Life is an adventure, if you want it to be, says Ed Stafford

By Ed Stafford

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“Life is an adventure.”

The “sunny” bloody wake alarm on my phone tells me it’s time to get out of bed and a jolt of stress tears across my shoulders like barbed wire. My red wine-head is fuzzy and I know that I’ve not had more than four hours of sleep as the baby started crying at 3am and has been kicking me in the head since being brought into our bed.

I pull on half-clean tracksuit bottoms and a fresh t-shirt and shiver my way downstairs to let the dogs out. 50kg Maggie has urinated on the new limestone floor and made a massive stain. 65kg Winston’s 4-inch drool ectoplasm has just soiled my fresh t-shirt, and my will to live, again.

Sometimes there is so much on, so many things and people to deal with, that life just feels like an uphill battle to keep other people happy and bills paid. At times like these I have to remind myself that no situation lasts forever and, if things feel a bit rubbish right now, then they will surely get better very soon.

According to Wikipedia”

“An adventure is an exciting experience that is typically a bold, sometimes risky, undertaking.

When times are hard, that description can feel like a million miles away from the humdrum existence of everyday life. So am I deducing that the phrase, “life is an adventure” is therefore inaccurate and actually quite annoying?

Not yet.

Back in the 70s, Arnold Schwarzenegger knew all too well that if you add resistance to your training that you’ll stress your muscles. He knew this would be tough – but he also knew that the muscles would recover and then get bigger and stronger.

The same applies, of course, to life.

The good times might be fun but they teach us sod-all compared to the shitty times. Coping with difficult family members, work, and bills are all stresses that are thrown at us, and if we deal with them semi-skilfully, they will make us stronger and better humans.

Read more: How the film ‘Up’ broke my heart – and moved me to travel the world

In 2012 I volunteered to be dropped off alone on an uninhabited island between Fiji and Tonga for 60 days straight.

I had no food or water, no knife nor survival equipment of any kind, I wasn’t even given any clothes.

The subsequent two months were the most mentally harrowing of my life. I had no idea what a massive impact being isolated for that length of time would have on me. Fast forward two years and I was seeing a psychiatrist due to the lasting issues that the experience had left me.

Fast forward another five years and I wouldn’t trade that life-changing experience for all the money in the world. It’s the tough times, of course, that teach us who we are.

So, if we are prepared to try and see that we could just be in a rut at present, we can also perhaps allow ourselves to get excited about a possible brighter future. Having perspective on things, taking responsibility, smiling, and then deciding that you are going to machete your own path through the jungle of life, is all a matter of attitude.

The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude.” Bob Bitchin

We all know friends and relations who are victims.

If you haven’t thought about this before they are the ones that are always grumbling and moaning about what other people have done to them. They are never wrong – they are just (in their eyes) persecuted by the cruelty of life. This is of course utter nonsense, and they are invariably perpetuating their unhappiness by not taking responsibility for themselves.

To these people I would say “Wake up!”

Take matters into your own hands and find something that excites you. Then do it.

That might be anything from running a 10k race to quitting work and travelling round the world. The scale is irrelevant as long as it stirs butteries in your stomach when you think about it. That healthy fear is so important.

On the first date with my wife she introduced me to the concept of “Hell yes!” or “No.” In fact she used the f-word but it’s the same idea made family-friendly.

Read more: What I learnt from my Mum’s gap year: live for today

Basically the theory is that whatever is presented to you in life, if your response is not “Hell yes!”, then its a “No.” This weeds out all the luke-warm maybes and the half-hearted perhapses. You only have a short amount of time on this planet so make sure everything that you commit to do is a worthy use of your time.

I put this into action on the very first night and considered whether Laura was a “Hell yes!” I decided that she was – and four years later we are happily married with a happy kamikaze two-year-old.

For me, “life is an adventure” is something we should work towards.

To be bold and lead an exciting life is a great vision to have. My wife and I both even have a “vision wall” in our office. This cringeworthy American concept is pure genius. It works off this principle: focus on the crappy things in life and you will attract more of the same; focus on the things that you want and you will attract them too.

Read more: Ed Stafford: Why your 30s is the best time of your life

So each day when we start work we are reminded of all the incredible things that we want in our lives.

Amongst other things, our wall has has had a huge Channel 4 logo on it printed out for about two years now. This Thursday, at 9pm, my new (first ever) Channel 4 series aired.

Blind coincidence? Maybe.

Personally I don’t think your life can be adventurous and 100% safe. Sorry – it’s an inconvenient truth. I have a naff little equation that goes: play + danger = adventure. It wasn’t conceived for this context at all but I think it does still work.

The word “bold” implies taking risks and this is the only way for your life to be stimulated enough to grow and get better. Wrap yourself and your family in cotton wool and you will stagnate in your safety box forever.

Whether your life is an adventure is utterly dependent on you – and has less to do with your life circumstances. That might upset a few people but without exception I think that those who go through severe traumatic events end up being more interesting people with far more wisdom than those who skim the surface playing golf.

It’s all part of the adventure.

“What[ever] you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So it’s up to you.

Maybe life is an adventure – maybe it’s not. All I would say is that the very same circumstances can be totally shifted with a shift in how you look at them.

And if you are coming up with an excuse as to why you are somehow different and this doesn’t apply to you, please laugh at yourself and be aware that you are doing so.

So, what are you going to do next? Whatever it is, go and do it now.

Hailed as “truly extraordinary” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, adventurer Ed Stafford hit the record books after becoming the first man to walk the Amazon. Ed continues to travel and film all over the world, surviving in some of the most hostile environments on Earth, from ‘Naked and Marooned’ to his newest series ‘First Man Out’. This is Ed Stafford’s Flash Pack column, written once a month from somewhere remote and halfway across the planet. Probably. 

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