Want to make 2019 a year of adventure? Start by taking risks
Taking risks in life makes us happier, more confident and more open to new experiences. But adventure is a concept that’s easier said than done. Here, serial wanderluster and Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas makes the case for being brave - plus her pick of comfort-busting adventures…
Words: Radha Vyas
I was dangling from a cable, over 1,000 metres above sea level, when I understood the true meaning of risk.
I grew up in an adventurous family, and I’ve never been afraid of new horizons - in a figurative sense. Aged 7, my sister and I travelled alone to visit family in Kenya, kicking off a lifetime habit of wanderlust that saw me live abroad everywhere from Santiago to Paris.
I like to think I’m the kind of person who looks fear in the face. But it wasn’t until I tackled one of the world’s highest commercial abseils at the summit of Table Mountain in Cape Town, that I actually put that belief to the test.
There I was, suspended in air, my heart beating so hard and fast and my body flooded with adrenaline but I could barely move at all. I was, frankly, terrified - and that feeling was raw and overwhelming.
But just taking those few steps over the precipice, with a wild swing into open air, changed everything. I was in the moment; scared, delighted and afterwards, convinced that I could do anything.
I firmly believe that everyone should experience this empowering mental shift when you realise just what you are capable of. But it takes action to smash open your horizons like that; you have to make yourself do it. Otherwise, you’ll keep making excuses.
Here’s a few of my favourite daring adventures to get you started, all around the world:
Hiking in Chilean Patagonia
Chile is home to incredibly diverse landscapes - it will take your breath away. You have the most arid desert in the north, which blooms with flowers every year. And in the south, you’ll find the magnificent lakes, peaks and glaciers of Patagonia.
It’s so wild and beautiful here: you really get a chance for your brain to shift gear. Forget about deadlines and demands. When you’re taking a day-long hike through the Torres del Paine National Park, in a canvas of gushing rivers, dense forest and mirror-still pools, your mind will be rooted in the moment.
Canyoning in Jordan
Transport yourself to straight to an Indiana Jones movie in the mighty ravines of Jordan’s Wadi Mujib. Canyoning here is just the thing to make your heart skip a beat.
Haul yourself over giant boulders and rappel down natural water chutes in the shadow of towering cliffs, taking care to keep your footing on the slippery river bed.
This is a gritty and brilliant feat, demanding every last inch of your energy. You’ll feel small but at the same time awed by the dramatic desert setting.
Inca cycling in Peru
Peru’s Sacred Valley is rich with Inca treasures, like a playground filled with ancient delights. This is one of my favourite places in the world for a cool, crisp bike ride; best enjoyed in spring or autumn when the days are long but not too hot.
Breathe in that fresh Andean air as you cycle your way down a mind-blowing route of shimmering salt terraces, the salt mines of Maras and the majestic Urubamba River.
Call it exercise endorphins or the lure of a spectacular landscape, but peddling around here - in the grounds of the world’s largest pre-Columbian empire - is heady stuff indeed.
Hot spring bathing in Japan
Communal bathing is akin to a spiritual rite in Japan. You’ll find volcanic hot springs (onsens) sprinkled everywhere, often associated with a cosy inn, or ryokan. People in Japan often retreat to these sanctuaries for days at a time, to wallow, recharge and eat simple, healthy food.
Joining in the tradition, however, takes a certain amount of courage. You’ll need to get naked, for a start - onsens are single sex - and then navigate your way around signs you don’t understand, looking to your fellow bathers for cues on etiquette.
If you can do all that, however, it’s well worth it because these are truly the most peaceful places you’ll ever find, often with gorgeous alpine backdrops. Sit back, bask and carve out some headspace - you’ll never want to leave.
Bush walking in Zimbabwe
After years of political turmoil, Zimbabwe has only recently opened up to tourism once again, allowing visitors to drink in the delights of Hwange National Park.
The country’s largest nature reserve is teeming with wildlife large and small, and it’s best savoured on a dawn bush walk.
This sounds slightly daunting, and so it is, but the walks are organised by expert rangers. It’s an excellent chance to access areas that the jeeps can’t get to, as you join Africa’s most revered animals to herald in the morning.
Stroll across the Savannah at sunrise, before the heat of the day sets in, and you’ll see the environment in a whole new light. It’s hard not to be moved by this intimate experience - especially if you’re lucky enough to spot an elephant or lion up close.
Snowmobiling in Finnish Lapland
Even alone, the prospect of zooming across the endless Arctic horizon by snowmobile has a distinct Game of Thrones thrill about it. Throw twilight and the chance of seeing the Northern Lights into the mix, and you have yourself a recipe for magic.
Finland is a bit apart from the rest of Europe but still in easy reach for a weekend break, so you can find yourself in this ethereal setting just hours after leaving the office.
The effect is captivating. A vast, icy tundra is yours to scoot across on your machine (you’ll need a driver’s licence), with the occasional shrub of fir trees adding to the Narnia feel. As darkness descends, keep an eye out above, to see the greenish glow of Aurora Borealis flash across the sky.
Surfing in South Africa
From the shimmering contours of the Garden Route to safaris in the Eastern Cape, the natural beauty of South Africa forces you to question your perspective on life: you can’t help but feel slightly insignificant as a human being on this planet.
And one of the best ways to throw yourself into the setting is by learning to surf. There is nothing on earth like the sensation of gliding across the waves on Knysna Lagoon. Sure, you might not stay on the board the whole time. You might actually spend rather a lot more time in the water than anywhere else.
But once you’ve rustled up enough courage to paddle out there, meeting the surf head-on, the rest takes care of itself. Even if you balance for a mere two seconds, it will be best two seconds of your life: a fleeting moment of brilliance.
Get involved in these adventures and find out more at flashpack.com
Images: Flash Pack, Lee Thompson and Getty