Adventure — the happy accident
Words like adventure, hero and epic have become cliches that have lost their meaning. So unfortunately we can’t say: “I’m going on a heroic, epic adventure,” and effectively communicate. So, in an effort to save some concepts (words), what exactly is an adventure?
Most dictionaries, like Merriam-Webster, agree that an adventure is “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks” which leads to “an exciting or remarkable experience.” However, lacking in most definitions is the motivation of the character, instead the outcome of the adventure is said to be “uncertain;” nonetheless, there is always an implied goal, which is either the tangible prize, like the Golden Fleece, or sometimes the intangible, but more valuable, prize, like power, immortality, secret knowledge or simply the experience of emotional highs and lows.
We can learn a lot about what an adventure is by the classic epic poem of Jason and the Argonauts. The story of the Argonauts helped define the word epic, which means a traditional genre of poetry known as epic poetry; and, in modern terms, it can be any story genre that has a theme of grandeur and heroism that is bigger than life.
The structure of the myth of Jason and the Argonauts reflects the same structure and plot of many myths and our modern movie stories. Very simply:
- The hero has a problem.
- To solve the problem the hero must leave home and face many challenges.
- The hero solves the problem and returns home a better person.
Though most myths may seem like a boring wild goose chase, consider the myth as an allegory for the challenges we all face as a human to create a meaningful life. It is then easy to see how the characters in the story represent different aspects of ourselves, and the challenges are like the battle to conquer our inner demons, and the goal, like the Golden Fleece, Fountain of Youth or Holy Grail, is the self-improvement we all seek. This was the common purpose of a myth — to instruct people how the world works and act like a self-help book. Therefore the common plot of most myths and movies is more than just a literary device, but a reflection of what it means to be human.
What is the difference between an adventure and expedition?
An adventure is usually regarded as an accident, whereas an expedition is an organized journey undertaken by a group of explorers with a defined objective. So, we could say that the story of Jason and the Argonauts is an expedition full of many adventures. Roald Amundsen is famous for saying: “Adventure is just bad planning.” Amundsen led the first Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole in 1911, the first expedition to flyover the North Pole, and the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he got more adventure then he bargained for when he disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission.
How to make every day an adventure
Some modern-day critics say there is nothing left to explore; in other words, since Hillary and Tenzing led the first successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, it has been checked off the list of things to discover. I strongly disagree. Any thing you do can be regarded as an exploration and an adventure, because it will be the first time you experienced it, and you will see it with your own own eyes, filtered by your own experiences thus creating a new and unique perspective of life, something you might like to share to help improve the foundation of humanity.
No matter what you call it — adventure, expedition, the hero’s journey, wanderlust, walkabout, vision quest, coming-of-age ritual, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, spiritual awakening, enlightenment, the travel bug, voyage into the unknown, self-transcendence — or simply hope — whether your adventure is to travel the world, bake cupcakes or sweep streets — this is our exploration of life and the human spirit.