Falling in love with the outdoors has come to me quite late in life. Let’s face it, there was no Instagram when I was young and fit and thin and still had dark hair, so there was really no need for me to go out and stand on mountains and take photos to get approval from people I didn’t know. Camping and the like was for hippies and people who couldn’t afford to go on proper holidays.
Fast forward a few decades and a mid-life crisis, ah, I mean mid-life re-evaluation, desire to run the New York Marathon, turned into discovering trail running turned into discovering the outdoors turned into my own little brand of adventure. And I say my own brand, because really, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to adventures.
A few years back, for example, when I signed up for a 200+ kilometre trail race through the Himalaya, my greatest fear wasn’t the distance or the altitude, it was doing a poo off the side of the mountain. I kid you not. All my life I’d strictly been an indoor poo-er, somewhere to sit, maybe a newspaper to read, that nice, soft paper to wipe with, and every bit as important, a flush button to push. I was legitimately horrified at how I was going to go to the toilet without an actual toilet.
You see, when I do adventures, I really love nature and trails and mountains and flowers and wildlife. But you know what else I really like? Toilets. I really like toilets. And showers. Especially warm ones. Sure, I can go a day or two here or there without them, but I’d much rather not. It actually takes the fun out of it for me. Even recently when I competed in an Adventurethon stage race, and found myself with a little time between the ride and paddle, I snuck back to my motel for a shower. It’s just how I roll.
For a long time, I felt like I needed to apologise for that. Like my brand of adventure somehow wasn’t ‘adventurey’ enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily a ‘glamper’ either. I’m more than happy to sleep in the back of my car, and just pass by a public toilet to take care of business. Or stay in some dusty old room wherever I can get some sleep. Actually, tents kinda terrify me. I’m scared of literally almost every living creature other than butterflies and platypuses, and fairly convinced that while statistically, approximately ZERO per cent of Australians have ever died from a snake bite while sleeping in their tents, that I will somehow be the first one it happens to. Or that a massive spider will crawl into my mouth while I’m sleeping. Or that I’ll get eaten alive by mozzies – yes, I’m that guy who suffers terribly for days from even an innocent mozzie bite. As a consequence, I rarely end up getting any sleep in a tent.
There was also that time I left my boots outside the tent in the Cambodian jungle, (don’t even ask me why I ever thought that was a good idea), then brought them in during the night when it started to rain, only to find thousands of massive crazy angry jungle ants had set up shop in them, and were now inside my tent, in my sleeping bag, and in my nightmares for years to come. Needless to say did not get a lot of sleep that particular night.
My point is, I still have awesome adventures. I just have to pick and choose a bit, and then do them my way.
Yes, that means there are some adventures I may never get to do. I’d quite like to do the Jatbula hike up in The Top End, for example, but realise that with my current level of adventure-ness that’s highly unlikely. But never mind, there’s no shortage of other adventures I can fill my days with. Other adventures with toilets. And hot showers.
And I suppose that’s the great thing about adventure – it means something different to everyone. Whether it’s a bike or a hike or a climb or a swim or a paddle or a road trip, with or without toilets and crazy killer ants, by all means look at what others are doing, by all means be inspired by them, just don’t be defined by them. Your adventures are no more or less worthy than anyone else’s. A literal walk in the park may be crazy adventurous for you, while the most daring adventure you can possibly imagine is a walk in the park for others. So what? You do you.
And choose your own damn adventure.