Before Dave and I started writing travel blogs, we wanted to be adventurers. We had no idea what that entailed or how we could make a living being adventurers, but we wanted that moniker behind our names. “Dave and Deb – Adventurers!” Blogs didn’t exist yet and at the time we watched a lot of Discovery and the Outdoor Life channel (when it was good TV) and a lot of people who appeared on the show had the word “adventurer” next to their name. That was our dream. So for a couple of years, before we set off to travel the world, we took up a lot of hobbies that would help us fulfill our dream of being adventurers. It was a couple of summers of meandering around Ontario trying new things. And let me tell you something, they were the summers of our lives.
If you want to try to change your life over the course of a summer or two, try taking up some of these hobbies. It will really turn you into an adventurer. We may not have the exact term “adventurer” next to our names, but we’ve certainly lived a life of adventure. Let’s go.
Dave and I learned to scuba dive at Lake Simcoe, located north of Toronto. We did our open water course in the cold waters of early summer in Canada and spent the rest of the year touring the Great Lakes and Muskokas. The Great Lakes are a ship graveyard and some of the best wreck dives in the world are in the fresh waters. We moved on to drift diving in the St. Lawrence River, deep water diving and even diving in the frigid waters of Tobermory in Lake Huron. Once you’ve dived in thermacline waters, you’re a true adventure diver. Diving in the Caribbean is child’s play.
2. Rock climbing
We learned to climb on the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. We were young and fit and hung out with some of the best climbers in Canada. The guys and girls we knew were on the covers of climbing magazines. So it was awesome to join them on the weekends to climb places like Rattlesnake Point, Devils Glen and Metcalf. Then we moved on to amazing places like Lions Head. You can learn to climb at local climbing gyms to see if you like it and then get outside to learn to lead your sport routes. It’s the most awesome hobby and people are very impressed. The best thing about rock climbing is that once you’ve bought your harness, shoes, rope and gear like belay, carabiners and chalk bag, it’s pretty reasonable to climb and you can go around your province or state looking for routes or even boulder if you don’t have huge walls.
We learned to climb by going out with big climbers, but you can do outdoor courses where your guide will set up top ropes for you to learn until you’re ready to learn to climb yourself. Read more: Climbing in Railay
3. Whitewater kayaking
Kayaking is one of the best adventure sports that we have practiced in our travels through the seven continents. If you know how to kayak, a whole world of adventure opens up to you. If you can whitewater kayak, you’ve got it made because you can kayak in places like Antarctica and Greenland without feeling terrified and you can run a river without fear of capsizing. (Don’t worry, you’ll probably capsize, but you won’t have that terrified feeling about it!) We did our whitewater kayaking course on the Madawaska River in MKC. They were literally the first whitewater kayaking school in the world. This week long course will change your life as you learn how to roll, rescue and run the rapids. When we say we know how to whitewater kayak, we feel like true adventurers. Read more: Whitewater Kayaking: The Ultimate Adventure in Ontario
This adventure isn’t as sexy as the ones mentioned above, but it’s definitely the most important. I know kids are using Googlemaps and GPS these days, (Psst, us too) but in the wild, you can’t rely on technology. Learning how to read a map and compass will get you out of some tricky situations. It’s harder than it looks. You will learn to navigate from one point to another. This is a great skill for canoe trips, and backcountry hiking, as you learn to read the terrain on a map. When we took a multi-day canoe trip through Algonquin Park, we relied on our map reading skills to cross lakes and get to portages. It’s a skill that will serve you for life.
Again, it’s not the most exciting adventure activity, but an adventurer knows how to camp, and knows how to camp well. When you’re climbing or hiking or even driving across country in an event like the Mongol Rally, you’re going to be camping in the backcountry. Before Dave and I started traveling, we went camping almost every weekend. We learned which heating pads and sleeping bags worked best for us. We learned how to set up our tents in no time and knew how to stay dry if it rained. We were also excellent camp cooks. We had our flame working second fiddle on our camp stove and would whip up gourmet meals by the campfire. The more you camp, the more you learn how to stay dry, eat and sleep well. Camping is one of the most rewarding experiences, it’s very affordable (once you have your gear) and it’s a great way to make new friends.
Extra Camping Adventure
If you really want to say “I’m a great camper,” add winter camping to your repertoire. Once you’ve slept outside in minus 40 degrees, no one can take it away from you. Plus, when you know how to survive overnight in that extreme climate, you really are an adventurer. Note: We don’t recommend this if you are inexperienced, you can seriously die. But if you hire an expert to help you or take a course to learn how to survive in cold climates, it can be done. We’ve camped in the Canadian north for 10 days in minus 40 degrees and slept in a bivy sack in Antarctica. If we can do it, so can you.
6. Mountain bike
Dave and I love cycling. In fact, we started this blog by cycling around the African continent. Before we got into bike touring, we did a lot of mountain biking. Learning to ride a mountain bike is an amazing skill. You learn how to ride with clipless pedals, you learn how to keep your balance and handle your bike over obstacles and rough terrain. Mountain biking teaches you endurance and how to climb huge hills with ease. When you’re out on a bike tour in Spain or France, you’ll be at the front of the pack. Dave and I do a lot of bike touring and we find it easy, even when we’re in the worst shape of our lives from too much travel or overindulging in rich food and wine, we can keep up with the best. We often lead the pack because we have the muscle memory of cycling. It all started with mountain biking, and we still love to hit the trails and tackle the occasional obstacle.
7. Snowboarding or skiing
You won’t be considered an adventurer until you add some winter activities to the mix. Learning to ski or snowboard is the best way to spend the winter. In fact, once it becomes a part of your life, you can’t wait for the snow to fall to hit the slopes. Dave and I ski and snowboard. We started skiing at a young age and then switched to snowboarding in the ’90s when it was all the rage. We compare the two sports because snowboarding has a quicker learning curve, you get the hang of it earlier than skiing, but on the other hand, with skiing, once you get the hang of it, you keep improving at a faster rate. Snowboarding requires a little more time (at least for us) to master the terrain park and the obstacles that come naturally on skis. Whichever option you choose, you’re going to love it. Read more: Whistler Snowboarding Adventure
8. Cross-country skiing
When you watch Discovery Channel or National Geographic, the adventurers on the really awesome expeditions always know how to cross-country ski. Cross-country skiing allows you to quickly get deep into the backcountry in winter. You can carry more gear as you glide through the snow, and you can move faster than you can on snowshoes or just walking through deep snow. But cross-country skiing is harder than it looks. Being on those precariously long skis downhill takes skill. Even cross-country skiing courses have slopes, and taking a course or going out to practice will come in handy if you decide to cross the Arctic Circle or head to the South Pole. We prefer to stick to skiing in Alberta’s mountain huts, and let me tell you, that’s adventure enough. Read more: Have you heard of skijoring? Find out everything you need to know
9. Riding a horse
I can’t tell you how many horseback riding trips Dave and I have taken since we decided to live a life of adventure. When you go to places like Mongolia, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, riding is a way of life. We’ve ridden horses everywhere from Alberta to South Africa, and having that skill will open up a whole new world of adventure. Horseback riding is not easy, it takes more skill than you think to entice a horse to do what you want. It’s all about subtle movements to shift your weight, squeeze your thighs and gently move the reins. Dave and I had to take riding lessons because, honestly, we sucked at first. Read more: Trekking in Kyrgyzstan on horseback
I mentioned whitewater kayaking to open up a world of paddling possibilities, but you should also learn to canoe. They are completely different disciplines. Canoeing is done with a single-bladed paddle, while kayaking uses a double-bladed paddle. Being able to canoe in a canoe is very different from canoeing in a kayak. And adventurous canoe trips are a lot of fun. You can fill your canoe to the brim with food and gear while exploring the beautiful lakes and rivers of Canada’s interior. Ah, I want to go on a canoe trip today! Read the following: Canoeing Lake Louise and Banff National Park (Alberta).
Want to try something extreme? Truly crazy adventurers love to go deep into the earth’s core exploring caves. We’ve done it a few times, and always with a guide because I’m afraid of getting stuck in the tiny rocks, but caving is a real adventure activity that people push the limits to go deeper and deeper to find passages underground. There are caves all over the earth to explore, and you don’t have to be a daredevil to go caving, just explore the caves that have already been discovered and that’s adventure enough. It’s great fun to climb rocks, crawl through tight spaces and find openings and caverns. If you like the dark, this is the adventure for you!
12. Hiking in the interior of the country
Anyone can hike, and if you want to immerse yourself in adventure, try backcountry hiking. Ontario (where we live) has the Bruce Trail, a complete network of trails covering 900 km (560 miles). Dave and I started out doing day hikes around the province, learning to carry enough water and snacks to get us through the day. Then we moved on to multi-day hikes where we carried our tents and food on our backs. If you think hiking isn’t a real adventure, you haven’t done backcountry hiking, like the West Coast Trail or the Fundy Footpath. There are hikes that can last anywhere from days to weeks and let me tell you, when you finish an epic hike you feel amazing. Read more: South Africa’s Cango caves: adventure and claustrophobia.
13. Try a triathlon
Now that you have all the skill you’ve been working on, set a goal to do something epic at the end of the summer. About two years before Dave and I went to Africa, we spent a summer working out like crazy and set a goal for the end of the year to try a triathlon. The best part is that you don’t have to sign up for a full 3.9km swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run. That’s just crazy. But you can sign up for spring triathlons that let you try the swim, bike and run, and it’s awesome. Once you’ve participated in a triathlon, your friends will have nothing to do!
So there you have it. If you’re ready to up the adventure factor in your life. Try one of these outdoor hobbies to become an adventurer. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. We started out riding bikes and added to it year after year. Our summers were soon filled with so many adventurous activities that our weekends were filled with excitement. These adventures changed our lives.
I remember saying, “I am a jack of all trades and master of none.” How is this going to help me? Well, it did. When we started traveling, we had the know-how to do all the adventurous activities we could dream of. We were up for anything and that never held us back. So go for it. Make 2021 the year you start living your dreams.
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