Deep within our DNA remains a desire to connect with nature, despite modern society’s best efforts to override it. We now think of our food source as the supermarket, not the soil. Our built environment has taken command of the elements with air-conditioning, artificial lighting and a skyline that interrupts our view of sunrise which disturbs our built-in body clock. We’ve come so far from our origins that we now call it an ‘adventure’ to step back into nature.
You only have to visit the Yolngu people of North East Arnhem Land to see how far we’ve come. They’ve been observing nature closely for over 50,000 years. They see it like a complex timepiece, each second revealing another element of nature, interacting with the next, themselves included. At birth they are ‘given’ by an elder one element of nature – ‘their dreaming’ – to protect forever. This is more than just our equivalent of a star sign. It’s a means to ensure every living species, plant, animal or ecosystem has a guardian to ensure its survival, indefinitely.
Travel has become the way most of us now look to reconnect with nature, but we have to look harder than ever to find authenticity. Today’s world is dominated by mass tourism - packaged holidays, cruise liners and theme parks. Each one attempting to outdo the other in the convenience and entertainment stakes, for example ice skating rinks and climbing walls on a cruise liner, what a great idea! The irony is that both of these things exist in nature, for free and more fun! Beyond all its environmental impacts, mass tourism’s greatest crime is the dumbing down of our experience as it removes us from a deep connection with nature and culture alike.
The Scandinavians understand adventure better than most in the western world. As children they are taught the value and importance of “Friluftsliv” – directly translated to “free air living”. In Sweden ‘Allmansrätten’ gives everyone access to the countryside and wilderness, even privately held land, to camp and forage for food freely providing you leave no trace and stay no more than a few days in the one spot. A recent Adventure Travel conference of Nordic nations discussed a proposal to create wifi-less zones, removing the temptation to check one’s email or Facebook status, and leave visitors with no choice but to reconnect with mother earth!
This deep respect and connection to their roots allows both the Yolngu and Scandinavians to see the bigger picture, in their own way. No matter what, we will always return to nature. We are part of it and it is part of us. But with over a billion tourists travelling internationally every year, and that number set to double in the next ten years, how can we ensure that the places in nature we so love to visit are protected from the growing tide of tourism? How can we re-imagine a future for travel that has the best of both worlds - that is ‘high’ on experience, and ‘low’ on impact?
‘Adventure Travel’ is very much answer. The question is why? ‘Adventure Travel’ is often defined as a mix of immersion in the natural environment, engagement with culture, and physical activity, but in its purest sense is much more than that. It’s a mindset that is mindful. It sees the advantage of small groups versus mass. It aims to leave the community and environment with a net gain. It looks for an opportunity to give back, to volunteer, to buy local, to travel lightly and respectfully.
In our search for the experiences that will define our lives we can get lost in ‘our’ moment. A ‘swim the whale sharks’ tour that allows guests to feed the sharks has changed a centuries old migration path. Many resorts built in idyllic tropical locations create more waste due to their western guests tastes than the local community has infrastructure to absorb. Think for a moment what goes on behind a tiger-selfie. The genuine adventure traveller does not travel blindly, they do their research, become informed and make good choices. Our choices are fast becoming a vote for the future of our planet.
The Adventure Junky community are at forefront of Adventure Travel - by making conscious choices you are the advocates, ambassadors and influencers. You set the agenda whether it be through a purchasing decision, such as which surf camp you choose, or the conversations you have around the campfire or dinner table. So keep using your power. You might even take a leaf out the Yolngu people’s book and adopt one element of nature that you will dedicate your life to preserve and convince all your friends to do the same.
If you've not already please join our movement and book yourself on an adventure! Let's return to nature in the right way because it will make a world of difference.
Well the mountains are calling... that's my cue to go!
Article by Fuchsia Sims, Adventure Junky Co-Founder