Social media paints a very romantic picture of adventure; one that starts and ends with grand accomplishments, interesting people, and amazing views. Those who have partaken in an adventure of their own know that this image is cropped from a much larger and vastly more complicated picture. Adventure is blistered feet, unexpected weather, hiker-hunger, and chaffed shoulders. Nights spent sleeping on the cold, lumpy ground, meal after meal after meal of ramen, aching muscles in places you didn't know had muscles, and perpetually fleeting motivation all prelude that romanticized image. No matter your adventure of choice, be it on land, water, or air, discomfort is inevitable. So what makes so many people seek adventure time after time, again and again, knowing this? The long answer is this:
After hours of hiking, your feet red and raw, your throat dry and itching, your back breaking and your whole body aching, you reach the goal; the summit, the waterfall, the valley, the ocean, the lake, the cave, the checkpoint. No better feeling exists than that of the grand accomplishment. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't work out like that. Sometimes the weather pushes you back before the goal, or perhaps your body is at fault, other times the culprit is your mind. You suffer all those pains without the reward and yet you still come back for more because the mere tease of that reward is enough to make it all worth it.
Tourist hotspots exist for a reason. Filled with gorgeous views and widely accessible, people flock them, but it doesn't stop you from wishing you could have it all to yourself. Fortunately, this offers you the opportunity to connect with people in a genuine way that never happens on the street or on empty trails. You strike up a conversation while you wait in line to get a picture of that waterfall, that landmark, that waterscape, and you learn the beautiful history of the local who has visited that site twice a year for the past six decades. You absorb the carefree lifestyle of that guy with the dreads that makes you yearn for a similar life. Your hearts warms when a stranger prays for your continued happiness and safety after learning of your journey. These people overpower the loud and disrespectful visitors that will not move out of the way that we've all encountered in these spaces.
Every time I stuff my backpack, load up my car, and drive off for hours it's to get somewhere beautiful so I can immortalize it in an image, but those amazing views aren't exclusively enjoyed by photographers. We all like to surround ourselves in beauty and adventure is a pretty clear way to get there. The grand views at the end of a long day filled with aches and pains make it all worthwhile, even when that conclusion isn't guaranteed. Sometimes fog obscures the view, sometimes you find out that the Instagram account lied and the picture doesn't match reality, sometimes you just can't find it. Through frustrating and sometimes painful experience, you quickly learn the lesson taught by this; the real view surrounds you. The wooded trail and open field boast tremendous beauty as do the tiny streams and surrounding mountains. Appreciate every step you take because each one carries you further into that beauty.
In the end, adventure doesn't start and stop with grand accomplishments, interesting people, or amazing views, but the reasons for it are these very things; hard earned and triumphantly treasured. This all leads to the short answer which oddly enough ends up being nothing but basic economics; the cost/benefit relationship, or more appropriately for adventurers, risk and reward. The risks can be tremendous, they tease injury and illness, sacrifice and death, but in turn, the rewards are endless and invaluable.
Above Photo: Johnston Canyon Cave, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. (June 27, 2016) - Photo taken with Canon EOS 60D, f/22 @ 10 mm, 0.6s, ISO 100, No Flash