I’ve realized through several long duration and long distance adventures that adventures can be boring. Adventures for me are mainly about immersion. Immersion includes:
- Changes in routine and daily habits
- Participation in new cultures and subcultures (e.g. backpackers, touring cyclists, Airstream owners)
- New, unexpected problems, which sometimes require new problem solving skills
- Testing my ability and endurance to persevere
Sometimes the adventures have adrenaline pumping activities, but I’m not in for the thirty-second thrill.
The downside of the long distance and long duration immersion adventure is there can be regular boredom. A year of adventure for me doesn’t mean base jumping or dropping into class V rapids every day. It means the journey.
The boredom theme was persistent in my other adventures.
When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, the success rate for completion was around 10%. Boredom was a main reason people fell off. Hiking 20 miles a day across mountains for 160 days means most time is dull and lonely. There’s actually an A.T. phenomenon called the “Virginia Blues.” The Virginia Blues is a state of depression inflicted upon hikers because of 500 miles of seemingly endless boring hiking across Virginia, and it causes a large percentage of thru-hikers to quit every year. (I actually found a post in my AT daily journal in which I documented boredom on the A.T. There probably others.)
Cycling across America had its high points, but cycling across the Great Plains was the most boring week of my entire life. That’s saying a lot since I once spent a month in the hospital in traction and several months in a body cast. (Day 47 on the trip, in Kansas, I recorded roadkill in my journal as the most interesting thing to report.)
On a 30,000 mile RV trip around America, we had to grind in daily life: moving camp every couple days, hooking up the trailer, unhooking the trailer, replenishing the milk, dishwashing, emptying the blackwater, changing diapers, baby naps, bath time, and so on. (Let’s not forget the towels.)
When planning an adventure, I overlook the boredom. I forget it’s going to be an issue. Excitement runs high when plotting out destinations on a map. But after the adventure begins, there’s a wall to encounter. The wall is the realization that boredom and tediousness are going to be a part of the adventure. One has to break through this wall to succeed on the journey. I’ve finished adventures where others have failed not due to a superior physical ability. I’m an overweight asthmatic who was slowest on my soccer team. I succeed because of a superior ability to overcome the mental fatigue of the grind.
We’ve reached the wall. We now recognize the challenges related to boredom of everyday life abroad. Katie and I had forgotten the wall existed. Encountering it on this adventure reminded us of its existence. Now that we’ve spotted it, we can break through it, and we can help our kids break through it. Breaking through requires resetting baseline expectations, planning for the lows, and looking forward to the highs.