Adventure as a Medium for Growth

Jan 31, 2017

Adventure as a Medium for Growth |

I think it happened as I swirled precariously around the outside edge of a massive whirlpool they called The Washing Machine.  I wore denim shorts and a lifejacket, thankfully, and it was the first day of my period.

I was sixteen.

Whitewater rafting wasn’t my zone of genius at this tender young age; nor was anything that didn’t involve my nose in a book or my pen scribbling across my journal.

Though I had grown up in a decidedly adventuresome family, I always had to be coerced to come along.

(I remember a particularly momentous struggle when I was sixteen and my parents insisted that we go on a family cross country ski outing.  I begged – begged! – to be able to stay home and do my homework)

But somewhere in the telling and retelling of the story of being dumped out of the raft on a 5+-rated raging rapid, in my jean shorts, on my period, and living to tell the tale, a realization started to trickle in…

I can do Challenging Things.


(and they’re kind of exhilarating)

This was the beginning of my love affair with the outdoors, and, specifically, what I would call outdoor adventure.

(outdoor adventure, to me, is time spent in the outdoors during which you face The Unknown, or some physical, mental or emotional Challenge)

It wasn’t the thrill of the moment, necessarily,

not plunging my hands into stinging jellyfish as I swam 13km from one province to another

or feeling altitude sickness as I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro

or even the frostbite I got while scuba diving in the winter that one time

but that

staying the course

facing the unknown

and believing that I was up for the Challenge

took a certain amount of mental and emotional fortitude that I came to truly admire in myself.

I got intimately comfortable with what it took to engage in outdoor adventure


(self-belief, trust, stamina, intuition, 

and the ability to be my own best cheerleader)

and regularly had experiences that had me saying,

“Well, if I can do that then I can do….anything.”


Adventure doesn’t just cultivate confidence, although, arguably, for most women and girls, this is no small feat in and of itself.

The way we navigate adventure and the Challenge and Unknowns that it involves is a window into the way we navigate our lives.


Adventure experiences are a way to ask ourselves:

“What happens when I’m confronted with a Challenge?  What does my self-talk sound like in those situations?  How does that show up in the rest of my life?”

“How do I approach Challenge and the Unknown, generally?  Do I have a compulsion to not only engage in the Challenge but do it bigger and better than anyone else?  Do I seek ways to flee uncomfortable or scary situations rather than facing them?”

And here is the beauty:

By and large, when we experience these things about ourselves in the Great Outdoors, or anywhere we might be adventuring, we are experiencing them in a “safe way.”  We’re experimenting with Challenge and the Unknown in a way that is fairly low stakes:  perhaps only the ego is at risk.

(I was *probably* pretty safe churning around the Washing Machine, right?)

Think of adventure as the petri dish within which you can begin to cultivate your courage.