28 Comments

  1. Annie
    October 21, 2015 @ 10:28 am

    Really enjoyed this post Tom. Another question to think about is whether you are considered an adventurer by the people who read your blogs? If the poststructuralist approach of subjectivity doesn’t fit well for you, what then about the collective opinion of the masses? And what if that collective opinion of you is different from your own opinion of yourself?

    As a frequent reader of your posts, I can see the difference between your own approach and that of other high profile adventurers. It is relatively easy to spot those who craft their identity/brand and who have taken the professionalised adventurer route, but there is a need and a desire for those people, and often I enjoy their work. For me, though, its always very reassuring to know that there are people like you who come out with strong clear reflections on themselves and what adventure means to them. Keep it up please!!

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2015 @ 6:44 am

      “What if that collective opinion of you is different from your own opinion of yourself?” – perhaps it was in fact this question that inspired this piece, coupled with a desire to question that collective opinion publicly. Although, as you pointed out, frequent readers can see the difference anyway… in which case, perhaps questioning the label is not as important as I thought it was…

      Reply

  2. Bill
    October 21, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

    Tom ,I relate as a union steel worker for 30 years .Raising a family. dog, cat and etc.In keeping a job working very hard and the management trying to fire me for many years .Looking back I didn’t have to be such an irritating worker. I worked very hard it took two people to replace me as I moved to another department .One was glad I left one was in the oh no mode. I realise now the good money or how irritating I was led me to new values in place now . .Your blog flows with truth and heart Thank you .Bill PS” its a day riding with a rain coat”

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2015 @ 6:41 am

      Thanks, Bill, for sharing your perspective!

      Reply

  3. mcholland
    October 21, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

    Was I the straw that broke the camel’s back?! There are many people out there (including myself at times) who are chasing the dictionary definition of adventure with each journey. Some of these people go on to make a living from telling their stories or being sponsored and so it’s fair to call them professional adventurers. It’s understandable why people would give you the same moniker. Your adventures fuel (or at least seem to) your work and income.

    But I get the sense that while you certainly enjoy the excitement and the unusualness of your experiences, you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than the adventurous froth. Your current two film projects, for example, both have strong cultural or environmental messages as their main themes. While others would simply have told the story of their journey, you looked for a theme and some meaning. I’m sure most if not all of your readers relate to that.

    I am occasionally called an explorer (and have timidly toyed with calling myself this as a result). At least you don’t have to deal with that minefield… oh wait, come to think of it, weren’t you one of the last explorers on the Rio Santa Cruz….

    😉

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2015 @ 6:40 am

      Truth be told, this piece has been brewing for a good year or so – ever since I wrote the original adventuretising rant, in fact! But yes, that Tweet might just have tipped the scales 🙂

      My books and films fuel my income, and I spend by far the biggest proportion of my time working on them. Incidentally, for source material I draw upon experiences I had while pursuing entirely personal curiosities. Am I not, then, primarily a writer and filmmaker, if people want to put labels on my professional activities? And is ‘adventuring’ not just something I do in my own time and for my own satisfaction? (Playing Devil’s Advocate here, I know…)

      Reply

      • Martin Holland
        October 27, 2015 @ 10:52 am

        I wasn’t clear. I do think you are primarily a writer and filmmaker, but that it’s understandable why people would call you an adventurer since that has become a thing recently and you appear to fit into that category and move around in those circles.

        There’s a few people here talking about the meaning of adventure and adventurer and I remember your original rant very sympathetically. I’m sure if you were to talk to a lot of real musicians about their industry and what it means to be a real musician, as opposed to the money and celebrity associated with the mainstream music industry, that you’d find a lot of common ground, not least with the growing number of people attempting to emulate their heroes and short cutting their way to fame and glory.

        Better be careful, perhaps you’re the next Amy Winehouse…

        Reply

        • Tom Allen
          October 27, 2015 @ 11:28 am

          No chance – I can’t sing to save my life!

          Reply

          • ed
            November 30, 2015 @ 11:27 am

            “I’m sure if you were to talk to a lot of real musicians about their industry and what it means to be a real musician, as opposed to the money and celebrity associated with the mainstream music industry, that you’d find a lot of common ground, ”

            Well funnily enough, as a musician, i did find a lot of common ground. You could re-write steps 1-10, with 1 being ‘write some music’ and you’d be pretty much spot on about what it’s like to be a musician or producer in 2015….

            Lovely article, thanks!

          • Tom Allen
            December 2, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

            This is the nature of all art, I think, when there’s a globe-sized gap between the indie and the mainstream.

  4. Bex
    October 21, 2015 @ 10:14 pm

    I enjoyed this very much Tom….thank you 🙂

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2015 @ 6:30 am

      Glad to hear it, Rebecca!

      Reply

  5. scotty
    October 22, 2015 @ 7:59 am

    Enjoyed that thanks Tom.
    I think a major issue is the influence of modern celebrity culture in many people wanting a slice of the social media admiration (that they see better known people get) to give them a short hit of serotonin to provide them with an elevated sense of belonging and importance. Perhaps the key question is about personal motivation and how that is then interpreted; does one want to be ‘famous’ for doing something adventurous, to use an adventure for genuine self-fulfillment, or to use the experience to educate and influence a genuine cause? I just wish people were more honest with themselves and the public about why they REALLY want to share their ‘adventures’.
    Creating a false sense of drama about the most mundane experience undermines the great things that sharing adventures can bring. Not everything has to be ‘epic’ – such as getting the bus to the airport, or checking in a big bag.
    Humility is that most admirable value that seems to have vanished in modern society – every now and then its great to stumble upon someone who has done something incredible who just did it for the sake of doing it – and told nobody. (Like Theirry.) I met a chap in French Polynesia a few years ago who was on his third solo circumnavigation in a 22ft wooden yacht – needles to say he didn’t know what social media was! But what he did do was connect with people and communities on his journey to educate and share stories.
    Cant remember who answered the question, “why do you climb mountains?” with “because its there” but a bit more of that would endear ‘adventurers’ to the masses. I had a friend climb Everest so he could tell people he had done it, not because he wanted to climb it!
    I think you should add ‘motivational speaker’ to your list of labels – I’ll stop at this point….

    I’m about to drive to London – its going to be an epic adventure.
    🙂

    Reply

  6. Paul Tudor
    October 25, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

    I can’t agree more with Scotty. I think the term ‘adventurer’ has been undermined in recent years by a new wave of mainly British, so called, adventurers. A grown man bouncing his way around Hyde Park on a Spacehopper is not an adventure, or worthy of a blog post. How is that an adventure?
    Riding your bike from London to Bristol is a fair achievement, but it’s not that great and another one that is hardly worthy of a blog post that is retweeted 10 times a day.
    Climbing Kilimanjaro is not easy and Scott Dinsmore recently lost his life on the mountain, but doing it dressed as a penguin cheapens and devalues the challenge. Why would you want to do that?
    It seems that the new wave are more interested in their social media presence and care more about the number of followers, retweets, shares or likes that they get rather than doing something credible. What comes first, the idea for a wonderful, exciting and interesting challenge, or what can I do which will give me more exposure and get me a few more followers? Just recently I have suspected the latter for many people in the adventure community. Sleeping out on a hill on a Saturday night is not an adventure, micro or otherwise, unless you are a kid, it’s just sleeping out on a hill. I did it all the time when I was 12!

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      October 27, 2015 @ 6:27 am

      I think you touched on something important with the first part of your comment. The word ‘adventurer’ has certainly been redefined – it’s now a statement of values rather than something with a tangible aspect to it, to the point where anyone can call themselves an adventurer – in which case we’re either all ‘adventurers’ every time we try a new flavour of Pot Noodle, or none of us are.

      So I think what’s really been undermined is the real value of what many very admirable professional adventurers actually do achieve and create, because the meaning of adventure has been diluted to the point of meaninglessness. Perhaps, if anything, someone simply needs to create a new label? (Let’s not get into the definitions of ‘explorer’ and ‘expeditioner’!)

      Reply

  7. Tiago
    November 7, 2015 @ 9:09 pm

    I think you make very good points. Just today I realised the page about Karun (http://karunfilm.com/the-journey/) starts with: “British adventurers Tom Allen and Leon McCarron set out (…)”. Perhaps you were not aware of this. But you still have time to update it 😉

    Reply

    • Tom Allen
      November 8, 2015 @ 4:36 am

      I dislike that whole paragraph, to be honest, but that’s sales copy for you – full of hype and generalisations.

      Reply

  8. Hedd Thomas
    November 8, 2015 @ 7:57 pm

    I’ve just been looking at some etymologies to get a better understanding of the words. It seems that ‘adventure’ developed from ‘risk’ and ‘danger’, later ‘a perilous undertaking’ and always involving chance. Surely that fits some of your journeys, not least hiking in Nagorno-Karabakh? ‘Explore’ comes from ‘investigate’, ‘examine’, to discover a country through these means. ‘Journeyman’, ‘expeditioner’, ‘traveller’, they don’t seem to cut it, but apparently ‘excursion’ meant in English ‘a deviation in argument’ ninety years before it meant ‘journey, from the Latin ‘to run out’ or ‘to push forward’. That works. ‘Excurtioner?’ No, Autocorrect, not ‘Executioner’!

    Reply

  9. Laurence
    November 8, 2015 @ 8:19 pm

    Really like this. I think “adventure” captures a certain spirit that can be applied to many different things, and is perhaps a bit of catchall? That’s why marketers (like myself *coughs*) like using it. Before that it was “extreme” and surfing and skating were used to sell anything from Guinness to Nissan cars. Now it’s not as popular and the whole industry is possibly getting back to it’s roots again.

    Reply

  10. Jason
    November 9, 2015 @ 12:05 am

    Love this post Tom, thank for sharing! Labels are a funny thing. It’s fascinating how one person may gloss over a label while another will construct an entire personality for someone they don’t know based on one word. I mean how can any one word be expected to fully describe the depth and nuance of a human being, that’s a lot of pressure on a word! This is what makes writing so tricky I guess – we are forced to use words to describe people so misinterpretation is inevitable. Is it all semantics? Who knows?!?! I sure as hell don’t. Anyway, beyond terms and labels your work exudes good vibes and as a reader and friend it’s easy to feel and know that your heart is in the right place – and you can’t put a label on that!

    Reply

  11. Jimmy
    November 11, 2015 @ 1:22 am

    Tom – great read here and a very thoughtful post. I agree with Jason that the labeling is not too important and if nothing else you are certainly ‘adventurous’ by choosing to buck the norm and explore the bigger world on your own terms fueled by writing and film making. I also don’t have a big problem with the commercial aspects of ‘adventure’. I think people are savvy enough to see when companies or individuals are authentic in their adventure pursuits vs. just on cynical branding/marketing kick. Social media to some extent now gives us all some transparency to separate the authentics from the cynical manipulators.

    On a side note this website layout is fantastic – really clean setup, great photos and everything is easy to read and navigate. Curious if you are using a wordpress template or something you built yourself.

    Reply

  12. Amy (Two Drifters)
    November 12, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

    Very interesting post, Tom! I especially resonate with this line:

    “Besides, I actually rather like my life when I’m not travelling – in part, I think, because I try to approach it with the same adventurous mindset with which I’ve learned to approach the actual journeys. Everything has the potential to be interesting…”

    This is so true, and makes me think a lot more about defining adventure. I think we’ve pigeonholed it nowadays to include mountains, some flannel, a GoPro, and as you mentioned, inspirational travel quotes (as much as I love those!) Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  13. I’m an Adventurer. My Job is Awesome. Here’s what A Day Looks Like… | Alastair Humphreys
    January 25, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

    […] I was heroically fleeing from when I turned my back on conventional employment. (You might enjoy Tom Allen’s post on this topic, […]

    Reply

  14. Mike Howarth
    January 26, 2016 @ 10:36 am

    Interesting read Tom.

    For all the pontification, I sometimes wonder whether it’s just better to get out of the door and go for a run or a ride 😉

    People often have their preconceived notions of what you are. If it fits with their definition of an adventurer.

    After all I’m a runner, cyclist, lapsed adventurer racer, project manager, business owner, brother, uncle and friend.

    It would make an awfully long business card wouldn’t it.

    Reply

  15. Liz Leakey
    January 26, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

    Loved reading this Tom, ‘writer’ is definitely a title you are worthy of, you write so elegantly and leave us pondering your words.

    Whilst I agree that being labelled an adventurer may feel uncomfortable or inaccurate, it seems that in a society where the majority are moving so far away from risk-taking, playing outside, exploring and enjoying the physical side of our existence, to many people doing the stuff you and I do, truly does seem like an adventure. It’s easy to be dismissive and say well ‘it’s not that big a deal’. For so many people in the UK, doing anything outside of their comfort zone or letting their children do anything with potential risk or danger is avoided.

    I think our biggest challenge should be showing people what’s possible to do, inspire them to do something (no matter how little) and for adventure not to feel like the kind of thing only a few elite people have access to. Tricky business though as if you write or film something too epic most will just respond with ‘oh I could never do that’. For me, I reckon inspiring kids is the answer. Even if you are only doing trips for yourself and feel no need to blog or talk about it, the idea that by sharing your experience with a young person it could open their eyes to endless possibilities, is surely an opportunity too good to miss?

    Reply

  16. Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    October 15, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

    Tom , I was chatting with friends over the last couple of days on a “title” for my Facebook page. I was so happy a good friend sent me a link to your page and this article. My mouth dropped reading your “list” and I could visualize every step of the way. Im not sure if I felt inspired to stick with me or felt unoriginal…. either way I have a better idea of where I will go now and will continue to follow you for inspiration. Take Care Tom and best wishes

    Reply

  17. What Makes an Explorer? | Matthew Woodward's Adventure
    August 3, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

    […] a great post by Tom Allen on his blog that highlights the problems with this. It’s called Debunking the myth of the modern day “adventurer”. Read it if you have time, but in summary Tom highlights how people can quickly end up spending […]

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