I think there must be an optimum time in your life for true adventures, you can’t be too young but you can’t be too old. Depending on your definition of the word ‘adventure’, I feel there has to be an element of risk, of danger and the unknown.
As a parent, you are never going to want to see your child go off on a true adventure. I remember my sister cashing in her life’s savings at the tender age of about 25 and heading off to Katmandu for the start of a year travelling alone around Asia and Australia. I think I may have been studying the third year of my degree in Texas at the time, so I only have vague memories of how my parents felt about this, but I do remember a very tense time when she wasn’t contactable and a British girl had been abducted and murdered by a thai monk near to her last known location. That was a scary one.
My sister’s eldest daughter is now 15 and she’s recently become part of a band and been allowed to travel on her own by tube from South to North London. My sister has definitely felt the full force of parental anxiety over this mini-adventure, particularly when my niece, bless her, didn’t call or answer her phone to confirm that she was still in one piece!
Which leads me on to the question of “will it be different with boys?”. I always used to think that it would, that there would be some in-built protection mechanism, be it physical strength or just a less vulnerable presence in the world, but boys are vulnerable in different ways and the world is full of danger no matter the gender.
Speaking personally I have always shied away from true adventure, preferring to take on the world, buckled up in a harness with a safety net there to catch me if I fall! I guess if I really go to the self analysis I have to admit that I am a risk-minimiser, I am “risk-averse”! My mum said the day she heard I’d jumped out of an aeroplane at 14,000 feet she never would have believed it, but even then I was jumping tandem with an experienced instructor who knew what he was doing – it didn’t even end in a graceless tumble, just a cloud walk onto the terra firma of Mission Beach.
I tend to be an over-thinker and I guess this is the wrong state of mind for an adventurer – after all youcan’t plan for the unknown. Canoing down the Amazon is all well and good but what about the searing heat, the biting insects, dangerous river creatures lurking just below the surface? There have been times in my life when I have definitely toyed with the idea of taking an adventure – going off to teach English in Japan, joining in with the voluteer project helping the endangered turtles of Costa Rica… But each time I have analysed the negatives and freaked myself out!
Now I have a family and once my children are grown I will be approaching retirement so those experiences may well have passed me by for good. But can you look back on a life without a true adventure and not regret it? Or feel like there is enough colour there to entertain you in your twilight years?
I guess its true to say that we’re not all cut out for the backpacking lifestyle – and maybe even a mini-adventure with a safety net is better than none at all.
For the time being I look forward to the little adventures that await my children – scout camps, their first time away without mum and dad, first time on an aeroplane, trying exotic food or even venturing across a big city on their own. I want to encourage an adventurous spirit and not wrap them up in cotton wool. As someone who is risk averse I think this may be something I have to work on!