At the grand old age of 41, I am single and am living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Central America – far away from my loving family in England. I have little money, no car and an old, hesitant computer that, even as I type this, takes a while to commit to producing each line.
But I made a choice. I made a choice to step out of what was familiar and create something different for myself. I followed my heart. I fed my curiosity. And not for the first time. Throughout my adult life, people have labelled me a free spirit and an adventurous soul, as well as foolish, unrealistic and quixotic. Here I am - in Costa Rica. My tiny apartment looks over a sunny, jungle-clad bay and monkeys cavort in the trees around me. The weather is warm and the people are friendly. I am surrounded by community, filled with gratitude and have no regrets.
I am lucky to own a computer. I have had a good education, have a roof over my head and access to fresh food and clean water. It has been travel that has shown me just how privileged I am. Travel has tested my resolve and required me to problem-solve. Travel continues to educate, enlighten and deepen me.
What lies at the heart of the spirit of adventure? Is it curiosity, risk-taking, courage? Psychology has made the association between adventure-seeking behaviours and the release of dopamine providing us with feelings of enjoyment and positivity. Risk-taking leads us to new experiences, which help renew our vitality.
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within” ― George Eliot
Bernd Figner, a research scientist at the Center for Decision Sciences of Columbia University, believes that it is women who take more social risks, 'that includes things like starting a new career in your mid-thirties or speaking your mind about an unpopular issue in a meeting at work'. And it is women who take the lead when it comes to adventure travel, too. According to a survey conducting by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, women make up the majority of adventure travellers at 53%.
The responsibilities of modern living do not always permit us to travel, but we can still cultivate our adventurous spirit. The opportunity for adventure is available to us daily. Here are four handy tips to access the essence of this spirit:
• Do not let your fears rule you – the adventurous spirit is never certain of the outcome but is open to new experiences regardless. We all feel fear but the adventure-seeker takes action despite that fear.
• Embrace the unfamiliar – travel takes you to unknown places and requires you to live in the present. But you can expand your horizons every day no matter where you are. By embracing places and people that are different from our norm, we can heighten our awareness and learn something new. Doing something out of the ordinary can also increase confidence.
• Follow your heart – adventure comes to those who seek it. I love the Anais Nin quote: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” So if you have always wanted to take a cooking class, skydive or learn to sing, now is the time. Stand inside your truth. Follow your heart.
• Seize opportunities – recognize opportunities and take them. This is your chance.