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Seeking Out Adventure in a Sterile World

Essay
Neoteric Masculinity

Seeking Out Adventure in a Sterile World

Adventure. Is there a single word more associated with masculine ideals? Self-reliance, self-development, putting yourself to the test and improving your skills. These are all things associated with the adventure legends of old like King Arthur, the Count of Monte Cristo, or Tarzan of the Apes. Some of the most masculine and heroic real-life figures also lead lives of adventure that have been passed down through the ages: Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, or even more recently Theodore Roosevelt. But in the modern day, with our “daily grind” from cubicle to car to home, can we still attain the same highs that our heroes did?

 

The age of adventure: dead and gone?

“We are the middle children of history. Born too late to explore earth, born too early to explore space.”

– Tyler Durden

 

I hear this quote all the time on the internet, people bitching about being born into the modern age. What an asinine thing to complain about. We are living in the safest and most prosperous era of human history. But with that comes a general reduction of the grit that humanity has faced to advance this far. With the advent of the internet, the migration of jobs indoors and in front of screens, and the general geopolitical landscape, we can relax in our little bubbles. No longer do we have to worry about bandits riding into your town à la the old west, being conscripted into a globe spanning conflict (currently), or having marauding invaders arriving unannounced on your shores. Police protect us from crime and robbery. We should be thankful for this. But due to this increased security, we must go out of our way to test ourselves, and develop our resolve.

Travel has lost most of its unknowns. Sure there are parts of the world that remain partially unexplored, and species undiscovered, but unless you work as a biologist or in a similar field you are unlikely to see them. Even travel between developed and developing nations has become sterilized. No longer are you flying to a relatively unknown country to you, except for the few photos you may have viewed in national geographic and the brief descriptions you have read in books. Even a few decades ago this was our parents’ experience. When arriving, you are constantly connected to your family and social safety net through cellular phones and the internet. Destinations and countries which were once off the beaten path and awe inspiring for the views they gave have become flooded with tourism: think Cappadocia, or Macchu Picchu. Overrun with wannabe Instagram “models” with their boyfriends lying on the ground at their feet to take 30 different photos at various angles of them, there is no longer feel the sense of wonder that your parents would have felt in the same place.

Men NEED adventure. We need a sense of danger, a challenge that requires us to face our fears and insecurities. We need a way to develop resolve. Sure, childhood sports develop some of this, but many men stop playing after high school.

Do you think that the average male living in a large urban center, working a cubicle job 9-5 then going home to the comfort of his Netflix and Reddit will ever continue the self development journey he began in childhood? The only “sport” he plays is the newest NHL video game, and the only time he gets out of the city is to camp in a luxury RV. Maybe he even takes a trip once per year, but his wife chooses to go to a beachside resort full of seniors living out their sunset years, which is not to disparage resorts totally; there’s a time and place for most things, including sipping a few margaritas with the lads.

 

Pursue and adventurous career

There are still heroic jobs that lend themselves to a life filled with adrenaline and adventure, like military or police service. However, we can’t all work these jobs, and they come with a high level or risk. If you do want to be a firefighter, or join the special forces, I applaud your bravery, as we need people to work these essential jobs. But even if you don’t want to pursue a career in a field like this, there are still hundreds of other jobs that you could find and that even working temporarily would add flavor to your life.

I personally work a mixed desk and field job. Great pay, benefits, and comfortable job security. But I often find myself longing for more. And the more I researched it, the more I realized it was within my grasp. I quickly realized, that if I saved up enough money to be financially self sufficient, I could pursue jobs that don’t traditionally align with financial security, and still provide enough income to live. There are plenty of resources available online in regards to financial independence, and investing your way to financial freedom.

Once I reach the stage where I am financially free, there are a few careers I’d consider trying for a few years before settling down and retiring early:

  • Helicopter search and rescue
  • Park ranger
  • Sailing worker
  • Ski instructor
  • Pilot
  • Adventure tour guide

All of these careers have some risk, and embrace the spirit of adventure without being outright dangerous. The pay isn’t great for many of them, or the job isn’t necessarily stable, which is why I’m working an easier job now to provide the opportunity to pursue these.

 

Pursue adventure at home

Despite the grim picture painted above, with a little bit of effort, and a being willing to live a life in a way that isn’t completely risk averse, you can source endless experiences that will develop your strength of will and personality. I’m sure that most of you reading this already train in the gym, and this does wonders for your willpower and dedication. But there is something missing that you can find in sports, especially combat sports. Lifting day in day out is a very predictable endeavour, there is no sense of uncertainty. You train, you progress, you get bigger and stronger. Day-in day-out. But in combat sports, every match, every sparring session, every new move learned and attempted is a whole new challenge. This leads to a feeling of adventure and risk that is difficult to discover through lifting alone. This also applies, although to a lesser extent, to other sports. I know times on the rugby field, where after a executing a particularly tough pass or running through a set of defenders, I felt the same sense of exhilaration.

Personally, I wrestled for years in school, then began muay Thai a while after graduating. The gym I trained at had everything I wanted in a gym. An old school no nonsense atmosphere, real training that would translate to matches or self defence, and knowledgeable instructors that would help pass on their skills developed competing at a high level. The adventure of starting off not knowing any stand[1]up combat skills and getting my ass kicked, to frequently beating my peers in sparring, did wonders for my masculinity, confidence, and the way I carried myself outside of the ring. A dream I currently hold and plan to actualize is travelling to Thailand for muay Thai training and ending the trip off with a match.

Another example of adventure that you should seek out close to home: multi-day hiking and camping trips into the wilderness. Venture forth with a few of your lads or your partner, find a trail that will lead you away from civilization, and rely on your own two feet and survival ability for a few days. Of course you risk encountering wildlife, inclement weather, and injury, but the reward is the development of survival skills, and complete attunement with nature. You will be honoring the daily life that your ancient ancestors had to live. Even more beneficial is that you are as close to being COMPLETELY disconnected from civilization as it’s possible to be. Besides a satellite phone, you have no way to be contacted, no social media notifications to worry about. I truly enjoy this feeling, it is completely liberating.

Hunting takes this to a greater extreme, although I haven’t hunted myself. It is truly up to you, and only you, to secure your meal. Remember, your ancient ancestors travelled through wilderness and overgrown roads just to get to neighbouring villages. They were required to hunt and forage to provide nourishment for their family. The least you can do is travel the same wilderness they did, and acquire some of the skills they used. You will find that learning basic survival skills with the advantage of the internet and books is a fairly easy but rewarding endeavour. You never know when you may even need them.

Pick an adventure sport you can get involved with as well. Something like Skydiving, off-roading, snowmobiling, or my personal favorite, downhill skiing. Each time you go, you will find new routes to explore, and push yourself to go faster, harder, and learn something new about handling your vehicle or skis.

 

Pursue adventure abroad

As I alluded to above, this has become increasingly difficult in the current decade. Countries are extremely interconnected, with easy access to sim cards and internet. First thing people do after getting off the airplane is go to a mobile provider booth and purchase a sim card. It is very easy to travel to a new country, never find your will or abilities tested, and never have the interactions that instil the love of travel in the first place. Still, I enjoy nothing more than travelling, and am grateful for all of the experiences I have had abroad.

My greatest tip for creating an adventurous trip to another country: go solo. You don’t need your partner or best friends with you. Over time this has become my preferred form of travel. You make your own deadlines, choose what you want to see, and don’t need to compromise with your friends who’d rather spend the day in the pub drinking their ass off. With solo travel, you only have one person to rely on. Yourself. You are fully responsible for keeping yourself safe, and ensuring your trip is a success. It is solely up to you to get to your next destination, navigate the transportation system of whichever country you are visiting, and to keep yourself safe. You will be encouraged to learn the local language, to communicate with the people living there. Another massive benefit: it will push you out of your comfort zone to meet others, lest you end up being lonely. This is especially helpful for introverts, forcing them to develop social skills. Lastly, no one has any preconceived notions of who you are, and you therefore have the ability to reinvent yourself as who you want to be. I have developed life-long friendships and contacts in many cities through meeting others while solo travelling.

Another way to push yourself and make your trip more exciting: pick a country that has not been overly westernized, where you can learn some of the local language, that still retains some grit and edge to its local populace. You SHOULD be out of your comfort zone for parts of your travels. Otherwise, what are you learning? The last thing you want when travelling is to constantly be in the midst of old aged retirees, who picked the destination because it is safe and easy. In my experience, North Americans especially have an aversion to travelling to any destination where there is even a hint of danger.

Pick somewhere without the easiest access, or a visa that is a bit harder to get. This will go a long way in limiting the type of travellers that will be in the country. Not only will flying and arriving become part of the overall adventure, but locals will interact with you more positively, as they aren’t constantly besieged by hordes of tourists. Pick a destination with beautiful landscapes that you can hike and explore, and then get out there and explore. Go camping, go hiking, rent or purchase a motorbike and do a road trip. There are plenty of adventure travel destinations in the world. Some recommendations for countries to explore: Colombia, Bolivia, Turkey (the smaller areas especially), Georgia, remote areas of China, Mongolia, Iran. The people I have met from these countries are some of the most genuine and helpful people I have ever come across. I also don’t believe that it is circumstantial that these areas have hearty, delicious food to explore as well. My personal next travel destination is to visit a few countries in Africa.

I am also not pushing for people to be stupid and take needless risks. Books like Into the Wild glamorize the adventure, but also show the risks involved in travelling to wilderness unprepared. People generally aren’t impressed with locations you visit that are extremely dangerous, like warzones; you wouldn’t find me travelling to Gaza or Afghanistan once the US pulls out. But you shouldn’t be travelling to impress others anyways, these should be journeys taken because you enjoy them and reap benefits in your own life. But there are many destinations that most would consider “extremely dangerous” that aren’t in actuality.

 

Why the need for adventure has died in young men

This one is fairly simple, and again a larger issue in North America than other parts of the world. The average person’s thought process preventing them from seeking out adventure goes something like “I just explored a new area in my RPG, improved my character, and watched my favorite travel Youtuber. What need do I have to get off my couch. I’m certainly not going to hunt for my food, I have a bottle of soylent and a nice chilled IPA in the fridge”.

I don’t know how many people I have talked to that don’t even care that air travel has become non-feasible with Covid quarantines. The constant dopamine drip that people are receiving from non-challenging sources replaces the need to seek out true adventure. Don’t let yourself fall in the trap of an easy routine.

Another common “thrill replacement ” theme I see is in men whose largest weekly accomplishment is when their favorite sports team wins a game. Instead of going out and joining an amateur league of the sport and actually playing the game they “love” themselves, they instead live vicariously through their favorite athlete. Nothing wrong with watching sports, but basing your identity around it and getting your thrills from someone else success is not a healthy substitute for your own victories.

The other major issue I see distracting us from the fruit of adventure life could be providing us is the ever-deteriorating work-life balance. North Americans are provided with very little paid time off, when compared with most of the rest of the developed world. One of the most disgusting trends I see is men who are proud of working unpaid overtime, sometimes over 40hrs a week of it, and bragging about never taking time off. This doesn’t apply to someone who is building their own business, but life was meant to be lived, not spent in the confines of a cubicle. You should NEVER feel a sense of shame for taking the time off that your company is obligated to give you, or turning down extra work that is outside of your scope. Your company isn’t your life, and using up all of your youthful years at a job is a fate I consider to be pretty close to death.

 

In closing

Go out, hunt, fish, and explore this great earth that you have the fortune to exist upon. Find a sport to play and play it passionately. Seek adventure and victory on the field and in the gym. Traverse difficult terrain and rely on your own skills and guts to keep you safe. In this way you can honor your ancestors, embrace your inner explorer, and develop a level of masculinity and self-value no longer found in the majority of men.

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