Lessons from Great Adventurers

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” -  Helen Keller

Some people seem born with a passion to accomplish big things. They tell stories of being young, knowing what they wanted and dedicating their lives to their passions. Others experience moments of transformation that take them from regular life to something more extreme.

What can these adventuresome people teach us about life? We look at the stories of three amazing voyagers to glean what they have learned -- the power and limits of belief, the virtue of journey, and the nature of fear.


Do you believe you are not “the type” cut out for adventure? That’s what Roz Savage believed when she worked as a marketing consultant in London.

Here at her TED Talk, Why I’m Rowing Across the Pacific, she talks about her first journey -- from desk job to ocean rower: “For a long time I told myself that I couldn’t have a big adventure.  I told myself that I didn’t look the part. I thought there was ‘them’ and there was ‘us.’  And I was not one of ‘them.’”

How did she start believing in herself?  Her moment of conversion came one day when she decided to write her obituary. She wrote two versions, the one she wanted and the one they were going to write if she died while living her current life.  

“I looked at them and I thought, ‘I am totally on the wrong track.’”

That’s when she decided to believe in her potential and get out of her comfort zone, which she said, did in fact make her uncomfortable. “I went beyond so many of my limits. There were so many times I thought I hit my limit, but I had to carry on because I was in the middle of the ocean.”

What has she learned about believing in yourself after the switch from ‘us’ to ‘them?’ “Don’t waste mental energy asking yourself if you CAN do something. Just do it. You’ll surprise yourself. I did.”


Once you choose to make the journey, whatever it may be, Antarctica voyager, Ben Saunders, has some lessons learned from trudging 1,800-miles, round trip, from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

He says his trip was life changing, humbling and challenged him beyond words.  But he does have some words of advice to offer about the importance of process and journey.

“That cliche about the journey being more important than the destination, there’s something in that. The closer I got to my finish line the more I started to realize that the biggest lesson that this long hard walk was teaching me was that happiness is not at a finish line. That the perfection that so many of us seem to dream of might not ever be truly obtainable. And if we cannot feel content here, today, now on our journeys -- amidst the mess and the striving and the open loops, half finished to do lists and the could-do-better-next-times -- then we might not ever feel it.”


It could be argued that no one understand the nature of fear more than a man who has done one of the most dangerous tasks on earth -- flown to the space station. Chris Hadfield had a 1 in 38 chance of dying as he catapulted into space. Here at his Ted Talk, What I learned from Going Blind in Space, he breaks down the nature of fear and reveals why it should never block us from our goals.

He says the key to overcoming fear is done by, “looking at the difference between perceived danger versus real danger.”

When we look to change our lives or accomplish a goal, Chris encourages us to honestly evaluate the real risk behind our fear and not just the generic fear of bad things happening.

He uses the common fear of spiders to illustrate this logic.  There are only about 10 truly dangerous spiders in the world out of the 50,000 or so species and even those rarely kill humans. Breaking down the actual statistical probability of spider danger, there are approximately 318,000,000 US citizens and 6 of them will die from a spider bite. Choking, as a comparison, kills 2,500 people a year and yet almost no one is afraid to sit down and eat.

After analyzing the real danger, he believes conditioning ourselves to do what we irrationally fear (such as walking daily through spider webs), will allow us to accomplish anything we desire.

By doing this, he says, “You can fundamentally change your reaction to things, so that it allows you to go places see things and do things that would be completely denied to you otherwise if you had not found a way to conquer your fear.”

So what’s stopping you from going on your great life adventure?  Are you irrationally afraid you’ll die? Are you too focused on the finish? Do you not believe you’re the adventuring type?  Just remember, if you don’t risk anything, you actually risk more.  

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited