You don’t have to be an extreme rock climber or cliff diver to experience the adventure mindset – and reap its rewards. You just have to say yes more, finds Tarquin Cooper.
Dave Cornthwaite was once a graphic designer in Swansea, Wales, a bad one, he freely admits. Then in 2005 he decided to try something radically different – and so he boarded a flight to Australia with a skateboard in his luggage and a crazy idea in his mind. Several pairs of shoes, approximately 2,911,500 pushes, and 5,822 km later, he successfully made it across the continent. It was the start of new beginning.
“To many, this was a bizarre notion even to consider, let alone practice, but personally I had never been faced with a larger opportunity. It wasn't crazy, it couldn't have felt more sane. For the first time in my life, I felt I had purpose.”
Cornthwaite has never looked back. He’s currently 11 journeys into Expedition 1,000, a mission to undertake 25 journeys of 1,000 miles (1,600 km). These have included swimming the Missouri, descending the Mississippi by SUP and crossing the Atacama desert by ‘whike’, a sail and pedal-powered recumbent tricycle.
Over 500 people came out on 20 different camps, some had never camped before.
He says he doesn’t see himself as ‘an adventurer’ or particularly brave. “I just made a decision to being open to more things. My curiosity has just grown and grown,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, Cornthwaite is a massive advocate for adventure as a means of ‘facing Mondays with a smile’ as he puts it, helping to organise social projects, events, workshops and encourage others to find their adventurous spirit.
This summer for example he decided to get to know his Facebook friends in person, inviting them to go camping with him over various weekends. The result was amazing, he says.
“Over 500 people came out on 20 different camps, some had never camped before.” Such was the success, they formed their own tribe, the Yes Tribe and organized their first ‘Yestival’ in October. The idea is to encourage people to share ideas, whether adventurers or entrepreneurs and then learn how to take the steps to make things happen.”
He says we have so much to gain from embracing our adventurous spirit and taking that leap into the unknown, and not just for the obvious benefits being in the outdoors brings.
“As I meet more and more people I feel that curiosity. It needs to be brewed,” he says. “The human race is designed to evolve: curiosity and adventure – they’re both part of moving forward.”
It’s the embodiment of the 7R gene spirit.
Someone else who lives by the adventure maxim is executive coach Matt Walker who believes the adventure mindset is not just a tool for adventure sports but as a way of facing life, and all that entails.
“My life revolves around adventure,” he says. “It is my livelihood: Adventure in the classic sense of scaling high mountains in remote regions of the world and adventure in the mindful sense of living each day, each project, and in each relationship with intention, focus, and humor.”
Adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome with an open heart.
He says it’s hard to live out the philosophy of adventure in our day-to-day lives. “It is the hardest thing I have ever attempted,” he says. “Bringing adventure into the core being of my life has been fraught with challenge and learning. The reward though is a level of engagement and awareness that is deeply satisfying and joyous.”
And what is the elusive essence of adventure? “At the core, adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome with an open heart and a willingness to learn and engage,” he says. “It is the ability to take a leap into the unknown with mindfulness and grace. Framed this way, opportunity for adventure presents itself to us everyday.”
He says there are five key components of adventure: ‘high endeavor', the ability to think big; ‘total commitment’, the willingness to embrace challenge; ‘an uncertain outcome’, a necessity to keep us engaged and aware; ‘tolerance for adversity’, the ability to remain resilient; ‘great companionship’ to make the journey not just possible but also worthwhile.
He adds: “Adventure is not reserved for the extreme athlete or the daredevil. It is an attitude and lifestyle choice. It is an expression of your heart's intention and passion for life.”
Adventure is not reserved for the extreme athlete or the daredevil.
It’s a view echoed by by psychologist, leadership coach and adventurer Sarah Fenwick who also says adventure doesn’t have to be climbing Mt Everest. “It all depends on the personality,” she says. “Some people are happy to ski to the North Pole who’ve never skied before, while others might want to at least complete a ski journey in Norway for example before going.”
It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, but by the right margin, she says. “I like to think of fear and excitement as different ends of the same continuum. When you do a challenge which you perceive as just outside your comfort zone, where your skill set is just below or 90% of what’s required, that’s when you get that little bit of excitement. Then, when you do achieve it, you get that great feel good factor. I think everyone should experience that fear-excitement zone!”
Fenwick has plenty of personal experience herself of that fear-excitement zone; in a sail boat on many expeditions around the world, including to Antarctica; in the air as a record-breaking paraglider pilot which included becoming the first person to launch from the true summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. The secret to embracing your inner adventurous spirit, she says, ‘is making sure that when you stretch, it doesn’t become a negative experience’.
“For some people it might only be 5% or 2% out of their comfort zone. But it’s a positive thing. There are so many stories of how people have grown and gone on to do bigger and better things. The more people who do that the more we’ll have an aspirational and achieving society.”
Some people just wanted to go hiking while others talk about climbing Everest and cycling across continents.
Cornthwaite is used to listening to his audience’s own goals after the motivational talks he gives. “I was at an event last night,” he says. “Some people just wanted to go hiking while others talk about climbing Everest and cycling across continents.”
His advice for taking that first step? “Find a group or an event that echoes your passion or go along to a talk. Surround yourself with people who share that passion. Then naturally, having that support and encouragement helps you make the next step.” And one more thing he says: “Just say yes more!”
Walker has a word of caution however: “Adventure is work – but the pay-off is well worth the commitment. Your summits await.”
Lead image: © www.davecornthwaite.com