Before Dave and I started travel blogging, we wanted to be adventurers. We had no idea what that entailed or how we could make a living out of being adventurers, but we wanted that moniker after our names. “Dave and Deb – Adventurers!” Blogging wasn’t “a thing” yet, and at the time we were watching a lot of discovery and the Outdoor Life Channel (back when they were good) and a lot of people being featured in the show had the word “adventurer” beside their name. That was our dream. So for a couple of years before taking off to travel the world, we took up a lot of hobbies to help us achieve our dreams of being adventurers. It was a couple of summers hanging around Ontario trying new things. And let me tell you something, these 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 a few of these hobbies. It really will turn you into an adventurer. We may not have the exact term “adventurer” beside our names but we have certainly lived a life of adventure. Let’s go!
1. Scuba Diving
Dave and I learned to scuba dive in Lake Simcoe located north of Toronto. We took our open water course in the cold waters of early summer in Canada and spent the rest of the year touring around the Great Lakes and Muskokas. The Great Lakes are a graveyard for ships and some of the best wreck diving on earth is out there in the fresh waters. We moved on to drift diving in the St. Lawrence River, deep diving and even icy cold diving in the frigid waters off of Tobermory in Lake Huron. Once you’ve gone scuba diving in waters that have a thermocline, you are a true adventure diver. It made diving in the Caribbean a piece of cake!
2. Rock Climbing
We learned to rock climb on the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. We were young and fit and were hanging out with some of the best climbers in Canada. I mean, the guys and gals we knew graced the covers of climbing magazines! So it was awesome to join them on weekends to climb in places like Rattlesnake Point, Devils Glen and Metcalf. We then moved on to awesome places like Lions Head. You can learn to rock climb at local climbing gyms to see if you like it and then take it outdoors to learn how to lead your way up sport routes. It is the most awesome hobbie and people are super impressed. The great thing about rock climbing is once you’ve bought your harness, shoes, rope and gear like a belay, carabiners and chalk bag, it’s quite reasonable to climb and you can go around your province or state in search of routes or even bouldering if you don’t have huge walls.
We learned to climb by hanging out with great climbers, but you can take outdoor courses where your guide will set up top ropes for you to learn until you are ready to learn to lead climb yourself. Read: Rock Climbing in Railay
3. Whitewater Kayaking
Kayaking is one of the best adventure sports we’ve used in our travels around seven continents. If you can kayak, it opens up a whole world of adventures. If you can whitewater kayak, you’ve got it made because you can go kayaking in places like Antarctica and Greenland without feeling terrified and you can run a river without fear of flipping over. (don’t worry, you probably will flip over, but you won’t have that feeling of dread about it!) We took our whitewater kayaking course on the Madawaska River at MKC. They were literally the first whitewater kayaking school in the world. This week long course will change your life as you learn to roll, rescue and ride the rapids. When we say we know how to whitewater kayak, we feel like true adventurers. Read more: Whitewater Kayaking – the Ultimate Ontario Adventure
This adventure isn’t as sexy and the ones mentioned above, but it is definitely the most important. I know the kids are all using Googlemaps and GPS these days, (Psst, we do too) but out in the wilderness, you can’t rely on technology. Learning to read a map and compass will help you out of some sticky situations. It is harder than it looks. You will learn how to navigate from point to point. This is a great skill to have for canoe trips, and backcountry hiking as you learn to read terrain on a map. When going on a multiday canoe trip in Algonquin Park, we relied on our map reading skills to cross lakes and make our way to portages. It’s a skill you will use for life.
Again, not the most exciting adventure activity, but an adventurer knows how to camp, and knows how to camp well. When you are climbing or trekking or even driving cross country in an event like the Mongol Rally, you are going to be camping in the backcountry. Before Dave and I started traveling, we went camping nearly every weekend. We learned what thermarests (sleeping pads) and sleeping bags worked best for us. We learned to set up our tents in a snap and we knew how to stay dry if it rained. We were also excellent camp cooks. We had our flame working in second on our camp stove and whipped up gourmet meals by the campfire. The more you camp, the more you learn how to stay dry, stay fed 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.
Bonus Camping Adventure
If you really want to say “I am a great camper” add winter camping to your repertoire. Once you have slept outside in minus 40 degree weather, nobody can take that away from you. Plus, when you know how to survive overnight in that extreme weather, you really are an adventurer. Note: We do not recommend this if you don’t have experience, you can seriously die. But if you hire an expert to help you or take a course to learn cold weather survival, it can be done. We have camped in the Canadian north for 10 days at minus 40 and we have slept in a bivy sac on Antarctica. If we can do it, you can too!
6. Mountain Biking
Dave and I love cycling. Heck, we started this blog by cycling the continent of Africa. Before we got into cycling trips, we did a lot of mountain biking. Learning to mountain bike is an amazing skill. You learn to ride with clipless pedals, you learn balance, and how to handle a bike over obstacles, and steep terrain. Mountain biking teaches you endurance and how to climb massive hills with ease. By the time you head out on a cycling trip to Spain or France, you’ll be leading the pack. Dave and I do a lot of cycling tours and it comes easy to us, even when we are in the worst shape or our lives from traveling too much or overindulging on rich foods and wines, we can keep up to the best of them. We often lead the pack because we have the muscle memory of cycling. It all started with mountain biking, and even today, we love going out on the trails taking on an obstacle or two.
7. Snowboarding or Skiing
You won’t be considered an adventurer until you add some winter activities into the mix. Learning to ski or snowboard is the best way to make it through the winter. In fact, once it becomes a part of your life, you can’t wait for the snow to fall so you can hit the slopes. Dave and I both ski and snowboard. We started skiing at an early age and then moved into snowboarding in the 90s when it was the cool thing to do. The way we compare the two is that snowboarding is a faster learning curve, you will get the hang of it quicker than skiing, but on the other hand with skiing, once you get the hang of it, you will keep getting better and better at a faster pace. Snowboarding takes a bit more time (at least for us it did) to master the terrain park and obstacles that come naturally on skis. Either one that you decide upon, you are going to love it! Read more: Whistler Snowboarding Adventure
8. Cross Country Skiing
When watching Discovery Channel or National Geographic, the really awesome expedition adventurers always know how to cross country ski. Cross country skiing lets you get into the back country in the winter fast. You can carry more gear as you glide along the snow and you can move quicker than on snowshoes or just hiking through deep snow. But cross country skiing is harder than it looks. Being on those precarious long skis going downhill requires skill. Even cross country ski courses have hills, and taking a course or getting out to practice will come in handy should you decide to cross the arctic circle or head to the South Pole. We prefer to just ski into backcountry lodges in Alberta, and let me tell you, that is adventure enough. Read more: Ever Heard of Skijoring? Find Out All You Need to Know
9. Horseback Riding
I cannot tell you how many horse treks Dave and I have been on since deciding to live a life of adventure. When you go to places like Mongolia, Kazakhstan or Kyrzykstan, horseback riding is a way of life. We’ve ridden horses everywhere from Alberta to South Africa and having that skill will open up an entirely new world of adventures. Horseback riding isn’t easy, it takes more skill than you think to entice a horse to do what you want. It’s all about subtle movements of shifting your weight, squeezing your thighs and gently moving the reigns. Dave and I had to take riding lessons because honestly, at first we sucked! Read more: Kyrgyzstan Trekking by Horse
I mentioned whitewater kayaking to open up a world of possibilities for paddling, but you should learn how to canoe as well. They are completely different disciplines. Canoe paddling is done with a single bladed oar, while kayaking uses a double bladed paddle. To be able to navigate a canoe is very different from a kayak. And canoe trips for adventurers are so much fun. You can fill that canoe to the brim with food and gear as you explore the beautiful backcountry lakes and rivers of Canada. Ah, I want to go on a canoe trip today! Read next: Canoe Lake Louise and Banff National Park, Alberta
Ooh, do you want to try something extreme? The truly insane adventurers love to go deep into the earths core exploring caves. We’ve done it a few times, and always had a guide because I have a fear of getting stuck in tiny rocks, but spelunking is an actual adventure activity that people push to the limits to go deeper and deeper to find passageways underground. There are caves all over the earth to explore, and you don’t have to be a daredevil to go spelunking, you can just explore the caves that have already been discovered and that is an adventure enough. It is so much fun to scramble up rocks, crawl through tight spaces and find openings and caverns. If you like the dark, this is the adventure for you!
12. Backcountry Hiking
Anyone can hike and if you want to dip your foot in adventure, give backcountry hiking a try. Ontario (where we live) has the Bruce Trail, an entire network of hiking trails spanning 900 km (560 miles). Dave and I started off doing day hikes around the province learning to carry enough water and snacks to get us through the day. We then graduated to multiday hikes where we carried our tents and food on our backs. If you think hiking isn’t a true adventure, you haven’t done backcountry hiking like the West Coast Trail or the Fundy Footpath. There are hikes that can last from days to weeks and let me tell you, when you finish an epic hike you feel amazing. Read More: The Cango Caves of South Africa – Adventure and Claustrophobia
Watch any of the cool kids on TV and they always seem to know how to surf. If you live near the water, your weekend warrior adventure choice could be surfing. It is so much fun! And when you can hop on a board to show off to your friends, they’ll think you are awesome. It seems that adventurers have all the skills. They are as comfortable on water as they are on land. Learning to surf is just another list of adventures to add to the repertoire and create a well rounded life of excitement. We aren’t the greatest at surfing, but we try it every time we’re near the surf and hey, we can stand up on a board, that’s all that counts right?
14. Try a Triathlon
Now that you have all your skill that you’ve been working on, make a goal of doing something epic at the end of the summer. About two years before Dave and I set off for Africa, we spent a summer working out like crazy and made a goal for the end of the year to try a triathlong. The great thing is you don’t have to sign up for a full 2.4 mile swim (3.9K), 112 mile bike (180.2K), and 26.2 mile run (42.2K). That is insane! But you can sign up for spring triathlongs that give you a taste of swimming, cycling and running and it is awesome. Once you’ve taken part in a triathlon, your friends will have nothing on ya!
So there you have it. If you are ready to up the adventure factor in your life. Try one of these outdoor hobbies to turn you into an adventurer. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. We started with riding a bike and kept adding on year after year. Our summers soon became filled with so many adventure activities, our weekends were filled with excitement. These adventures changed our lives.
I remember saying “I’m 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 skills to do every adventure activity we could dream of. We were game for anything and it never held us back. So go for it. Make 2021 the year to start living your dreams.