A little while back we were settled around a campfire at an archery event chatting with friends about our next trips away. Over the years, we’d all had our own experiences under the stars, so I was a bit surprised when our camp buddies commented that they’d love to come ‘adventuring with us’. It struck me that we each had very different perspectives on what it means to get out into the great outdoors.
For me, trips to outback Australia formed the backbone of travel itineraries in my youth. These trips generally involved covering lots of distance over a relatively short period of time, and lots of overnight camping in places where other people were few and far between.
When my husband was growing up, recreational travel entailed members of his geographically dispersed family converging at a remote property somewhere where they’d set up camp, live off the land hunting, and spend time reconnecting.
These travel habits, which we formed in our youth, helped to define how we prefer to travel today as adults. So we’re comfortable clocking-up big distances in remote and regional Australia, isolated from population centres. And we’re also happy to stop for three to four days with friends and family to chill out among fellow campers.
For our campfire friends, however, camping looked a lot different to them. It was something that happened close to home, at one of a small handful of locations, and usually in a large family group among a community of other campers. It wasn’t that they didn’t like the idea of going to new destinations and travelling further afield, they just didn’t know where to start. And they were happy to acknowledge that the uncertainty about how to plan a trip, and what might happen along the way, hindered their ability to break the routine. Tagging along with us promised the safety, security and stability that would make a different type of camping experience seem a bit more manageable.
I have to say that, before that night around the campfire, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to describe our family road trips as ‘adventuring’. When we set out on the highways and byways of this great country, we’re supported by modern communications equipment, well maintained rigs, first aid kits, contingency supplies and a trained bushcraft and survival expert (my husband). We travel on well-surveyed roads; we know their quality before we start; we check meteorological conditions to reduce our chances of being caught out and stranded; we know how to reduce the risks from stinging plants and biting animals; and we tell people where we’re going.
Looked at in this context, a journey of a several thousand kilometres into remote Australia looks like a ‘walk in the park’ when compared to, for example, the experiences of our pioneering forebears. Consider, for instance, the adventurous spirit displayed by 21-year-old Matthew Flinders when, in October 1795, he set off from Sydney Cove, with George Bass and a 14-year-old boy, in an eight-foot long boat to begin his first detailed coastal survey of the newly established colony. His tiny vessel was little bigger than a bathtub!
It wasn’t made for open waters and neither Flinders nor his novice crew had any idea what they would encounter. Yet, they succeeded in their endeavour. Moreover, this first taste of adventure gave the young navigator the confidence to do more. And do more he did, culminating in the first circumnavigation of the entire continent in 1801.
There’s a famous Chinese proverb that states ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’. But there’s also a principle in psychology that tells us that people are hard-wired to avoid uncertainty. While some people are more tolerant of it than others, it’s natural to worry, avoid and eliminate uncertainty where possible. There’s even a phobia to describe the persistent fear of the unknown. So it’s understandable why we might want to avoid it on a recreational trip. After all, holidays are supposed to be fun, right?
It’s any wonder sticking with routine can look like an attractive option.
It’s obvious that, when it comes to working out what’s an ‘adventure’ all depends on what you’re used to. A walk to the local park can be an adventure if you’ve never been there before and you don’t know what you’ll find when you get there. When it comes to overlanding, one way to break the routine may be to get out there with someone who’s done it before, whether it’s a competent family friend with a well-equipped rig, or a tag-along tour operator. They can help you develop a ‘new normal’ for your travel habits, gain confidence and, in so doing, expand your horizons.
However you choose to take things to the next level, one thing’s for sure. If you give yourself permission to start ‘adventuring’, chances are you’ll be glad you did.