adventure travel

Adventure travel has been defined as any trip that includes at least two of the following three features: (1) physical activity, (2) interaction with nature, and (3) cultural learning or exchange (see the 9/27/10 issue of Travel Weekly). Within the category of adventure travel, further distinction can be made between "hard adventure" trips which involve caving, climbing, and trekking and "soft adventure." By any standard, trekking across Antarctica qualifies as hard adventure.

I just finished my review copy of Alastair Nicoll's account of his expedition to Antarctica, Riding the Ice Wind: By Kite and Sledge across Antarctica. The book — part narrative, part philosophical musings on the nature of life, and part rhapsody on the beauty of this arctic wilderness and the ordeal of his journey — raised for me a basic question: what drives a select few among us to risk their lives, live on the edge for months, and push their bodies beyond the point of what they thought they could do?

Perhaps this quote from the book articulates the appeal that hard adventure holds for some:
Much of Antarctica is about experience. The less you know about yourself the more uncomfortable you are. It was revealing for me that everything seemed to boil down to self-awareness — not just mentally but physically, too. The more you know about your own body and how it copes in various conditions the more you can try to work within yourself. How can you tell when you are just tired and when you're at breaking point? Is your Achilles tendon just painful or is it tearing irreparably? Are your extremities numb or are they getting seriously frostbitten? Who knows? I certainly didn't. (pg 113)

Nicoll tells an engaging story with a compelling subtext: will he make it home in time to be present at the birth of his first child? Although it's not the most skillfully structured narrative, I definitely got "hooked" by the book and fascinated by this account of extreme adventure travel.

order Riding the Ice Wind from amazon.com.

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copyright (c) 2010 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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