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Does "Adventure" Have to Include a Sufferfest?

My Definition of Adventure

By: Matthew Eaton + Save to a List

Let’s have a chat about adventure.

What comes to mind when you hear the word adventure? For me, adventure makes me think of a few things…being outdoors, new experiences, exploring fun places, and getting out of my comfort zone.

When I talk to others about adventure, the conversation always turns to the idea of the sufferfest and how you aren’t on an adventure unless you are sweating, while freezing cold, with wind and rain coming at you from every direction, and don’t forget, you left the trailhead at 2AM. And to be fair, adventure can include those things.

Just take one look at #adventure on instagram and your screen will be filled with gorgeous shots of athletes clearly pushing the limits of human activity while visiting the most epic and beautiful places imaginable. My question is, does adventure have to include the sufferfest or imminent risk of death?

In a very visual world driven by marketing budgets and influencers, images of those activities fuel business and create competition to achieve the next milestone. But they can also reinforce the belief that anything less than a first ascent isn’t cool, or much worse, that anything less isn’t worth doing. 

Full transparency… 

I’m also a creative, a photographer, and a storyteller who holds a degree in advertising, so I get it. Those sponsored athletes are doing rad shit and those images sell the hell out of product. This is not an article meant to judge any of that. I’m just saying that I totally get why some people are intimidated to get outside.

As an example, living in Colorado, I’ve overheard countless conversations where more experienced mountaineers are talking down on the easier mountain routes and making fun of hikers on those routes for having more gear than they probably need. You want to feel really judged? Go to a climbing gym in Boulder… yikes.

Let me be super clear here and reiterate… I love those crazy humans. I love seeing their accomplishments. I love many of them as good friends. I stand in awe of what they do outdoors. And I love to join them as I too love this type of fun when it sits within or on the edges of my skill level.

You know the type of activity I’m talking about. It’s easily recognizable because in the midst of it you ask yourself what the hell you are doing in this location, which is often followed by expletives and the promise that you will never do it again, only to get back at it the next weekend. I totally get it and love to push myself, too. But for me, adventure doesn’t have to include the sufferfest or a high fear factor.

As I write this, I am thinking about the adventure that got away from me this weekend. I had big plans to go get out on some snow before it melts away for the season. I packed up my backpack, clothing layers, crampons, ice axe, skis, and all the things required for some Type A fun in the mountains. But that wasn’t in the cards this particular weekend. Quite the opposite actually as I found myself waking up in an adorable bed and breakfast in the mountains of southern Colorado, four hours away from my original destination. Instead, I enjoyed a lovely 4 mile out and back hike along a gently sloping and switchbacking trail. The weather was a nice 60 degrees, with a few passing clouds that dropped light rain, brought some gusty winds, and while there was no snow, there was a beautiful forest filled with new smells and new views. It was perfect. Was it a sufferfest? No. Yet it still meets the requirements for what I called adventure at the very beginning of this.

When I think back on my favorite adventures of last summer, one of the top stand out experiences was an easy hike of only a couple miles with great friends. We randomly decided to meet up on top of a mountain pass for some milky way photos and sunrise hiking. When we got to the pass, it proceeded to rain for about the next seven hours. So we hung out in the camper van, drank a beer or two, ate some hummus and devoured more peanut butter M&M’s than should be allowed. When we were ready to give up for the night, the stars came out to play and we stood in awe of the beautiful milky way. Sunrise hiking was amazing too, and all of the photos I have shared in this story were from that night and day. I hope you can see that amazing places do not have to be far away and out of reach.


I guess my point in all of this is that we have a beautifully diverse planet and different types of people who inhabit all corners of it… so it only makes sense to me that there would be equally as many definitions of adventure. 

What is adventure to you? Reach out, I really want to know!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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