Note: If you’ve already read this Welcome Page, then click on the tab titled “Posts — Round 1” (upper right-hand side of this page).
This website is for anyone who is interested in examining their backcountry adventures — and interested in seeing if this kind of reflection can help them to design even better trips in the future.
This site is also based on a thought experiment. I have hiked to many, many wonderful places in the wilderness. What if … it turns out that I wasn’t primarily hiking to geographical places as much as I was hiking to a set of ideas? What important ideas have I hiked to in the past 45 years?
The “Twelve Ideas that Rocked My World” forms the basis of this blog. But there’s also a bit more to it … so please read on.
If you have already read this Welcome page, then go back to the top of the page and click on the tab near the right-hand side titled “Posts — Round 1”. It is recommended that you read the posts from oldest to newest.
What is Examined Adventure?
Socrates once said that “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
This idea could be phrased more positively: “The examined life is worth living”.
In this blog I take Socrate’s idea and apply it to 45 years of my backcountry adventures and assert: “The examined adventure is worth having”.
Examining my adventures adds value to them. Not only do I get to live (and re-live) my adventures, but I also get to figure out what makes them “adventurous”, and discern some of the patterns that I can use to design quality in future trips.
My process of Examined Adventure
I have been doing backcountry trips since I was about 14 years old (i.e. starting in the 1970’s), and I started taking a journal on my trips since I was about 19 years old. I switched up my trip-journaling process in 1998 and started taking very detailed notes that included ideas that I had and stories that I lived on each trip.
By my count I’ve done over 300 multi-day backcountry trips. That means there is a lot of information in my trip journals — details of ideas and stories.
My process of examined adventure has three steps:
- Reflection & Recording … during the trip I think about what is happening, and I write it down
- Analysis … after the trip I look for themes and patterns and stories
- Design … I use the insights gained from the analysis to plan future trips
I have reviewed my trip journals many times. And from those reviews I have gleened “100 good stories”. I have also taken a lot of pictures on my trips, and I have selected “1000 good pictures”. I have also distilled the musings in my journals to “12 ideas that rocked my world”.
This blog will present some of those stories, many of those pictures … all revolving around the 12 Ideas that Rocked My World.
Twelve Ideas that Rocked My World
During the process of examining my 45 years of outdoor tripping I began to see some patterns. These patterns were in the form of ideas. As mentioned above, it seemed to me that while it is true that I was hiking toward geographical places … I was also hiking to ideas. And these ideas have helped guide me to become a happy elder.
On trips I began to perceive key ideas much like I saw nice, scenic views in the backcountry … the ideas (like the views) would rise up before me and confront me. The ideas became part of the scenery — they also became a major part of “why I go”.
A big part of why I go into the mountains is because of the thinking that it allows me to do. And, upon examination, this thinking revolves around twelve ideas.
Synopsis of the Twelve Ideas that Rocked My World
Here is a brief description of each of the 12 ideas. Each idea is presented in more detail in its own blog post in another part of the site (see Site Navigation section above).
Even though I am a devout optimist … I begin my understanding of adventure by asserting that: “Life is a catastrophe”, and that the Catastrophe (with a captial “C”) includes my disappointments, failures, mistakes, surprises, limitations, etc. The Catastrophe is often chaotic, unpredictable, and mystifying.
Adventure happens within the Catastrophe.
To a certain and important extent I can focus my attention on what matters most to me. This is a skill set that I have worked hard to develop. It takes practice. My attention is a resource that needs to be allocated skillfully and deliberately. Even if this is a limited ability it has served me well as I try to move productively within the Catastrophe.
Focusing my attention can disrupt the Catastrophe.
As mentioned, I am a devout optimist and I strive to focus on “the good in life”. There is lots of good within the Catastrophe and that good acts as a certain type of currency — but it takes a certain skill set to find it (like a treasure hunt). At its highest levels being chonically grateful isn’t a function of happenstance; it is a practice that requires lots of learning, focus and hard work.
Being skillfully appreciative can disrupt the Catastrophe.
Stories and Storytelling
My life is made up of the stories that I live (especially on my trips) and the stories that I tell. This is true even if I only tell most of those stories to myself. I want my life to be a series of good, worthy, true stories. I want to be an active (causing) agent in my stories. I want to write the endings to most of my stories. I want to smile at the end of the book.
The best stories can only be discovered by venturing into the Catastrophe.
I am called to the mountains of Western Canada. I was meant to backpack and bushwack (travel with no trails) in this unique and magical territory. I was built to carry a heavy pack and hike uphill. On trips I often get a strong sense of “I was meant to do this … I was meant to be here”. Backpacking has been my destiny, my dharma. My calling … “calls” me … using signals, messages, hints and even tricks.
The signals, hints and tricks are in the Catastrophe (and so is my response to them).
I like to know the purpose of my backcountry endeavours because it helps me to understand (contextualize) the preparation, hard work, ‘suffering’ and adversity that accompanies any adventure. For most trips I have a written list of purposes. Often, when I am hiking I can tangibly feel the purpose in my actions — and that is an awesome feeling that brings worth to my trips and to my life.
Some people dance to music. I hike to purpose. There is joy and affirmation in both kinds of movement.
I have experienced a lot of positive meaning in my life. Some of that meaning I have actively created by making and pursuing self-concordant goals (goals consistent with my Better Self). And I have also had meaning revealed to me when I have witnessed backcountry phenomena such as: sunsets, waterfalls, the Milky Way, powder snow, alpine meadows, etc.
There is meaning to be found in the wilderness.
There are places that I have been that I can genuinely describe as ‘sacred’. I can feel the spirit of these place. There is enchantment and the power to point to a reality beyond human words. I also call these “thin spots” because it seems like the veil or barrier between the natural world and the super-natural world is thinner in these places. Movement between the sacred and the profane (the ‘ordinary’) is simpler.
I am called to venture to sacred places in the mountains of Western Canada.
During my adventures I have experienced a lot of flow — also known as peak experiences, deep play, being in the zone, natural highs, etc. These transcendent moments often happen when I am stretching my skills in an endeavour that is challenging and worthwhile. Flow experiences are intrinsically rewarding in themselves, but they also have a cumulitive effect — they have changed the way I look at the world and at my actions in it.
Repeated experiences of flow have changed me (especially after some reflection and analysis). And this is a good thing.
Of the 300 or so multi-day backcountry trips that I have done … I have probably done more than half of them alone (i.e solo). Travelling alone in the backcountry allows me to think and to experience in ways that are different than if I was travelling with other people. There is a certain freedom in solo tripping. I am never lonely when I am by myself. In the wilderness I often feel ‘alone-with’ — that is, alone, but connected.
‘Alone, but connected’ … is a good way for me to move productively within the Catastrophe.
Good character is made from behaviours and habits that are respectful — respecting myself, respecting the environment, and respecting other people. Good character is the march toward my Better Self. I have been very fortunate to have gone on many backcountry trips with a number of persons-of-character. They have taught me things that a solo trip cannot. These persons-of-character have taught me about cooperation, compassion, humour, and the human spirit.
Character will eclipse the Catastrophe everytime.
One of the main tasks of my particular calling is for me to bear witness to the wilderness — to quietly observe the unfolding of occurrences like sun rises, rainbows, a snow storm from beginning to end, alpenglow, the turning of the larch trees in the fall, a passing grizzly bear, etc. There is something in the wilderness that is worth seeing, worth listening to, worth divining.
Sometimes the wilderness speaks, and I am just supposed to listen.
Scroll back to the top of this page and clip on the tab-link “Posts — Round 1” (top right corner of page). This will take you to more in-depth posts relating to the 12 Ideas that Rocked my World.