Oh that adventure thing that instagrammers do so well. It’s hard for me to believe anymore. It’s not reality. Sometimes the people who mean to “inspire” and uplift actually leave their audiences feeling like they aren’t adventurous enough and they should be doing MORE all the time.
I’m calling bull on that narrative.
I’m in Mississauga, Ontario sitting in a Starbucks eating a bagel which I smuggled in from Tim Hortons (because it’s so much cheaper) writing this. I’m not on a plane, I’m not on a mountain. My phone is off and Spotify is on. I have a notebook opened beside me with scribbles about future roadtrip thoughts, which may or may not happen and there’s a man my age in front of me with a sketchbook full of equations that look like sorcery.
Is this what you thought a person like me would be doing on a Tuesday afternoon?
If you looked at my Instagram, probably not. If you know me well, still, probably not. But to be honest, I love this. I love writing, I love sitting and observing people.
I appreciate that adventure is not reaching every sunrise and sunset you can. In fact, driving at 4 am on 3 hours of sleep is actually really dangerous, who knew?
Adventure is completely relative to what you love, what you fear and how motivated you can be.
Adventure does not have to be travelling all the time, adventure is not starting blogs or vlogs or whatever else gives people public recognition. Adventure is not necessarily climbing mountains all the time, contrary to what we see online. For people who’ve been hiking their whole life, long hikes are routines not adventures, ones that now come with crowded trails and six-foot long selfie sticks blocking the views (I kid you not, these actually exist).
People who choose to learn/do/feel something new every day. That’s adventurous. Taking care of yourself in the process plays just as big of a role.
So you want to know how to feel adventurous every day?
Try dropping the phone.
Spend 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, maybe even a whole day without looking at it. The world is so much bigger and way more beautiful than the one you see online. It will be uncomfortable but set your intentions with it very early on. If you’re not used to life without a phone or computer to keep you occupied then you may be in for the biggest adventure of your life just by putting it away.
Learn about the people creating influential businesses.
Listen to influential podcasts, watch TED talks by entrepreneurs that you’ve come across and that you admire. Ask questions to people who have created something real. Here are a couple of my favourite podcasts to start you off. My Favourite Murder, S-Town, Strangers, Accidental Creative, and TED Radio Hour.
Take a risk every day.
You don’t have to jump off a bridge. A risk is just something that’s uncomfortable but doable. Try out a new workout class. Get your heart rate high and keep it there. Push yourself to a state of mind that’s new and let your breath tell you when it’s time for rest. Learn phrases in a new language. Try to make a new dish every day for a week. Learn how to build a piece of furniture. Compliment a stranger. Whatever it may be, it will be new, it will feel weird, you will have to read things, you may fail and have to start over but you will finish it.
Adventure means you have to stop with the convenient stuff.
Convenient friends, convenient jobs. You have to be the one to reach out to people who think like you and love like you. Surround yourself with them. Say no to the people who make you feel like you or your life are worth less than them. Just because an opportunity presents itself doesn’t mean that it’s right for you so set a high standard for yourself and your work.
And finally, write down the things you want to do and start ticking them off the list!
Rent a cottage with 10 friends. Learn to wakeboard. Get a tattoo. Search for the Northern Lights. Learn to love your body. Fall in love with someone else. Volunteer at wildlife sanctuaries. Teach in a different country. Visit the places you’ve always wanted to visit. Learn the history of the places you go, learn the environmental, social obstacles and make the list for YOU not “the gram”. Whatever is on your list, pick a date, and GO.
Your adventurous life may not be climbing mountains; your adventure may be finding a way to cope with your anxiety or in changing someone’s life, multiple people maybe?
I hope so.
I’m an anxious person. I’ve known that for a long time.
Back in highschool I started noticing that I was worrying about things I knew were small. They paralyzed me. Tossing and turning in bed all night mulling over small criticisms, thinking about what people thought of me for hours, comparing myself to others and crying all night because I didn’t feel like I would ever measure up to them.
When I went to University it just about ruined me.
I became scared of myself. Scared of my own anxiety. Everything at that age is harder than ever before. I was away from home, the expense of school made the stakes to do well that much greater, it was easy to stay in and watch Netflix all day so that’s what I did. Leaving the computer screen became a chore and staying up all night with a mind that raced became routine.
I’m a pretty spiritual person so when I was drained of my faith in University it led me to cling to people that were wrong for me. When I wasn’t relying on others to keep me occupied, I was consumed by my phone. That’s a battle I still fight today.
Then life sent me to the mountains.
The first time I went, I didn’t really hike. My SO and I went for the photos. The trip was exciting because we were seeing all of these cool places that our favourite grammers had photographed but it was completely unfulfilling for me. I left with photos of places that I didn’t really work hard to get to and the effects of social media became real. I was always comparing myself to photographers that had 5-10 years more experience than I had and I knew I never intended to be a photographer professionally. So why the heck was I worrying about it? I still don’t know the answer. But I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted.
It was the next time, in 2016, that changed me. I had a new job working for an event company across Canada and it sent me to Calgary. I was anxious before I went as I always am before I travel (I’ve never been able to shake that completely). I was worrying about what camera equipment I had and how I was going to fit all of the experiences into only a few days. I thought I didn’t like hiking at the time but decided to get myself some solid gear and tackle some big ones anyways with a couple friends.
So I did it. Twin Falls, Tower of Babel, and Mount Bourgeau. They were monstrous hikes for a newbie. I was huffing and puffing with no time to pick up my camera or my phone and found myself consumed by deep conversations with the people around me. I felt my anxiety subsiding. Within the trees where service was scarce, silence was abundant and the inclines were steep as hell, I felt something new. I almost want to call it peace. With a bit of gratitude, maybe.
There’s something spiritual about nature. No one cares about you out there.
The mountains speak their own language. Every sunrise brings a new day with a million more opportunities. It was in the deep forest on the mountain side where I discovered the ability to be alone with my own thoughts and enjoy them. I had an independent purpose on those hikes that I controlled. Sometimes to get to the top, sometimes to get there fast. During each hike I thought about something deeper than the photos, school worries, or what my friends were doing.
I found what my soul was begging me for and it led me to quiet places of reflection and understanding in the dirt.
The utter focus of reaching a summit for sunrise actually quieted my anxiety. Nature saved me from overwhelm. Instead of worrying if I would make it, I just made it. I suddenly expected so much more of my heart. I discovered that my value came from my actions and my words in person, not my image online.
Not to mention, my body thanked me for all the exercise. At home, I’d be sitting around twiddling my thumbs dwelling on what everyone else was doing- but in the outdoors, I was sweaty, determined, with extra rosy cheeks, I was thankful and I was content with exactly where I was in life. Finally.
This post was written in partnership with Live Out There, an outdoor apparel company set on sending folks like you on incredible adventures with all of the right gear.
If you’re thinking about going to South East Asia, do it. Just go and don’t look back. Once you step off the plane and you’re hit with the humidity you won’t want to, trust me.
I went to South East Asia on a student exchange and stayed until my money ran out. I covered Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Bali, and Malaysia. I learned more about myself during those 5 months than I had my whole life. I mean DEEP things, the things that changed my heart. At the expense of a relationship, arguably two of them, I found that being alone wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I was in love with it. Looking back, here are the personal lessons I learned in South East Asia and that I encourage you to find out for yourself.
I can do this thing.
When you are forced to navigate a foreign world by yourself, you will do it! In order to travel solo or travel to a new place with another person for that matter, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was suddenly aware of what made me jump for joy and what I really hated. It was finally possible for me to shape my world into exactly what I wanted it to be, every day.
No one cares what you do and that’s the truth.
If you’re like me, Asia is a long way from home. So all that matters is how you feel when you do things each day. When you realize that you never have to do anything that makes you feel like shit it’s kind of powerful. That includes the companies you choose to work for and where you choose to spend your time and money. I said a hard no to the Tiger Temple, I said no to the Killing Fields and I happily said no to elephant riding. I am sure I will exercise the right to deny things I don’t agree with many times in my life because of this experience.
What other people think doesn’t matter at all. Ever.
This was a huge revelation for me. Before I left for Asia, I always compared myself to others and I always came up short. Instead of letting those comparisons motivate me, I judged myself harshly. It destroyed a relationship and only increased my anxiety x10,000. In Asia, a triumph wasn’t getting an A on a paper or 1000 likes on Instagram. It was successfully communicating the location of your hostel to a cab driver. It was walking through the Mossy Forest in Malaysia in the rain and fog, knee deep in mud because you only have a weekend and you really really want to make the most of it. It was getting to your bus on time when you’re hitchhiking with two other people and luggage. I wasn’t comparing myself to my peers anymore. I was confident in what I was doing and frankly, I was having too much fun to think about anyone else.
People are amazing, show them a little grace.
Be a good human and you will get goodness back. Try to communicate even if you think you can’t. Toss a smile, give high fives to the locals, talk to people in your hostel and say THANK YOU a lot. I am forever indebted to the local communities that welcomed my friends and I into their homes, ceremonies, and cars (yes, we hitchhiked a lot).
Working and travelling is way easier than you think.
I came so close to snagging a job at one of the hostels. Hostels are hiring all the time. The cool thing about Asia is that it is dirt cheap. The initial flight there may be a doozy but once you’re there you can survive on 200 Baht a day. That’s 8 CAD. Working at a hostel for a few months on the most beautiful island in Thailand sounds like a pretty good gig and people do it all the time jumping from hostel to hostel until their life calls them elsewhere. Not to mention, it’s the tech age. If a life of travel is calling to you, get on your computer and find a remote job already.
Ready to start planning? See my Quick Guide to Thailand for everything you need to know about island hopping on a budget!