How Adventure Travel Makes Me a Better Person

A few days into my current trip exploring Colombia and Ecuador, I am quickly reminded why this type of Adventure Travel experience is so important to me, and how it makes me be a better human.   Let me explain…

Photograph of Koguis Shaman of Ciudad Perdida, ColombiaWhen I refer to Adventure Travel, I’m thinking of trips where I’m traveling in a foreign, unfamiliar place, where I’ve never been before, where I’m traveling alone, and where I don’t speak much, if any, of the local language.  For many people, myself included, this type of travel can initially seem stressful and anxiety inducing. 

The kind of travel I’m talking about is not the kind where I’m surrounded by familiar settings, or by familiar people who speak my language, like taking a beach holiday in Hawaii, or a weekend road trip exploring my back yard.  There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of experiences. They can give me a chance to relax, recharge and disconnect from the hectic daily grind, and I think we all need that from time to time. 

When I look back on all of my travels over the years, the trips that gave me the most, in terms of reward, meaning and lasting memories, are those I’ve described as Adventure Travel. Unfortunately, I think few people seek out or ever get to experience this type of travel.

So, how does Adventure Travel make me a better person and why do I think it’s something everyone should experience?  Here’s what I’ve discovered.

If I were to sum it up in just a few words, it would be this…

The higher the risk, the higher the reward.

Photograph of tour group jumping in the air.Let me explain this concept a bit further.  When I say “risk” I’m not talking about risky behaviors like bungee jumping, cliff diving or whitewater rafting, although in the right situation those can be quite exhilarating.  The type of risk I’m talking about is allowing yourself to be vulnerable to situations and people.  When you partake of Adventure Travel as I’ve described, you’re letting go of control to a great extent and you become much more reliant on others to get where you want to go.  Language, cultural, logistical and geographic barriers are the most common ones I’ve run into and have had to overcome, which can cause great stress and anxiety.  But what I’ve learned by putting myself in these situations is, that more often than not, people are good and want to help others in need or who are struggling. I believe others can see when you are vulnerable and will respect you more for being in that type of situation.  Whether it’s a taxi driver, a tour guide, a local citizen or even a fellow traveler, they all will do what they can to help. I know what you’re thinking – there are some people who’ll take advantage of you in this situation, and you’re absolutely correct.  I’ve known when someone was merely trying to take advantage of me and I simply walked away looking for another solution. Bad things can happen when Adventure Traveling. In response to that I simply remind myself that those things can happen ANYWHERE, even in your hometown.

Here are some of the rewards I’ve experienced firsthand when Adventure Traveling.

First, and perhaps most importantly, it has broadened my perspective of the world, in terms of people and culture.  Living in the United States, by default, creates a myopic perspective. We simply aren’t physically near many other foreign cultures, except perhaps for those who live near our two borders.  Each time I’ve experienced a foreign place, I’ve learned how diverse the world is, and how much I have to learn about others.

Next I’d say Adventure Travel has increased my trust of other human beings.  As I mentioned earlier, most of the time, people want to help other people, probably the same way you do.   Again, this does not mean you blindly trust anyone, your instincts will help guide you as to who is trustworthy and who is not.  

Next, Adventure Travel has greatly increased my confidence.  I learned I can overcome almost any obstacle that comes my way. There may be some zigs and zags along the way, but I’ve always made it to my desired destination.

Another benefit from these experiences has been an increase in compassion for others.  When traveling to foreign lands, you come to realize just how good you have it in life.  No matter what you position in this world, there are millions of others who’ve got it a lot harder trying to survive daily life.  And as a result, I invariably end up with a greater appreciation for what I’ve got and I take less for granted. 

Finally, I think Adventure Travel has given me a higher tolerance for discomfort.  This is a very Buddhist perspective. Buddhists believe that suffering is part of life, to be expected, and that if a person experiences pain calmly, without becoming emotionally distressed, one can attain greater states of being. 

I’m curious what your experiences have been, and if you feel the same way.  Please feel free to comment below, and may all your travels be adventures!