An Attitude for Adventure

 “Life’s an adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller 

getting adventurous in Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech, Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Exploring Djemaa el Fna is an adventure in itself

Spirit of Adventure

We have all heard of the phrase “Spirit of Adventure” it is often tossed about like confetti to describe anybody or anything that displays a little free spirit.

If we actually think about it, it probably still conjures up images of fresh faced, young, athletic, all American types giving up everything to sail the seas in a schooner or dig for gold in the Yukon.

As children adventure probably filled our every dream, we read about it, watched it on television or at the cinema, we lived it and breathed it, blissfully unaware that we were enjoying adventures of our own every day, Children use their imaginations every day in their playtime, these provide ample opportunities for adventure.

If we retain the wonder and curiosity that children have about life then there we will continue to explore our surroundings, neighbourhoods and further afield. This is the ‘attitude for adventure’.

History of Adventure

Considering adventure for just a moment it is likely that certain names will come to mind. Famous explorers such as Marco Polo, Magellan, David Livingstone, Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton and more recently Sir Ranulph Fiennes epitomise the spirit of exploration.

This preconception we now possess about adventure leads us to think of it in a certain manner, we no longer think of adventures as being something which is possible in our own backyards.

Our thoughts will likely stray to the epic; single handed trans-Atlantic rowing attempts, incredible feats of endurance and determination such as man-hauling across the Antarctic continent. Maybe more recently Ed Stafford the first person to hike the entire length of the Amazon.

 Workers in the Marrakech tannery on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Exploring can show a little more of a city, the tannery in Marrakech

Literal Adventure

Adventure is entrenched in our literature. Classics such as Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” which although primarily about a dog is set in the wilderness of the gold rush in the Yukon. We were probably brought up on the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson books; “Treasure Island” or “Kidnapped” every page packed with historical adventure.

Children’s books of course are all about adventure and although many are also of a fantastical nature, plenty are of the everyday variety. Arthur Ransome set “Swallows and Amazons” in the English Lake District and brings to life the adventures of a group of children camping and sailing in the area. It even has references to one of Stevenson’s greatest stories “Treasure Island”. It also emphasises the importance of imagination in providing children with the attitude for adventure.

There are even a whole series of “Boys Own” adventure annuals and books which have been reproduced and translated throughout the World, we have an obsession for adventure and literature helps inspire us.

Enid Blyton created a number of fantasy worlds but arguably her best work involved more ordinary adventures in series similar to “The Famous Five”.

 Multi-pitch climbing in the Aveyron Gorge, France on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Adventure comes in many forms

Defining the ‘attitude’

Our perception of adventure and how to define it is shaped by our experiences and the media which surrounds us. The books we read when younger often portray the ‘simple’ adventures of children in the proximity of their own homes. As we become older the stories  shift towards the ‘romance’ of adventure.’ The storylines become more convoluted and involve heroes defeating overwhelming odds in landscapes such as vast deserts or overcoming the difficulties of surviving in the harsh wilderness of an Alaskan winter.

Is this how adventure is defined? Absolutely not; a woman setting out solo or a couple on a round the World trip regardless of where they may be visiting are undoubtedly setting of on an adventure of a lifetime. The child visiting their local woods in the company of a few friends or parents for the first time are set for a huge adventure.

“A true adventurer does not need to seek it, adventure will find them”

Relativity of adventure

It is the ‘attitude’ that defines adventure; those that possess it will spend their whole life enjoying them. They may not be the epic ones in the same vein as Fiennes or even the late Steve Irwin but they will be personal to them, defined by their own ambitions, abilities and interests.

I believe my much more illustrious namesake George Leigh Mallory defined the ‘attitude for adventure’ very succinctly; when asked why he wanted to climb Everest; “because it’s there” he replied.

 The Millau Viaduct view from the Tarn River France on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

It is all a matter of perspective

Everest was Mallory’s personal adventure and was compelled to return to attempt to reach the summit several times, eventually making the ultimate sacrifice. His quest was driven by his compulsion, his attitude for adventure.

This same attitude will compel many to visit a particular country or city, peruse a museum, make a pilgrimage to a holy shrine , a trek to the summit of a local mountain or even Aconcagua. The challenge involved is irrelevant; it is personal, it is their Everest.

Adventure travel’ is a whole multi-million dollar segment of the industry which caters to this need to fulfil our own personal quest. Participating in the adrenaline fuelled activities they offer is often seen as a short route to adventure. There is nothing wrong with this of course provided we ensure that we are suitably equipped, possessing the experience, skills, correct fitness levels and suitable equipment for the particular activity should be of paramount importance.

Finding adventure

It is my belief that adventure is where you find it, it does not need any particular skills, expensive equipment, death defying activities or exotic locations; it just needs the attitude for adventure.

Those that possess this attitude will find “Everyday adventures every day

I would love to read your comments and thoughts on the subject, finding adventure is of course a subject very close to my heart so looking forward to some alternative views maybe.


Comments 18

    1. Post
    1. Post

      Absolutely Jade we just need to step back a moment sometimes and we will realise we are slap bang in the middle of a great adventure.

  1. elizabeth

    Great article! I live with my husband on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. They grow delicious coffee here along with many tropical fruits. I run a small B&B where I serve freshly brewed Haina coffee with my homemade banana muffins. Stop in next time you are in our neck of the world!

    1. Post

      That sounds idyllic Elizabeth, I hope I can drop in one day to share a cup of you now famous coffee, thanks for leaving a comment.

  2. John

    Iain, George Leigh Mallory is famed for his “because it’s there” quote, but how can you be sure it wasn’t a brush off comment? It avoided him explaining the real psychology of climbing, that the interviewer would never be able to get without having done some climbing themselves. “The Beckoning Silence” by Joe Simpson is one of the best books that got me to appreciate why climbers still keep going when every step is painful (as in Joe’s case due to his injury described in “Touching the Void”).

    Sadly Everest is now a pay and go “adventure” where you can virtually the whole route on pre prepared steps, while holding onto rope handrails. Many of the so called climbers carried on to the summit leaving sherpas, other climbers to die alone.

    Adventure in my terms can be summed up by another cliché: “Feel the fear but do it anyway”.

    1. Post

      Wow John honoured you are reading a few of my posts today 🙂 As for my hero George to be totally honest there is even some doubt that he said it at all, there is some that believe a reporter actually made it up! Everything I have ever read about him however suggests to me a combination of the two explanations, he needed to climb Everest because it was the hoighest peak in the World, it was unconquered and therefore it was there to be climbed. It is also true that after sometime touring to promote and fund the next expedition he just could not be bothered to explain his philosophy. It is another part of the legend of the man that we will never know, just as we will probably never know if he and Sandy Irvine reached the summit or not.

      Joe simpson is one of my very favourite climbing literature writers, love his stuff and “The Beckoning Silence” is possibly my favourite of his books even ahead of the more famous “Touching The Void” he really does capture the spirit of climbing not just for himself but probably for a great many that have climbed in the Greater Ranges in a time when it required genuine commitment and years of experience.

      I agree totally with the way climbing is going with money enabling people to reach summits that they do not have the experience, skills and even sometimes equipment to genuinely climb. The ‘brotherhood of the rope’ is now if not actually dead and buried it is only followed by a relatively small and select group. There is apost all about adventure travel on this site, I am not sure if you have read that.

      Whilst I like the final quote I do not necessarily agree with it totally as my whole ethos is that adventures can be found without the need for any risk at all, it. Those with the right attitude will have adventures in a perfectly safe city centre or on a quite lake a few miles from their home. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. John

    Iain, no disagreement on your safety issue. That is not to say that you will have no fear when taking your first paraglider flight, even leaving taking that first trip way from home on your own. Assessing risk is important, in a previous discussion I agreed that some activities that look risky; take abseiling as a good example: it is very safe if set up by professionals, but looks decidedly risky and a first timer without any fear partaking would have to suppress some fairly basic instincts not to have any fear at all.

    It just goes to show that a clichéd phrase is useless in conveying the true picture. 😉

    1. Post

      Do you know most climbing accidents are a result of rappelling John? That is usually when escaping/descending after a climb though not when setup as a seperate activity by qualified single rope supervisors. Had to persuade many a novice to take the ‘plunge’ and step over the edge, as you say it is perspective, trusting in the equipment when every fibre of their body is screaming not a sensible thing to do.

      I guess like adventure fear is relative the fear of taking a first parapenting flight is genuinely a fear for their life/well being, is the first trip away from home the same fear or more an anxiety of being out of their comfort zone, experiencing something new. I am not sure many are worried that they will not actually return safely?

  4. Kern Windwraith

    I love the concept of discovering the “Adventure in Everyday”–it’s a brilliant mantra for reminding ourselves that there’s so much to enjoy and be amazed by, even if our pockets aren’t very deep.

    1. Post

      Very true Kern it really does not matter how much money we spend, where we travel to or what we do with the right attitude it can be full of adventures

  5. mary jones

    hi iain,

    thanks for this post, i love the way that you write.
    It defintely makes me think about adventure and how easy we can get our own piece of adventure on a daily basis.

    1. Post
  6. Jane Vosky

    Having found your site when looking for photos of climbing to show the children at school in assembly, I am very grateful to you and your correspondents for the comments.
    We will be looking at having a Spirit of Adventure at school, all about how we can get as much out of life as possible, and I think I could write the whole piece just from what I have found here.
    The best comment is that having the right attitude for adventure, as in not running away when things are tricky but going on as far as you can, means that you will find ‘Everyday adventures every day.’
    Thank you from me and from all of my children.

  7. Joanna Demetriou

    Very fascinating article. I personally agree and believe that the best adventures are the spontaneous adventures that you don’t have to force them to happen they just do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.