Despite the obvious contradiction in terms, the myth of a right way to adventure is all too visible, and disappointingly it seems even seasoned travellers aren’t exempt.
Unfortunately, there is a certain sort of person in this world who likes to pass judgement rather vocally on the choices of others. They seem to like to propagate the myth that there is a ‘right way’ to do things and that they have discovered this secret…everyone else is wrong. I had hoped – ever the optimist – when mixing in adventure circles that I would not find that type there. After all, travel opens your mind right? Surely those who have had the good fortune to make themselves vulnerable to and directly experience the wondrous diversity in the world would, of all people, be best placed to recognise that everyone does things differently. And this would inevitably lead to a realisation that there’s no such thing as a right way. Right?
Everyone’s an expert.
Sadly it seems that adventure circles aren’t exempt from attracting this type. This concept of a ‘right way’ is quite visible and judgement of how other people undertake their adventure travel is frequently undertaken by a thankfully small but unfortunately vocal minority. You don’t have to go far to witness the choices of others being questioned, judged and disparaged. “People are missing the point” they say, “it’s all about the gear and the sponsors now and it’s wrong”, “it’s all about the ego, it’s gone too far”. As if there’s some badge of honour for doing it the ‘right way’ (whatever that is) for these people. Initially, I’d taken them to be so-called armchair travellers but I’ve been disappointed to see even seasoned travellers weigh in on the action.
For the record, and for those of you reading this who don’t know me, to say that I intensely dislike this behaviour is an understatement. Unless they’ve developed psychic powers, how on earth can they think they’re qualified to know whether someone has missed the point? Who’s to say the point of it for others isn’t different from them? And forgive me for being a little confused but I didn’t realise that when I, and countless others like me took the decision to travel that I somehow signed a contract which said I had to conform to what you think is the best way to do things. Where do you get off?
To be clear, it’s not at all the fact that these people have a preferred way of doing things that gets me – of course, everyone does. It’s the judgemental way it’s expressed that I dislike, as if because they prefer it it’s superior to the way others prefer it. Despite my strong reaction though, if it were simply a matter of not liking it, I could scroll on or walk away and forget it, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. But just because I recognise that doesn’t mean I can’t challenge the damage I see it doing.
You live, you learn
There is a deep-routed fear in me of getting things wrong that I recognise in others in all walks of life, often. Throughout my life I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome, never quite believing that I deserve to be in a certain job or to be undertaking a certain venture. I am always waiting for that tap on the shoulder, where someone in authority says “excuse me Miss, I’ve no idea how you got in but you need to leave now”. I’m far from alone in this and I’ve witnessed many examples of how damaging it can be to a person’s potential. This imposter syndrome, this fear of getting stuff wrong and being exposed as a fraud is, at its worst, incapacitating. It stifles dreams. Worse, it stifles living, since living is learning, and mistakes are needed for this. Those who perpetrate this myth of ‘a right way’, fuel a fundamental fear of living in those who are unsure of themselves. And whilst I might have largely broken free of the toxic influence of it now I despise the fact that others might be discouraged from seizing life, just because a vocal few are insecure and unhappy enough with their lot that they need to put other’s choices down to make themselves feel superior. The world needs more people to realise that they can, not to slink away into a corner feeling they can’t.
Ignore the critics and recognise the benefits that your ‘weaknesses’ can bring
To anyone who might consider adventuring in possession of less than the thickest of skins and a weak spot for what others say to and about them I would like to say this. What the myth perpetuators don’t get, as they make their petty judgements of others’ lives and choices, oblivious to the impact it has, is that they epitomise the attitudes they decry. Aiming for any kind of perfection, or right way (particularly someone else’s right way) is a road to nowhere. Focusing on getting it ‘right’ is the fastest route to missing the experience. So, if that’s how they like to do things then good luck to them but don’t get sucked in and shape your own experience according to what they’re saying. Protect your dreams from those that would discourage and disempower you. Don’t be fooled by their seeming status of expert, no matter what their pedigree. If they seek to drag you down then they’re wrestling the same demons as you, they just don’t know it yet.
It may not seem it, but that thin skin of yours will serve you well out in the world. It will leave you open to the experience in a way that those others, meting out their judgements, will never be. That humility that you have to question yourself, that thing that you think of as a weakness will become your biggest ally. It will be exactly the thing that allows you to realise that your way is right for you but not necessarily for everyone else, and it is in that realisation that bridges can be built. In short, it will allow vulnerability and connection to flourish. Above all, it will allow the experience to change you.
A ‘right way’?
So, forget this idea that there’s a right way. The only consideration is whether it makes you happy. Forget whether people think it’s become all about the bike or ego or sponsors or not. And definitely forget trying avoid these so-called pitfalls. Forget whether people think travelling fast or slow is the best way, or whether taking too many pictures or writing about things now or after is the right way – who cares? Do what feels right for you.
Adventure is a mind-set. The decision to adventure is a decision to seize control of your life’s journey and make it what you want it to be, not what you’re told it should be. It is a realisation that you have the strength of spirit to confront the uncertainties and unknowns of life. It is challenging yourself to not shy away from, or gloss over our many differences, while simultaneously looking through them to connect with the commonness that binds us all. It is an attitude of acknowledgement and inclusion and wonder at the world. There are those that have been right around the world only to have this mind-set elude them and there are those who embrace it without the need to venture far.
This is just my definition though, for others it might be different. We all have our opinions on how things ought to be and that’s fine. But let’s recognise that this applies to us only, not others. Let’s inform people by talking about what we prefer and what it is for us, not what’s missing the point, what’s wrong or what others are doing and how you disagree – there’s a subtle but important difference. Let’s shatter the stereotypes and empower more people to make themselves happy as they see fit. Or at the very least let’s just all get on with the travelling and stop worrying so much about how others are doing it.