Thursday, July 28, 2011

Everyone's idea of adventure differs

One of Helen Keller's most famous quotes states, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."

While I agree with that whole heartedly, it does have to be balanced with the knowledge that each one of us has a slightly different idea about what constitutes "adventure." And in this day and age of  "adventure travel" there are even different levels of adventure: soft adventure, hard adventure.

As a travel writer, I often have to categorize what I write for potential editors or tourism boards who may want to help me promote their destination/product. Sometimes I am just given the option of "adventure" as a category; other times, I have to select "soft adventure" and/or "hard adventure."

So just what is the difference?

It often depends on the individual.

Jungle camping: soft or hard adventure?
I "googled" the term "soft adventure" and one website came up with this description: "Soft adventure. The sort of experience that goes beyond the typical tourist itinerary. There is no great physical challenge involved here."

On the Fodor's site it was described thus: "Soft adventure means different things to different people. We define it as any activity that balances mild physical activity with a lot of down time."

As for "hard adventure" ...

The Association of Travel Marketing Executives define it as "including such things as backpacking across rugged terrain, whitewater rafting or kayaking,  hot air ballooning, rock climbing or mountain climbing, off-road biking or mountain biking, hang-gliding, para sailing or windsurfing, parachuting or sky diving, skateboarding or snowboarding, roller hockey, bungee jumping, spelunking or cave exploring, snorkeling or scuba diving and survival games (e.g. paint ball)."

Wow. I didn't realize I was so adventurous. I've done seven of those activities, and never really thought about them as being "hard adventure." I mean, I'm not Indiana Jones; hell, I'm not even the dog.
("You're named after the dog???")

While canoeing per se, was not on the "hard adventure" list,
if you're this close to wild gators, it might not be "soft."

I personally didn't realize I had a different perception than most when it came to soft vs. hard adventure until a few years ago. I was interviewing a resort executive while working on a story about resorts for Western Hotelier magazine. We discussed soft adventure, and I used the example of a five-day kayak trip I'd taken in the Ecuadorian Amazon as "soft adventure."

"Whoa!" he practically shouted. "That's not soft adventure!"

But that depends on what your background is.

From my perspective, it's "soft" because while we were in a remote area, camping in tents along a jungle river each night, we had guides; we did no cooking or meal planning, all our meals were prepared; we did no navigating. We just paddled and hiked through the jungle.

Whitewater rafting: on the "hard" list. I guess it is -
I certainly had a scare falling into a Class V rapid on this trip.

Keep in mind, I've been planning my own overnight canoe trips since 1974; to me, if I have to plan my meals, plan my route, do my own cooking, chop my own firewood, use a map to figure out where I'm going - all without guides - that starts to resemble hard adventure.

If I'm doing a first descent of a river or hiking through previously unexplored jungle or climbing a mountain like Everest or K2 or Kilimanjaro, even - that's what I call real hardcore adventure.

I should point out, I've never done either. But from my perspective, that's what I would need to do in order to really feel I was participating in hard adventure.

But that's just me. We all have our own world view.

So I guess this is as much about perspective as it is adventure. One man's hardcore is another man's soft adventure.

Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, "You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way and the only way, it does not exist."

So don't think about it or try to categorize it: just go have an adventure.

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