Adventure travel has become so much more available in recent years and more people are heading off to undertake more extreme adventures.
As I plan my next adventure, hiking the length of Hadrian’s Wall and a bit of wild hiking in the Orkney Islands, I’ve been considering the whole question of why some of us do the adventurous/extreme things that we do? Why do we push ourselves to the limit and sometimes beyond that limit? And do we actually enjoy the stress and the pressure that we put our bodies and our minds under?
I mean it would be so much easier to just stay in nice hotels and hire a car or catch a train and see all the sights that everyone else sees when they visit. But oh, so much more boring. I recently did one of those random quizzes that you get on social media, I don’t normally do them but this one piqued my interest, it was travel related. My results (taken with a pinch of salt obviously) indicated that I was an Active Explorer, so pretty accurate really.
But as to the why of it all, why I want to do something a little out of the ordinary when many others are quite happy to take it easy on holiday, well, the answer escapes me. I don’t think there’s any straightforward answer to these questions.
In April 2015 I completed my second trek to Everest Base Camp, it was a more difficult trek than the first, there was a lot more ‘weather’ to contend with, we had a diem horribilis when the heavy snow forced us to backtrack, trudging across country through knee deep snow, back to where we were four days previously, and then the whole experience culminated in me enduring the scariest experience of my life the major earthquake that hit Nepal on 25th April that year.
Eighteen hours before that quake hit I sat on the roof terrace of the Radisson Hotel, a Gorkha beer in front of me, and I wrote in my journal. I was the last of the group remaining in Kathmandu and I was asking myself the difficult question. How did I feel about the trek, having done it for the second time, had I enjoyed it?
It was an incredibly difficult question for me to answer.
Could I actually say I’d enjoyed walking uphill (or up the mountains) for eighteen days, not having a shower for fourteen of those days, dealing with squatting over disgusting holes in the ground and negotiating terrain that required the utmost concentration?
Could I say that I’d enjoyed the exhaustion at the end of each day, the trudging through deep snow for endless hours backtracking when the weather interrupted the itinerary?
Could I say that I’d enjoyed the never ending climb to the top of Gokyo Ri made all the more difficult with the persistence of the snow to stick to the mountainside and could I say I’d enjoyed the struggle with altitude, carb infused meals and the gallons of boiled water it was necessary to drink each day?
Enjoyable is not exactly the right word to describe these experiences.
But what I can say, with absolute certainty, is that I enjoyed the feeling of euphoria, pride and exultation I felt as I stood at the top of Gokyo Ri. That summit was my ultimate goal this time round, the Cho-La Pass also, but that wasn’t to be, the mountain weather had other ideas.
Summiting Gokyo Ri was special to me and I’m proud of that achievement. I basically climbed a mountain of nearly five and a half thousand metres. I stood at the top and looked out over some of the highest mountains on the planet. I stood at the top of my own little world and it felt great – so yes, I enjoyed that moment.
At the end of each day I enjoyed knowing that I’d got through another day, I enjoyed knowing that I was achieving what many people younger than me struggle with and I enjoyed the camaraderie of the group as we commiserated with each other over aches and pains and altitude induced illnesses.
I enjoyed the fact that I succeeded in this venture, in the challenge that I set myself. I enjoyed knowing that I still had the strength, the determination and the guts to get out there and do this. I enjoyed the feeling that I was setting an example for my grandchildren, showing them that once you set your mind to something, you can succeed.
So yes, I can say that I enjoyed the trek, as extreme as it was – and I enjoy the adventurous side of me that took so long to emerge.
How about you? Are you into adventurous holidays or are they all about relaxing for you?