To be honest, the term “life-changing” has become a bit watered down. The list of things that promise to change your life in the span of an average week can be decidedly un-life-changing. Eye creams, fancy vitamins, new burgers at fast-food chains… Lots of claims to turn your life upside down, and yet, nobody claims to have found self-actualization through a new moisturizer.
If you’re not looking to change your life, this might not be the article for you. If you’re content, totally satisfied, and want nothing beyond what you currently have, congratulations! You’re a unicorn in a sea of people who struggle with the desire to do more, see more, and experience more. Now, if you’re hungry for an experience you know you’ll never forget, let’s talk. Do you want a life-changing experience? Do you want to do something or go somewhere that has the power to change who you are as a person and how you look at the world? Adventure is it.
How Can Adventure Change My Life?
Adventure, specifically outdoor pursuits and travel, can actually change your life. That’s a promise, actually. Think about it at the largest scale possible: climbing Mount Everest? Life-changing. Seeing every country on Earth? Also definitely life-changing.
But you can scale down your adventures and still walk away a different (hopefully better) person. Befriend someone on the other side of the Earth with a vastly different culture and worldview? Definitely could be life-changing. Go shark cage diving one single time? Still, could be life-changing.
Adventures Big and Small
The power of adventure in changing our lives relates a bit less to the objective magnitude of the adventure and more to the subjective experience the adventure provides. You could climb Mount Everest, which is an objectively epic adventure and difficult accomplishment. Standing atop the tallest mountain in the world and the struggle required to do so will certainly leave you feeling differently about your life than before you stepped foot in Base Camp.
It doesn’t have to be that big, though. Perhaps you’ve never left your home state and you’ve just booked a plane ticket to Morocco. You’re going to change your life simply by stepping outside of what you’ve always known and seeing life on another corner of the globe with your own eyes. You’ll meet new people with a different perspective on life and be able to connect with a place entirely separate from your normal surroundings. The impact of travel is one of the most significant we can seek out; being elsewhere exposes us to an entirely different idea of what life is like.
Train Ticket Troubles: The Good and Bad of Adventuring
Travel can be good and bad, and both can change our lives. For example, I backpacked across Central Europe by myself at the age of 19. It was my first solo trip and, although I was connecting with old friends in different places, I was largely responsible for my own transportation. Getting from A to B in the middle of a country where nobody speaks your language? That’s tough. I ended up at a train station in the Middle of Nowhere, Czech Republic, where there seemed to be exactly zero people working. Because of a mixup with my original ticket purchase in Bratislava, I didn’t have a ticket for the second half of my trip to Vienna and I couldn’t figure out how to get one. Running around the train station (which was more of a glorified concrete box than anything), I quickly realized I was one of the only people left here and that my train was about to leave.
I hopped on, ticketless and flustered. When a large, burly Czech man came to punch my ticket, I handed him my Bratislava-Middle of Nowhere, Czech Republic pass and attempted to explain my predicament. He, not understanding what I was saying, threatened me in very broken English, telling me not so kindly to get off at the next stop.
I wasn’t going to risk getting stranded at whatever the next stop was. I hid, terrified that Burly Czech Man was going to kick me off and I’d be on my own in an unrecognizable town with no way to get to where I needed to go. I made it to Vienna, practically sprinted off the train, and proceeded to spend 90 more minutes (not an exaggeration) attempting to locate the tram line that would finally get me to my destination. Hey, it was a big train station. I was lost.
While this wasn’t much of a life or death situation, it was confusing, stressful, and very tiring. It was the bad side of adventure, the side that makes us think on our feet, problem-solve, and practice independence. It changed my life in a small but meaningful way: I know that when nobody is around to help me, I can still get where I need to go. That’s a good thing to learn when you’re 19.
What Does a Bucket List Adventure Look Like?
While getting lost in Central Europe is certainly an option, there are lots of ways your bucket list adventure can look. Remember: it’s not what most people would find life-changing, it’s what you would find life-changing.
Do Some Good Old-Fashioned Soul Searching
Sit down and think about what a life-changing adventure might look like to you. What fills you with joy? What have you always wanted to do? Where have you always wanted to go? If there’s a destination you’ve dreamt of, consider that. If there’s a feat you’ve wanted to accomplish, it could be the one. You could walk the Camino de Santiago, you could finally see the Grand Canyon, you could complete you could spot elephants on safari in Tanzania. The only person who knows what kind of adventure you crave is you.
Think Big and Small
Realistically, we can’t all tick off our #1 bucket list adventure right away. We all operate under the constraints of time, money, family commitments, and so on. If you know what your ultimate adventure goal is but it seems out of reach for the time being, that’s okay. Start smaller if you need to. Shorter hikes and closer flights can still make a very positive change in your life.
How Do I Plan A Bucket List Adventure?
Once you know that you want to change your life through adventure and you’ve decided what that adventure looks like, the second-last step is planning it. The last step, of course, is actually doing it.
What your planning looks like will depend on what your adventure is. We recommend connecting with a company that specializes in planning travel or outdoor adventure if you feel like you need a hand, because your bucket list isn’t a place to forget the details. Having a well thought-out adventure lets you focus more on what you’ll be doing and less on the logistics of it all.
Whatever kind of planning you do, take a moment to relish in it. Allow yourself to daydream about what it’ll feel like to be there and do that.
What Am I Taking Home?
Let’s get to the heart of it. How does adventure actually change your life? What are you bringing home from the trail or the airport that actually sticks with you in the long run? What you find on your travels might differ, but we’ve taken home a few things:
Perspective. Friendship. Awe. Resilience. Understanding. Achievement. Independence. Innovation. Beauty. Respect. Bliss. Satisfaction. Freedom. Discovery. Passion.
What you take home from your adventures is what changes you. Not what’s in your backpack, but what finds its way into your soul. Go find out what your souvenir will be.