Travel can unearth hidden resources of tenacity and strength. Find out how to channel your adventurer within
Behind many adventures lies a great woman, whether that’s Norwegian explorer Cecilie Skog – the first woman to conquer the Seven Summits and both poles – or Swiss survivalist Sarah Marquis, who walked over 20,000 kilometres from Siberia to Australia in the space of three years.
Courage is a muscle that these women (and many before them) have developed with use. We don’t all have the stamina for such incredible feats, but we can channel the spirit that underscores them.
Seeing the world has the uncanny knack of bringing you face-to-face with an inner grit you never knew that you had. Whether you’re learning to surf off the Cape Peninsula or navigating the train system in central Delhi, trotting the globe means you’re constantly surprising yourself at how well you cope under pressure. But if you don’t go, you’ll never know. You must take that first, crucial step – and then carry on leaping.
1. Climb a mountain
Since time began, mankind has nurtured an obsession with mastering mountain peaks. But you don’t have to climb Everest to capture the euphoric sense of achievement that comes with hitting an alpine summit. The globe is brimming with challenging ascents that novice climbers can tackle, no ice-picks necessary. Why not make a start with Rainbow Mountain, a Peruvian Andes gem famed for its turquoise, maroon and golden dome? Looming 5,035 metres above sea level, this is no easy climb and you may have to camp overnight at altitude to make it up. But the prize at the top is more than worth it.
The same goes for Mount Temple in Canada, or Mount Khuiten in Mongolia. These are all difficult routes that require dedication and willpower to fulfil. They’ll be a brilliant workout and better still, they’ll test your capacity for endurance. There’s no better feeling in the world than overcoming that voice that says, “I can’t do this”.
2. Go hand luggage only
It might not seem like the mightiest achievement in the world, but travelling by hand-luggage only is a surprisingly radical move. Just as Marie Kondo says in her best-selling tome, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, clutter weighs us down. You don’t want to be that person rolling two hefty suitcases through the airport, you really don’t. Not only will it hamper you physically, it also erodes the whole footloose and fancy-free element that is very essence of happy travel.
Then there’s the whole hassle of it. Leaving your wallet in a random city toilet is easy to do anyway, let alone when you have baggage enough to rival Katy Perry’s backstage arsenal. You’re also enabling that stressful tic whereby you’re forever unearthing half your backpack across the hotel lobby to find those flip-flops you just know you packed somewhere. Do yourself a favour: slim down your belongings to the essentials. You can easily recycle your clothes or buy extras on the road if you need it. By ditching excess baggage, you’ll free yourself up to enjoy the magic of travel without the residue angst.
3. Find a secret beach
The trouble with beaches is that they’re always more crowded than you think they’ll be. You find the perfect spot then two seconds later, a rowdy family moves in – trampling over both your towels and your dreams. To find that elusive slice of paradise takes a bit of dedication and nous. First, you’ll need a coastal stretch peppered with inlets and beaches. This could be anywhere from the Rosario Islands off Colombia’s Caribbean coast to the Bacuit Archipelago in the Philippines, or the western coast of Sardinia. It just needs to have scope for adventure. Secondly, you’ll need a boat. Most small fishing ports near your destination of choice will run tours. Do a bit of digging and you may even find a vessel to hire for yourself, be it a kayak or a speedboat. If you have a small group of you, all the better, as you’ll be able to split costs.
Going by sea is a great way of evading the masses - there are tons of beaches out there that are only accessed by water. Still more may be tricky to get to by land, or the lack of a beach bar will put people off. You can take all the supplies you need with you, and then simply drop in at any powdery-white inlay that catches your eye. Hordes moving in? Up sticks and move onto the next patch down the coast.
4. Try river tubing
If you’ve never tried tubing before, you’re in for a treat. This genius activity strikes just the right balance between a zen-like chill and pure exhilaration. It’s about as much fun as you can get on water, and unlike say, surfing, it doesn’t require a huge amount of skill to master (you will need to be able to swim, though). How do you do it? Grab a rubber tube and float your way gently down a river. Not just any river, of course. You’ll need the right kind of stretch where tubing is established, the current is smooth and the water shallow.
There are tubing hot spots all over the world that you could choose from, including Vang Vieng in Laos, Colombia’s Tayrona River and Rio Celeste, Costa Rica’s dazzling turquoise waterway. This last option features a few minor rapids, just to keep things interesting. For safety reasons, never go tubing alone. Instead, check in with a local tour company. They’ll be able to give you the equipment you need, and can brief you on anything you need to know about the route.
5. Travel with strangers
Picture this: you’ve just spent a week lying around a pool with your mates somewhere balmy and sun-filled. Sure, you had fun – but can you remember it from any other getaway? Does it leave you feeling alive? Travelling with a group of like-minded strangers is like switching your holiday from grey to multicolour. For starters, you’ll meet a ream of new people who are friendly, open and share your interests (this in an age where more and more of us are retreating behind screens). You’ll also move one step closer to solo travel.
If you’ve always fancied travelling alone but haven’t quite worked up the courage, exploring the world with other solo travellers is great middle ground. And the scope for adventure is endless. Without the cushion of your loved ones, you’re more likely to experiment and take risks. Fortified by your group – who are all in the same boat as you – you’ll find yourself doing incredible things, from glacier-walking in Norway to zip-lining through the mountains of Quebec.
In this wondrous freefall zone, anything could happen. Skills you never realised you had will percolate and rise to the surface. Just like female explorers before you, there’s no limit to where you’ll go next.
Flash Pack curates travel experiences all over the world for small groups of like-minded solo travellers in their 30s and 40s. Visit flashpack.com for more info
Images: Flash Pack, iStock