When Adventure Travel Goes Wrong and Why That's a Good Thing

These journeys shift views, open doors to new experiences and rad people, create memories and new foundations, and have their own unique set of ups and downs.
03/04/2014 10:29 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

There's been a rare collision-of-awesomeness in the UK recently in that the Northern Lights made a spectacular appearance for a bunch of people to see. I missed it, but looking at all the incredible photos that came from it made me think back to seeing them for the first time in Canada. There was a subtle electric buzz in the air and the colors, oh crumbs, the colors. That moment of first seeing them really epitomized the appeal I've got for adventurous journeys, and maybe it's the same for a lot of people. You see stuff that you'd never usually see, make real what you'd only seen in photographs, and encounter things that you'd previously just imagined.

So many of those moments happened on the bike trip, in the evening after riding all day and then camping somewhere subtle. Waking up on lake shores, next to the ocean or in redwood forests. Or in the sand dunes, the green farmland or the top of a mountain. That's surely a big part of why people are drawn to the wilderness and to getting away from it all. It can be breathtaking and it can be so freakin' FUN. That's adventure travel when it all goes perfectly. Shooting stars, owl noises, leaves. All that good stuff.

What's talked about less on these kind of trips though is the moments that don't go perfectly. It's kind of taboo. The dark side. The times when you sleep in a village post office because you've been rained on for days and can't face another night outside, and you just hope no-one will come in to pick up their post and find a human-filled sleeping bag blocking their box. Or the nights when you're on tenterhooks and you've hidden a knife in your sock just incase. Or the times when you're worn down and literally believe a bear is going to eat your arm.

Then there was the following moment caught on video. Trying to camp discretely in an urban environment when passing through a place became a rolling theme throughout the trip which often lead to less-than-perfect moments. Flicking through a hard-drive from the trip a couple of days ago I found this footage. It was a night when I wasn't functioning at all and ended up in an all-out battle with some pesky and powerful garden sprinklers. Yep. True arch-nemesis stuff. Whilst many wiser people might not have found themselves in the same situation, I'm sure they have at some point experienced the darker side of adventure travel. Something that many people might relate to. Actually scrap that -- everyone can relate to. Those moments when it all goes wrong.

'Time heals all wounds'. Time shifts perception, and that's really cool. That was a moment where it all got a bit much. The routine had become sloppy and it was showing -- persistent fatigue had built up to the point where being solo on the trip was starting to make me a bit loopy. There was little that was 'stealth' about it. Looking back it's doubtful that was the worst nights sleep ever, but it felt like it. I definitely still look back on that as one of the roughest nights on the trip, and there were a few. But it doesn't take long for everything to change -- now I look at this footage and strangely long for it. Maybe not actually getting soaked again -- let's be realistic, that sucks -- but what it represents. These journeys shift views, open doors to new experiences and rad people, create memories and new foundations, and have their own unique set of ups and downs.

That's the most important part of what you can get from going on an adventurous journey, and that's why people should stop talking about their ultimate journeys and make them happen. No-one looks back on them and regrets them, even the rougher moments.