We woke up to sunrise on the first day of advent, singing Mariah Carey and Shakin’ Stevens while surrounded by four dancing, racing dolphins
And a chilly welcome from an anchorage off the isle of Wee Cumbrae on the west coast of Scotland.
We woke up to sunrise on the first day of advent, singing Mariah Carey and Shakin’ Stevens while surrounded by four dancing, racing dolphins.
Impossibly enormous thanks to Somerled and her skipper Scott from Yachting Scotland for making this happen.
The west coast is a playground/sea for hikers, climbers, beachcombers, bikers, spotters and sailors alike. Somerled (and Scott) are available for adventure sailing charters and expeditions all year round. And you don’t need to know your beam-reach from your close-haul, #dolphinsguaranteed.
For those of you new around these parts, welcome 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. In this newsletter, I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
Sometimes I am extremely fortunate. (And sometimes I pay for my fortune with a spectacular dayburst of sneezes that occasionally wake the dead.)
Welcome to edition 382.
On Monday and Tuesday, I was at a conference for mountain guides, bushcrafters, ocean riders, forest bathers, vagabonds, doctors, psychologists, neuroscientists and therapists of all stripes.
The theme of Adventure Mind 2023 was ‘small adventures, big impact’ and that tagline would also nicely sum up the two days I spent listening, learning and throwing myself off a small platform precariously balanced on top of a telegraph pole.
(That last one was a Leap of Faith workshop run by psychologist Dave Gallagher to demonstrate how we can use our breath to regulate wobbly emotions while climbing a wobbly pole.)
Adventure means something different to everyone, but there are a few design elements that are common to most:
Novelty: even if it’s simply the recognition that our physical and emotional experience is renewed in the flux of every moment.
Challenge: even if the challenge is simply getting out of the house, out of bed or out of our heads.
Nature: even if nature is simply the weeds that grow in the cracks between the concrete slabs of our local skate park.
Similarly, there are some emotions, brain states and psychological responses that are common to most adventures:
Autonomy, purpose, meaning, choice, direction, control.
Competence when an adventure is successfully carried through.
Connection to the natural environment and to our adventure buddies.
Resilience developed by facing challenge and adversity.
Mental flexibility and problem solving under stress.
Flow, being in the zone.
Beneficence: helping others get through tough times.
These things are all really sodding important to human life, even — or especially — modern human life, so often mediated by screens and radiator thermostats.
Sure, there are other human activities that promote these things, but adventure gets there faster and in a way that we don’t usually forget. There are no better training courses for life than going on an adventure — whatever that means for you.
Perhaps the most powerful feeling that I took away from the conference was the feeling of strength from being with hundreds of others who also know that the role of adventure is overlooked and undervalued in our society.
In the words of Belinda Kirk, adventure is not frivolous but essential; adventure is not only for elites but for everyone; adventure is our human nature, our wellbeing.
We need to start valuing adventure, not as a ‘nice to have’, but as a life-support system for our bodies, brains and personal development, for our friendships, families and communities, for the global village, our lived environment and the whole planet.
I’ve been inordinately lucky to spend this past week in some beautiful places with some beautiful people. Much love to C (👋), P, C, B & A, G (👋), E (👋), H (👋), J (👋), S and the rest. Special thanks to the Peak District, Northumberland National Park and the Cumbraes.
I know it’s been a relatively little one, but if you enjoyed this story, please remember that I have NO WAY OF KNOWING 😱 unless you heart, comment, reply or share.
Thanks for your eyeballs, thanks for your support.