Lockdown: what can't we learn from adventure travel?
Updated: May 26
The current lockdown means many people are having to go back to basics, some far more than others. It’s tempting to draw comparisons between the present restrictions and expedition life – as some adventurers have already done – and there are certainly many valuable lessons to be learnt, especially from longer expeditions in high-stress environments.
But it’s equally important to acknowledge some key differences. For one, we willingly put ourselves in dangerous situations on expeditions, taking (for the most part) calculated risks. Put another way, we usually know what we’re getting ourselves into. And even the most seat-of-their-pants adventurer will keep more factors under their control than they might care to admit – despite this not making it onto the pages of their book.
Most (but by no means all) people in the adventure world are also from relatively well-off backgrounds, at least in my experience. This is no surprise. It’s much easier to take that step into the unknown, whether it’s cycling around the world, crossing deserts or climbing mountains – and certainly to make a career out of it – when you know you’ll have a roof over your head and some money in the bank if it all goes wrong.
In contrast, being flung into a very uncertain situation completely involuntarily for an unknown length of time poses its own rather different set of challenges. Add to the mix all the other potential issues people might be facing, for example, in terms of their living situation, income, physical or mental health and personal relationships, and the fact they might be responsible for children or elderly relatives, and comparisons with adventure travel begin to sound less than profound.
None of which is to say we can’t learn something from the adventure community on resilience and strategies for getting by in these strange times – we absolutely can, and I intend to put pen to paper on this myself at some point. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with adversity. So take it for what it is: a suggestion from someone in a very different situation that just might be helpful.
Pictured, in Mongolia, partway through a two-month crossing of the Gobi Desert.