Adventure Misunderstood: The Irony of the Adventure Industry

Recently there was a post on Tom Allen's blog about how Adventure is now being used to sell products. Loads of people commented on it. I was interested in it for a number of reasons.  I think that there has been a misunderstanding between different groups and inpiduals. I wanted to clarify some points.

Clarifying the Term

'Adventure' will always be entirely subjective depending on experience because it just means going out of your comfort zone and learning something. Which could happen anywhere, anytime. If I go on a trip which I will refer to as trip X from A to B by foot, lets say I walk across India then I will be cross-sectioning geography, cultures and societies. This creates potential for a story because there are many strands that can be weaved together.

Adventure might happen through going on trip X but then again it might not. If I regularly walked about in India, then it might become familiar. One would expect that walking in India would offer more potential for going out of one's comfort zone than sitting in a dark room.

However, have you ever tried sitting in a dark room for long?

Getting Paid for Sharing the Knowledge

If Tom Allen was paid by some people to talk to them about his journeys and he felt guilt about it, that is entirely personal to him. It challenged a belief that he held.

Collective Desire

The vagueries of 'dreams' spoke of in a collective sense cannot be bundled in with making trips like trip X. Usually where men go to dramatic landscapes, talk of how difficult, cold, hard, wonderful, exciting it is, armed with equipment, and then say that everyone else should do it. ‘Dreams’ are strange enough for the inpidual let alone spoken of as an objective thing.

Giving Your Community What They Want

Tom Allen has a community of people who contact him because they want to do something like what he does, or they like reading stories. Those people feel attracted to the idea of making something like trip X and presumably that is a good fit for them to also experience adventure.

Creating Adventurous Experiences

Having founded a company in Georgia that runs adventure tours, what we do is provide experience and equipment for a group of people to be able to visit remote and beautiful places and have fun. If there is demand for this kind of support then it is good for the economy and for the people who go on the tours. Again, adventure is subjective and depends on the inpidual's experience.

If someone sees an 'Adventure Tour' organised but doesn't feel that it will be adventurous for them, and they are looking for adventure, then are not likely to go on that tour. If it was guaranteed adventure, then the tour company would have to analyse your history, sociometrics (maybe even biometrics), etc to discover what would be an adventure for you and then custom make something that attempted to fulfil that. This obviously is beyond most tour companies due to expense.

I Want to Break Free

I have followed a group of people for the last decade who at some point in the past decided to go on some kind of big journey. I have to comb through my memories to remember what their motivation at the time for doing them was, but I think it was similar to my own desire to cycle round the world.

That desire was to experience adventure by taking a trip, using slow, human powered transport and perhaps an element of being dissatisfied with their current situation. There was a 'wow' factor in there, bragging rights to say you'd done something extraordinary.

Doing this creates loads of stories. Characters appear out of nowhere. Human life is happening all around and you are in the middle of it, responding to it and reflecting on it.

Mnemotechnics (Writing Stuff)

Ways of recording, sharing, framing and distributing those experiences are now cheap and prevalent. Someone can write a story in a book, make a film or write a blog.

I remember back in 2007 that writing a journal, a blog, and a film were choices I made. Writing a journal was a no brainer. I would just reflect on my experience. Keeping a blog seemed obvious. I soon realised I was writing for an audience. 

Crafting Your Consciousness

Making a film is further from the journal, because I very soon realised that film requires acting, or it requires heavily objective editing (in the case of a reality TV show). TV viewers expect something familiar subconsciously when they are watching and this formality is strictly adhered to by News TV, documentaries, Hollywood movies etc that exist in the mainstream.

If you make a film then unless its a home video to show your family, then you are making it for an audience in order to entertain them. Traditionally if the audience is seeing a film at a cinema they are going to pay for it, hence it is a product.

I don't see why making films from stories of Trip X style trips, is any different from making National Geographic documentaries, unless you are deliberately trying to do something different and groundbreaking, in which case your audience  will either be extremely small, niche or something else (like art or narcissism).

New Marketing Term: "Adventure"

'Adventure' has become a buzzword. There are a lot of people who are looking for excitement. Perhaps it is a trait of this generation and is a reaction to too much time on computers. We live in a capitalist society and of course if there is demand for something, there will be a drive to commodify it. It would be different if the prominent ideology was ‘anarchism’ or ‘communism’.

Of course you would feel guilt if what started as a way to have an adventure, experience the world, come of age and do something extraordinary became a drive to turn that into a 'mass produced' product.

Adventure Verb  vs Adventure Noun

Adventure in English is a noun, but in French, which is the word it comes from, 'Advenir' it is a verb, a doing word. Adventure is not a thing, its an activity. However, if advertising sees an interest in something, then it will use that attention to sell something, such as breakfast cereal.

If you have a popular blog that commands attention and hits, then anyone who wants people to see their product and thinks your readers are the right market will want to get their product in front of them on your blog.

Its about Experts

We live in times which put 'experts' on pedestals. If you have been a carpenter for 30 years, you're a craftsman. You will know different types of materials and how to work with them from years of experience of woodworking. This kind of expertise is something that can only be learnt through doing, or through an apprenticeship and then doing, eventually over many years becoming a craftsperson.

Somehow doing things like Trip X are perceived as difficult for a lot of people because they have fear of the unknown. So people who have done those things become obvious  sources of tips and advice to reassure oneself that there is nothing to fear. Fear is subjective however, so these tips are a kind of trickery, which is fine because fear is also a kind of trickery.

Nevertheless, some people cultivate this dynamic by offering advice and tips and enjoy a position of expertise. Sometimes telling stories can be geniunely useful and help people overcome their fear. Fear usually comes from the idea that we are separate and the world isn't friendly as it is portrayed the majority of the time in the media.

However, the media entertain by exploiting the emotional gain that is brought by people who feel safe watching others who appear unsafe somewhere else.

To Conclude

  • Adventure is subjective
  • Adventure should be a verb not a noun
  • Your dreams are not my dreams
  • Some adventure tours really are adventure tours
  • Real journeys happen because there is a drive to learn through experience
  • The Medium is the Massage. Not all mediums of communication work the same
  • In Capitalist society people make products to sell where there is a market
  • Being an expert does not make you a craftsperson
  • Fear is healthy but its always going to be an illusion
  • 'Emotional rewards from avoiding fear’ - I don’t understand but it exists
  • Adventure is cool now, but fashions come and go
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