What Makes A Great Adventurer?
28th Nov 2011
So the National Geographic are running a competition again this year for the adventurer of the year.
It got me thinking about what makes a good adventurer. The first thing that struck me was the obvious paradox: most of the adventurers we read or hear about we do so because they have published stuff about their adventures / true adventure – at least to my mind – is much more personal. I get to watch a shed load of films in preparation for ShAFF (around 60 hour’s worth so far this year) and all of them are about adventures. It’s in the title I suppose!
Here are three definitions lifted from an online dictionary:
an exciting or very unusual experience.
participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
An adventurer, being:
a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures.
a seeker of fortune in daring enterprises; soldier of fortune.
Millions of us qualify as adventurers. Many thousands would probably qualify as hard-core adventurers. You could argue that the list of adventurers on the Nat Geo site are really those with the best publicity. Take Danny McAskill for example. Sure he’s done a lot of travel this year, biking in some amazing parts of the world, but he’s had the support of Red Bull behind him. He’s probably flown business class and stayed in nice hotels along the way. His film from last year ‘Way Back Home’ was of him supposedly biking back to Skye, whereas in reality it was clearly a nicely edited montage of tricks along the route. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing film, and we showed it at ShAFF, but it wasn’t really adventure in my book. I would imagine that Danny is a little bemused as to why he is on the shortlist, as are others no doubt, but his publicity machine will be relishing in the pages and pages of coverage he’s getting via retweets and plus one’s as the cycling world rally behind him.
Cory Rich is another of the candidates. Last winter he made the first ascent of an 8,000m peak in winter. Mind boggling. Really mind boggling. A true adventure. What made it even more adventurous was that Cory managed to film himself and his two teammates along the way, even doubled up in a coughing fit on the summit. Sorry Danny, but in terms of suffering they beat you hands down. Suffering is often trumpeted as an indicator of the level of adventure. You can’t appreciate the good times unless you experience the bad times. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times feel. That sort of thing.
I won’t dissect all the candidates, suffice to say that some are more deserving than others, but will go so far as to say that the real adventurers of the year aren’t even on the list. I watched a film a few days ago called Journey To The Wild Coast about a young Canadian couple who travelled, under their own steam, from Seattle to the western tip of Alaska over the course of a year. The film is amateur by comparison to Cory’s and Danny’s films, but the adventure they had along the way was truly amazing. The film won an award at the recent Banff Mountain Film Festival. In fact it didn’t win an award becasuse it didn’t really fit into any of the categories so it got the Special Jury Mention. At ShAFF a few years ago faced with a similar situation – we had an Irish film about climbing on the Emerald Isle which didn’t fit any of our categories, but which displayed such a spirit of adventure that we invented a new category called just that ‘The Spirit Of Adventure’. Each year since then it’s gone to the people who we think ought to be winning the National Geographic Adventurer Of The Year competition…