Travel

Tales from an adventuress

Getty Image by: Getty Author: Elle Canada

Travel

Tales from an adventuress

Adventures stretch us and make us grow — especially when things go awry. When I led a group of eco volunteers to Antarctica, our ship was seized by customs agents in Argentina. It was stressful, but it was also an opportunity to vastly improve my negotiation skills. When we eventually set sail, anticipation for the journey ahead quickly made our disappointment about the delay float away.

Since I’m an explorer, a humanitarian and an activist, adventure is my way of being. I define it as trying new things — from glacier hiking to the meditation class I took despite my dread of sitting still. It’s asking questions and taking calculated risks. It’s mixing pleasure with discomfort to enrich one’s life.

My mom is one of my adventure role models. She left Ontario to teach in Japan in the 1960s, when few Westerners lived there. She escaped partly to heal her heart. When she returned to Canada two years later, the beloved ex-boyfriend who had broken her heart asked her to marry him. It was my dad. She taught me that adventuring can have unexpected effects.

QUIZ: What's your adventure style?

Growing up, I was inspired by stories of women resistance fighters in the Second World War and early explorers, particularly 18th-century botanist Jeanne Baret, who posed as a male sailor to become the first woman in the Antarctic territories and to circumnavigate the globe, and Belgian — French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who dressed as a beggar to travel into Tibet in 1924, when it was forbidden.

Today, female explorers can do anything men can do — although we sometimes still need to push gender barriers. (And while we can wear anything we want when adventuring, we still must consider both the art and science of dressing appropriately for different cultures and climates.)

Neuroscience shows that leaving our comfort zone nourishes our brains and re­lationships — and anchors us for our next visit to our own outer limits. Switching a route to work is beneficial, as is bumping up against different people and ideas. According to researchers, our brain connec­ tions need to be stretched to promote con­tinued learning, especially as we age.

Fortunately, we have an innate ten­dency to seek new experiences. According to a University College London study, there might even be an evolutionary advantage to sampling the unknown. The study found that the brain’s ventral striatum, a reward centre, activates when we choose unfamil­iar options or take a chance and likely trig­gers a dopamine release.

I get a certain feeling — an inner pang, or butterflies — when an opportunity comes up that simultaneously frightens and excites me. Some people expand their comfort zones more easily than others, but studies show that trekking to the edge of our own experience gives us confidence and perspective.

ADVENTURE QUIZ: Are you a Style Trekker, an OTT Warrior or a New Glamazon?

For me, the best adventures mix contri­bution and collaboration. I took a job as a field worker (and later as program director) for Médecins Sans Frontières because I be­lieve everyone should have medical care. Before I left on my mission to Rwanda in 1996, I sought advice for managing diffi­cult situations. During a pre­-departure course, a doctor who was heading to Bosnia assured me that the odds we’d both return home safely were excellent. I still value her wisdom on how to balance fear and fearlessness.

We should embrace op­portunities like this by preparing, being alert and mitigating risks instead of clinging to the “sameness” that can deter us from discovering our unique selves. Rwanda shaped me. I witnessed the impact of heinous crimes against humanity but also learned about courage and resilience.

Not all expeditions need to be quite this extreme or far­flung — there’s a huge range of “voluntourism” opportunities out there that can provide a smaller dose of pur­poseful adventures. I’m thrilled about he growing trend of “microadventuring,” which British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys is popularizing as a way to encourage people to get outside and into the wild — however you define that.

He describes a microadventure as “close to home, cheap, simple, short and yet very effective.” These free or low-cost outings could include going on an urban hike in your city or to a place near your home that you’ve never been. In geographer Alastair Bonnett’s book Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities and Other Inscrutable Geographies, he writes about braving several lanes of traffic to explore the isolated patch of grass in a traffic island in Newcastle, England, that he passes during his daily commute.

I made adventuring affordable by making it my work — I’ve co-written a book about my Antarctic cleanup trip (see “Food: Try an Edible Expedition”), and I’m now a strategic adviser for the Museum of AIDS in Africa.

When I had kids, my wanderlust didn’t disappear. While I wasn’t up for trips to conflict zones, I started doing research, writing and exploring at closer range, as well as some short-term jobs in Africa and South America. I still yearned to try new things and meet new people.

So, with a friend, I did a fundraising “dare” to try nine new sports. This introduced me to “subcultures” in my own city, such as speed skating and acrobatics using aerial silks. I learned the hard way — and with great humility — that I’m better at archery than aerials. And I discovered you can take archery lessons in a beautiful historic barn at Casa Loma in Toronto. Who knew?

QUIZ: What kind of adventurer are you?

I also believe that nature is a tonic. We are living on a fragile planet in an age of disequilibrium. Numerous studies have found that there are mental and physical health benefits to being outside. Out­ door exploration helps battle what American writer Richard Louv calls “nature­deficit disorder,” a result of our increasingly indoor, screen­filled lives. Accumulating more memories than things is a beautiful quest for us individually and for humanity.

I like the adage that you’ll be more disappointed by what you didn’t do than what you did. I regret turning down the opportunity to work on women’s health in Afghanistan in my 20s. I regret hanging on to one tough humanitarian job so long that it nearly burned me out.

What don’t I regret? Saying no sometimes; it leaves space to open another door. Like skateboarding, which I started at 42. I adore it — even though, when I was out with my son one time, I broke my ankle. It was painful, but I can laugh about it now.

Adventuring is a muscle I must exercise throughout life. My next journey is to the Arctic Ocean. I’m keen to know about northern peoples, cultures and wisdom. In August 2015, I’m joining civilians cleaning garbage from the shores of Spitsbergen, a Norwegian island. Although one­ off stewardship efforts like this can’t change the world, they have a ripple effect. Adventures promise know­ ledge, friendships and discovery inside and outside of yourself.

TIPS FOR EVERYDAY ADVENTURING

Take on microadventures
Check out Alastair Humphreys’ Credit Crunch Expeditions and A Year of Microadventure, which include monthly outing recommendations (alastairhumphreys.com). Or, sign up for a class like those at the Toronto-based Pine Project, which offers outdoor courses in everything from wilderness skills to mentoring.

Find meaning
Search travel and volunteer opportunities at home or abroad, but choose carefully — start your search through organizations like CharityVillage and Voluntary Service Overseas. Or, join me in the Arctic to clean the shores of Spitsbergen.

Access your inner explorer
Find a meditation class, download an app or join the online Consciousness Explorers Club.

Overcome fear
Prepare. Research your adventure and get safety tips, travel insurance, vaccinations and, depending on where you’re going, evacuation insurance. Start your research through the World Health Organization’s international travel and health guide and companies like International SOS.

TAKE THE QUIZ AND THEN EXPLORE YOUR ADVENTURE STYLE:

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Explore your adventure style

Fashion: Dare to wear

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER FEMME D’ARMES NYC-based sisters Fannie Chan and Connie Majoros embarked on a one-of-a-kind adventure when they decided to say goodbye to their respective styling and finance careers and start a fashion label in 2010. Their spring/summer 2015 collection references Las Vegas and the Nevada desert. READ MORE: Tales from an adventuress

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Thompson Source: Femme D'Armes

Explore your adventure style

Fashion: Dare to wear

FOR THE OTT WARRIOR HAYLEY ELSAESSER Front-row guests at Hayley Elsaesser’s cheeky spring/summer 2015 show couldn’t whip out their phones fast enough to snap the Toronto-based designer’s bold pop-culture-inspired prints, sequined dresses and graphic accessories. Why? Because her collection is that over-the-top. QUIZ: What's your adventure style?

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Charlotte Herrold Source: Adam Moco

Explore your adventure style

Fashion: Dare to wear

FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON TOME Designers Ramon Martin and Ryan Lobo were influenced by India, specifically two female artists: Rukmin Devi, a classical dancer, and contemporary photographer Dayanita Singh. The vibrancy and energy of their art is translated into elegant saffron, marigold and pink statement pieces. READ MORE: How to rock the edgiest celeb-inspired trend

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Thompson Source: Tome

Explore your adventure style

Beauty: Defy convention

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER SERENITY NOW Find a moment of calm with this lavender-and clary-sage-infused oil. Aveda Stress-Fix Composition Oil ($39), at aveda.ca. READ MORE: The strangest celebrity beauty treatments we've ever heard

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Victoria Diplacido Source: Geoffrey Ross

Explore your adventure style

Beauty: Defy convention

FOR THE OTT WARRIOR SUPERFLY Rose and Calabrian bergamot are blended with white pepper and cashmere wood for an unconventional unisex fragrance. Jeremy Scott for Adidas Originals Eau de Toilette Spray ($90 for 75mL), at thebay.com. READ MORE: 6 new fragrances to try this summer

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Victoria Diplacido Source: Geoffrey Ross

Explore your adventure style

Beauty: Defy convention

FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON SMOKED OUT No self-respecting glamour girl leaves the house without the tools for a smoky eye. Who knows where the day might take her? Tom Ford Eye Color Duo in Crushed Indigo ($65), at holtrenfrew.com. READ MORE: Get glowing with these 6 bronzers

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Victoria Diplacido Source: Geoffrey Ross

Explore your adventure style

Music: Listen up

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER The “hiking to see the silverbacks in Uganda” playlist: 1. “She’s Strong,” Harrison, feat. Maddee 2. “Full Circle,” George FitzGerald 3. “The Climb,” Miley Cyrus READ MORE: 9 celebrity music collaborations we’re dying to see

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: Harrison

Explore your adventure style

Music: Listen up

FOR THE OTT WARRIOR The “drinking vodka in Ibiza with Russian socialites you just met” playlist: 1. “Karaoke,” Smallpools 2. “Emily,” San Fermin 3. “It’s My Life,” Bon Jovi READ MORE: The 12 music festivals in Canada to know about this summer

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: Bon Jovi

Explore your adventure style

Music: Listen up

FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON The “floating in the Mediterranean on Leo’s yacht” playlist”: 1. “101,” Portico 2. “Chess,” Petite Noir 3. “When You Believe,” Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston READ MORE: Wedding playlist songs for before the wedding even begins

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: Petite Noir

Explore your adventure style

Food: Try an edible expedition

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER Just what does one eat while on an adventure to clean up garbage on the Antarctic Peninsula? All sorts of savoury dishes, like asparagus pâté and Ukrainian cabbage rolls, according to Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine’s memoir/cookbook/travelogue, The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning. The recipes were collected from fellow bottom-of-the-world visitors and tested in a makeshift Antarctic kitchen. READ MORE: Tales from adventuress Carol Devine

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Christina Reynolds Source: Geoffrey Ross

Explore your adventure style

Body: Pump it up

FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON If you want to look like Elle Macpherson or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, you need to go to the source. Celebrity trainer James Duigan’s Bodyism system is the stuff of lean-body legend: an eat-clean, exercise-smart method that leaves your rear end so toned you can rest your (chlorophyll-spiked) water bottle on top of it. READ MORE: How to train like a fitness model

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Vanessa Craft Source: Getty

Explore your adventure style

Books: Take a literary journey

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma: A powerful story (with echoes of Cain and Able’s sibling drama) about self-fulfilling prophecies and everyday magic told through the lives of boys born on the banks of African river. READ MORE: 10 books you have to read this spring

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: Little, Brown and Company

Explore your adventure style

Books: Take a literary journey

FOR THE OTT WARRIOR Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill: A collection of quirky short stories about everything from the secret lives of dolls to a grandfather’s tales of a (short) trip to Heaven and why Jesus probably didn’t have friends in kindergarten. READ MORE: 7 beloved shows ending their run in 2015

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Explore your adventure style

Books: Take a literary journey

FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack: A time-travel tale, stylishly told, about the tempestuous love affair between an artist and a neuroscientist on the verge of discovering one of the universe’s greatest truths. READ MORE: The perfect date night cocktail

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: Picador

Explore your adventure style

Tech: Find love (in a hopeless place)

FOR THE OTT WARRIOR Tired of swiping left and right to find the one? The new dating app Siren (siren.mobi) is looking to put a little spontaneity back into online dating. Users answer questions of the day to spark conversation, and women can control their visibility completely. READ MORE: 38 new Emojis coming soon!

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Aliyah Shamsher Source: Siren.mobi

Explore your adventure style

Film: Ditch class like Ferris or take on dinosaurs

FOR THE STYLE TREKKER Thelma & Louise Back to the Future Moonrise Kingdom FOR THE OTT WARRIOR Jurassic World Wild Pee-wee's Big Adventure FOR THE NEW GLAMAZON Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Adventures in Babysitting Romancing the Stone READ MORE: How to be an adventuress in your every day life

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Sarah Laing Source: 20th Century Fox


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Tales from an adventuress