33 Ways To Lead A More Adventurous Life
Illustration by Mr Harry Haysom
Whether it’s physical challenges or mental escapes, adventurous behaviour makes us feel good. As kids we were game for anything, even though we often fell flat on our faces. As adults, especially in these uncertain times, we become cautious and fear of failure makes us prisoners of predictability. Research shows that having a more adventurous life will fire up the same regions of the brain that getting a reward does. It’s this “high” that motivates us to try new things, even when they’re intimidating, and it’s something you can experience every day if you try the following.
“I love to deliberately get a little bit lost,” says Mr Damian Hall, ultra runner, coach and author. “It means finding new footpaths, seeing familiar places from fresh angles, which leads to new micro-adventures and often being out a little bit longer. Take the road less travelled.”
Escape from the commute with some vicarious travel via podcasts. “I’m a big fan of Alastair Humphreys and his concept of micro-adventures, which always inspires,” says Mr Dylan Reynolds, founder of Ride And Seek adventure cycling tours. Taking new commuting routes, or getting off at a different stop, will inject variety, discovery and unpredictability into a mundane journey.
“Living adventurously really is about the attitude you choose to charge at life with,” says the man himself, Mr Alastair Humphreys. “Doing stuff that’s new and different and that scares you and makes you curious. That should apply to all of us, even if you think living in a tent is very, very stupid.”
Do a “yes day”
This is a parenting technique whereby you pick a day during which you say yes to every request. It’s found to encourage independence and autonomy in kids. What effect will it have in adults? “Saying yes may open up opportunities and adventures that could change the course of your life,” says Mr Terry Blackburn, entrepreneur and author of Be A Lion.
Reset the clock
Fitting adventure into the realities of a nine to five can be a struggle, which is why people such as Hall fit it into the 16 hours of freedom we have each day. Hall’s micro-adventures mean heading out of town, sleeping on a hill and waking at sunrise. “You could be back at 9.00am,” he says. Simple – and you need to be fairly commitment free – but you will remember it a year from now.
Play menu roulette
Break from the meal plan routine by putting a selection of home-delivery takeaway menus in plain envelopes. Shuffle, ask one of the home crowd to pick one and open it up to reveal tonight’s dinner choice.
Use your anxiety
“You might be fearful of failing, of not knowing what will come up next, of succeeding, of what people will think,” says Ms Frederique Murphy, leadership mindset strategist and author of Lead Beyond The Edge: The Bold Path To Extraordinary Results. “It is normal to have fears, but don’t let them control your decisions. Your best moments are on the other side of your fears.”
Discover thrills on the doorstep
“Reset how you look at somewhere familiar by going for a walk in the dark,” says Humphreys. “Pick a route you know well, perhaps your morning run or the route you walk your dog or your favourite out-of-town trail, and go walk it under a full moon. The well-known becomes mysterious.”
Then turn out the light
“Once you’re brave enough, turn off your headlamp,” says Humphreys. Let your eyes adjust to the moonlight and pay attention to different senses. Suddenly a mile walk becomes a longer adventure. “I remember once hearing a rabbit run past me into the undergrowth,” he says. “I have never paid such close attention before.”
Go back to school
What’s intimidated you too much to try until now? Baking, doing electrics DIY, the tango? Online courses offer the opportunity to school yourself in anything you’ve wanted to learn without the risk of getting a detention.
Lose the guidebook
Use a Google map of your travel destination, tap on the three horizontal lines in the search bar and hit “Explore”. Recently reviewed venues, new bars and pop-ups that arrived after any guidebook was written will appear here, too. “Then just trust your instincts and your nose,” says Humphreys.
Know why adventure feels good
Adventure feels good because the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. It works on the brain’s reward circuit, providing the sensation of novelty. In the case of physically demanding activities, you’ll also be flush with anandamide, the hormone that inhibits fear, and then there are the endorphins that ease pain and give you that natural high. So, do something that engages the body to feel the rush of adventure.
Start climbing walls
For that adrenaline rush or taking yourself out of your comfort zone, just seek out the nearest climbing wall, tower attraction or high-rise abseiling course. A fear of heights gives spiders a close run in the list of top human heart-racers. “Give the climbing centre a call, say, ‘I’ve never climbed before and I’m really scared of heights,’ and the staff will welcome you with open arms,” says Hall.
Shrink to fit
“What version of your adventurous life can fit into your lunch break?” asks Humphreys. “Get out every day and take photographs, go to the park and climb a tree, dare yourself to busk on the high street for 20 minutes. You can totally transform the way you perceive yourself through actions as small and regular as these.” Your appetite for some of these will depend on your willingness to embrace potential embarrassment, but you can’t have adventure without some form of risk.
“For almost two decades, my understanding of adventure was: ride bikes, run up mountains, paddle rivers,” says Humphreys. “To a point where they no longer filled me with nervous excitement. I had to look differently at adventure to rediscover risk. I took up violin lessons and, seven months later, walked out one midsummer morning to busk through Spain with a violin but no money. It was one of the most terrifying and thrilling experiences of my life.”
“Reconnect to the first months of your relationship by reenacting your favourite dates or activities that kickstarted your love,” says coach and relationship therapist Mr David Waters. “Even if it’s a bit of an ask to reclimb Kilimanjaro, the act of sharing happy memories is a powerful relationship boost that reminds you both of why you’re together.”
Spend time apart
“This is the one thing we were unable to do much of over the past two years and it has left many couples feeling stifled and claustrophobic,” says Waters. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but even a few days apart will be a welcome breather. Whatever you both end up doing, it will provide new stories to share and reminds each of you that no matter how connected you feel in your relationship, you should never neglect the equally important relationship you have with yourself.”
Plan amorous adventures
Expectation can be as thrilling as spontaneity. “Plan a shared bucket-list experience that you’ll be excited to plan together and anticipate,” says Waters. “A sense of forward momentum in your life and relationship provided by shared excitement is brilliantly life- and relationship-enhancing.”
Talk to strangers
“Often the basis of making a friend is a shared experience,” says clinical psychologist Ms Linda Blair. “These are often in abundance in our earlier years. Joining a group or class based on something you really love, or volunteering for something you care about, can be a great first step for finding friendships.”
Learn a foreign language
A Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience study showed that students who learned a new language grew more complex white brain matter, while similar studies found curiosity is an aid to greater life expectancy. Even with just a smattering of French, German or Italian, take yourself into a new realm by conversing with a native speaker.
Write a bucket list
“List those places you would love to visit, if money were no object,” says Blackburn. “Nowhere’s off limits. Pick one out of a hat and make that your goal. Set up a holiday jar in your banking app to automatically transfer in holiday funds and tell at least one other person that you’re heading there asap.”
Drop the plus one
“You’ll be surprised by what you experience and learn about yourself by going to a social event, function or taking a break on your own,” says Blackburn. “This exercise will throw you into the unknown, develop your self-sustainability and help you enjoy your own company. Adventures don’t necessarily need to be with others.”
Follow in another’s (digital) footprint
“Try geocaching – a bit like Pokémon for adults – where you follow trails left by other geocachers on your smartphone,” says Dr Audrey Tang, a chartered psychologist, wellness expert and author of The Leader’s Guide To Resilience. “Create a treasure hunt and challenge your friends. Or try an escape room. Nothing bonds a group together like mild peril as you try to beat the clock to escape.”
Try role play
“I’m not talking about Monopoly or Scrabble, but try a cooperative game with friends where you work together to beat the board,” says Tang. “With something such as Pandemic or Betrayal At The House On The Hill or Call Of Cthulhu, you take on roles with certain characteristics which guide your game play. Teamwork, communication and problem solving are of the essence while a story unfolds around you.”
Go off season
When you travel somewhere in the off season, you are able to get a more authentic look into what the place is like for locals. “It may mean braving undesirable weather, but it can be a lot more interesting and adventurous to travel when and where most people aren’t,” says Humphreys. Plus, you’re likely to get cheaper deals.
Host a soirée
Take the initiative to entertain and invite friends or family over for dinner or something different, such as a wine tasting or games night, cooking dishes you’ve never tried before or for neighbours you barely know. “A couple of hours out of the comfort zone could open the door to a new social scene,” says Blair.
Don’t wait for it
“Feelings follow behaviour, not the other way around,” said psychoanalyst Dr Gordon Livingston. “Don’t wait until you feel energetic before you go for a run, or motivated before you plan your projects. You’d be subscribing to a backwards view of how people come to be the way they are.” We develop traits by using them and even one fleeting second of feeling fun when you expected fear can transform the way you see yourself.
Be a home-town tourist
Sign up to a food tour to see, taste and experience places you possibly didn’t know existed and leave them knowing you’ll be back again soon if it’s on your doorstep. You’ll get to sample culture alongside cuisine and meet like-minded souls in the process.
Inject excitement into exercise
“Instead of counting up reps – one, two, three, etc – when lifting weights or doing push-ups, count down– three, two, one – instead,” says New Body Plan fitness director and trainer Mr Joe Warner. “Do so and you’ll inject more intensity into your sessions for faster results. Shake things up by doing timed circuits too or add variety by picking five exercises that use the same kit. For example, use a pair of dumbbells to do squats, lunges, shoulder presses, biceps curls and press-ups.”
Practise activities that increase your ability to be spontaneous and in tune with your body’s signals. “Practices such as yoga and conscious dance and movement (such as ecstatic dance or 5Rhythms dance) increase your ability to be flexible and spontaneous when things happen around you and support your capacity to act on instinct,” says Mr Richard Brook, founder of Creative Wellness and author of Understanding Human Nature.
“We can be creatures of habit, which can be abysmal for adventure,” says Brook. “Notice when you are playing out the same patterns in a situation that you have done previously and change them. Whether it’s sitting in the same seat in a restaurant or visiting the same holiday destination, observe where you’re going to sleep in your life and wake back up.”
Put yourself in the firing line
Volunteering to take on more responsibility can help with career advancement while leading work projects, running the staff quiz night or organising physical activities with colleagues or peers can, research published in BMC Public Health shows, greatly reduce work-related stress and improve quality of life, not to mention reap the social benefits of training together.
Fight the fear
“Anything worth having is worth failing for,” says Dr George S Everly, author of the When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology column for Psychology Today. “Say to yourself, ‘That which does not destroy me makes me stronger,’ and recognise that life is a journey, not a destination. There is no such thing as failure.”