What does it mean to be adventurous? Jumping out of airplanes, climbing steep mountains and diving with sharks are often seen as high-risk activities. Some people might act fearless and refer to themselves as adrenaline junkies or thrill seekers. Risking their lives to experience something extraordinary. For these people, this is the definition of adventure and for many a way of life. However, from a larger perspective, adventure is so much more than just adrenaline rushes. It lives in our everyday life and is about exploring new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. Adventure teaches us who we are and help us discover the beauty in the ordinary.
My name is Joda Dolmans. I am a 19-year-old adventure guide and qualified mountain leader (SFLO, fjälledare) from Värmland, Sweden. Working as a guide is amazing, but it also comes with great responsibility. In case of an emergency, it's crucial for me to have the right skills and knowledge in order to handle the situation. After my first Adventure Medicine course (AOV "Akut omhändertagande i vildmark"/Wilderness Medicine) in 2018, my risk management improved a lot and I felt overall more confident within my guiding, as well as on my personal adventures
Currently, I’m spending my days in the beautiful country of ‘Aotearoa’, New Zealand, where I’ve been working and travelling for the past four months. The amount of amazing experiences that New Zealand has given me so far is absolutely crazy. Long climbing days in the alpine, kayaking down stunning rivers, bungee jumping… but those are stories for another day.
Despite my Swedish background, I’m originally from The Netherlands where I lived until the age of six. My parents have always been very outdoorsy and liked to do things their own way. Vacations were often spent in the mountains, sleeping in tents or snow caves, paddling across giant lakes or exploring new places, preferably far away from civilisation. Back then, life was all about having fun and I did not think about how the outdoor life affected me. But those things have shaped my life and brought me to where I am today.
To me, adventure is all about challenging myself physically and mentally as well as seeing things from different perspectives. I like to throw myself in challenging environments where my skill and knowledge get ‘put to the test’. Climbing beautiful mountains, skiing down steep couloirs, paddling wild rivers, the list goes on… and although these things might seem quite intense and scary to a lot of people, it’s where I find peace and feel the most alive. Especially within climbing, which for me is a very pure form of adventure, life suddenly feels so incredibly simple. It gives me the ability to clear my mind and only focus on the present moment. Everything else fades away. When climbing, I see the world from a different perspective and become the best possible version of myself.
Part of leaving your comfort zone is not knowing the exact outcome of something. Whether it’s an important job interview, a race or entering an unexplored area. Nerves start to kick in and your mind switches on. Game mode! The trick is not to push it too far too fast, causing the survival instinct to take over and scare you back to your zone of comfort, or potentially putting you in a very serious situation. It’s a fine balance and as important as it is to explore your limits; it is also very crucial to know when to back off and instead return better prepared. This can be a very tough decision to make and sometimes you might need someone else to do it for you. But in the end, it’s what keeps you out of trouble. Taking risks is exciting and fun, but knowing when not to is an even more important skill.
Working hard to achieve something or trying something for the first time can come with great satisfaction and is for me, the key to motivation. But I constantly have to remind myself not to be afraid of failure, because this is where we can truly improve and learn more about ourselves. Besides, how boring would it be if you already knew the outcome of everything? But, even though making mistakes is an important part of our learning process, success is what we are truly after… And, to raise the chances of success we need to plan and prepare as much as possible in order to create the outcome that we are after.
When I’m planning for a trip in the mountains I like to break things down into small steps, to make it less overwhelming. In order to be efficient and make sure to not miss anything, I like to use checklists. I often use multiple lists and some are more detailed than others. For example I work through things like:
- Knowing my personal level of ability (Physical strength, skill, knowledge etc.)
- Get the necessary gear and know it ‘inside out’.
- Study the area well and plan the route.
- Make a safety plan (List any potential hazards and how to avoid/reduce them, emergency procedures etc.)
- Get the bigger picture: Study the weather, conditions etc.
This list is just an example of things to cover in general. And, to be honest I might not always be as precise with every single trip. Sometimes I just want to get out there without thinking or planning too much. But as I mentioned earlier, it is the most crucial part of any successful adventure, expedition or even just a day trip. Find a way that works for you, put in the effort but don’t overthink it too much (KISS; keep it simple stupid).
Last but not least, I hope that you are all staying safe and healthy during these tricky times. Some plans will have to wait and this is not the time to take any unnecessary risks. But on the other hand, it’s a good time to rethink, plan and prepare for future adventures.
“Kia Kaha” (Stay strong in Maori).