes and listened to lean, anorexic runners scream at nobody in particular “where’s my beer and pizza!?” They forgot about the bacon, but you get the point.

Try it next time you get hoodwinked into spending multiple days out in the wilderness, hiking over extremely difficult terrain.

There is a (bacon, beer and pizza) light at the end of the tunnel.

Mmmm…Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

One important tip, though: Don’t start dreaming about BBP right from the get-go. You’ll be a blubbering lunatic halfway through. This I can also guarantee.

Tempting Fear: Inside The Mind of an Extreme Skier

I could discuss the topic of extreme sports psychology at length (for more on that, check out my post “Thrill seeking: crazy, or a transcendental pursuit?”).

So I’m always excited when I hear about movies like “Tempting Fear.” Swedish extreme skier and alpinist Andreas Fransson is the main subject of the movie. And while this isn’t an extreme sports psychology film project per se, viewers are offered an inside look into the mind of an athlete who routinely risks his life for big adventure payoffs.

“Only by defying society’s expectations can you find the true uncertainty that defines adventure.” — Andreas Fransson

I’ll let the filmmakers sum it up.

“What makes Andreas most intriguing are his thoughtful musings on meaning from a life on the edge—a willingness to enter mental spaces that few have ever experienced.

“In Tempting Fear, Sweden’s soft-spoken Adventurer of the Year explores a place in which fear overwhelms all emotions, playing both friend and enemy in a pas de deux where death lies just one misstep away.”

Tempting Fear is coming to a Mountain Film Festival near you in October.

Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway!?

Who do you think you are!? Somebody who can dream big, save a little bit of money, go out and live an action-packed life? Gimmee a break.

You and I both know those adventures are for other people. People sponsored by big outdoor companies with big ad budgets. Athletes. Superstars. The best of the best.

You’re no athlete. You’re no superstar.

Stop dreaming. Go to work. Put your head down. Be content living vicariously through people whose lifestyle you envy.

It makes sense, really. Some of us are destined to see it all, do it all, tell it all. The rest of us—the vast majority of us—well, we’re just stuck in a never-ending routine, counting the days until the weekend. And besides, the older we get, the less likely anything big and exciting will ever happen to us.

Am I right?

Absolutely not. You know that, despite me being a smartass.

Why, then, do so many of us get tricked into thinking along those lines? Trust me, I do it, too. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it, even those superstar adventure athletes.

It’s such a limiting approach. “I would love to live a life like that, but…”

But what? There has to be a way to defeat it. Any ideas?

Adventure Milestones: Why You Need Them, And How To Reach Them

Do you really think a long-distance thru-hiker just woke up one day and hit the trail? Doubtful. No, many, many miles of hiking and backpacking were logged in before the thru-hike even commenced.

Mr. Hiker’s long walk started with setting adventure milestones. “Today I hike 3 miles, next year, 2,650.”

Say you’ve never been backpacking before, but you get this crazy idea to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. By all means, go for it. But you’ll probably want to actually try hiking and backpacking first, right? Then you’ll be able to gauge how far you can go in a single day, what to expect in certain situations, how to pack properly, who might make a suitable hiking partner, and so on.

Think of adventure milestones as goal setting. Or a check list, of sorts.

When you’re setting your milestones, start from the bottom, work your way up. Wanna sail around the world but never stepped on a boat? Buddy up with someone with experience, or take a class. Wanna dive the sweetest spots on Earth, but never even snorkeled? Again, take a class. You get the idea.

Basically, you have to start somewhere. You should set insane adventure goals, but you’ll thank yourself later if you ease your way in.

Personally, I want to do something huge. And it involves tons of time, money, and effort. I’m not the most experienced in this department, but I’m getting there. When the day comes for my wife and I to travel around the world, I’ll be happy I set milestones.

What about you? What kind of milestones are you aiming at?

4 Reasons To Hate Adventure, and How To Get Over It

Don’t get me wrong, most of us love a good adventure. But sometimes there are reasons to hate adventure. I’ll give you four examples today, and offer solutions on how to fix them.

1. Fear & Anxiety

Adventure is largely about the perpetual pursuit of pushing your limits, always aiming your sights on the next big rush. Sometimes in the middle of doing this you realize you’re in too deep, and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is exactly when fear and anxiety sets in, two dreadful and common feelings found in adventure.

It’s happened to me many times. I only got a few hours of sleep one night on my last whitewater trip because I already got my ass kicked twice by the river and we were headed into a remote wilderness section called Adrenaline Ally in the morning. No backing out. Sweet dreams, right?

The Fix: Focus on what you can control. In my whitewater example, I made sure I ate a good breakfast, stayed hydrated, and laid off the beer until we were done with Adrenaline Ally. You better believe I immediately cracked open a cold one afterwards, though.

2. One-Upsmanship

The next guy is always going to attempt to one-up you, whether you’re in the field or swapping stories at the bar. It’s a fact of life in the adventure community, and sometimes it’s just plain annoying.

This exchange is enjoyable when two parties are sharing valuable information, but it’s irritating when your adventure accomplishments are constantly belittled. “You bungee jumped at an amusement park? Weak sauce, bro. I BASE jumped off El Capitan.”

The Fix: Easy. Ignore the competitive one-upper and move on. Or one-up them with unrealistic tales. “You BASE jumped off El Capitan? LOL! I sailed around the world on the backs of killer whales, surviving on box jellyfish along the way.” If they try to top that, you know they’re full of shit.

3. Bucket Lists

Bucket lists. I don’t mind them, necessarily. It makes sense, wanting to jot down every last adventurous thing you can think of and then feeling satisfied when you cross items off your list.

I just think the concept has been blown out of proportion. 100,001 “must-do” activities on your bucket list? Really? To me, it’s a slightly rigid, inflexible approach to adventure.

The Fix: Hear about something cool you’d like to try, and then make arrangements to try it as soon as you can. This works best for those of you with a “go with the flow” mentality. Hardcore list makers? Not so much.

4. Gear

Gear can be a touchy subject. There will be times when you are made to feel inadequate because you can’t afford top of the line equipment. The dude at the shop is just doing his job when he suggests the thousand dollar upgrade. The twerp on the trail is just doing his job when he talks down on your cheap tent.

The Fix: Go with what works best for you. Always. Experiment with different set-ups. If a piece of gear fails, dump it. It’s OK to have different set-ups for different scenarios. And it’s more economically feasible to amass your gear collection over time, rather than going all out right from the get-go.

Now stop being a hater and go do something fun today.

How would you describe your dream adventure?

Maybe you have a mile-long “bucket list” of things you’d like to do someday, which indicates you’re off to a good start.

The problem with those bucket lists though is how everything is supposed to be done before you turn into worm food, not all at once. The enthusiastic bucket lister might compile a list thousands of ideas long. All fine, except it doesn’t describe your dream adventure, the most awesome day (or weeks) of adventure you can possibly think of.

What a bucket list really is a bunch of loose ideas you’re hoping to get to before you die.

(It’s also minor confirmation that your a devotee of Zen Masters Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.)

What if you consolidated a few of those loose ideas to create your dream adventure? Maybe this could be a way to pick and choose all the cool stuff on your bucket list and make an adventure out of it.

Let’s say, for example, that your bucket list includes quintessential requirements such as skydiving, bungee jumping and NASCAR racing. Your day might look like this: skydive onto a bungee jumping platform positioned above a NASCAR racing course, where you’ll jump, hop in a car, and lap every last Dale Earnhardt wannabe out there.

Sounds pretty much impossible, but you get the idea, right?

Describing your dream adventure might be difficult considering part of why we love adventure is because of the unexpected. But we all have badass stuff we’d like to do someday, and I bet some of those loose ideas on your list would fit together perfectly.

So, how would you describe your dream adventure?