On Safety, Risk and Adventure

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There is an inextricable link that exists between adventure and risk, and a mutual exclusivity between adventure and security. One cannot have an experience of adventure without some form of risk. There is also a spectrum of adventure. One one end is the life and world we have already lived. The extreme of this is something we know so well that there is very little novelty to be found in it. At the other end of this spectrum is trauma. When nothing is known about the experience and fear overcomes excitement. Both extremes, in my experience, lead to the conclusion of, “I don’t want to do that again!”. In the middle, which is a large spectrum of potential experience, is where risk meets excitement to create an optimal level of adventure. This optimal level is subjective. My optimal level cannot be the same as yours. My optimal level also changes over the course of my life depending on past triumphs vs. traumas, as well as the way I interpret the capacities of my body and mind in various situations.

 

On this journey, I am seeking optimal adventure, among other experiences. In order to find this I must experiment with the variables of precaution, education, preparation, risk, and allowing for the unknown. It has been brought to my attention by a few very close people in my life that I have not shared much about how I am approaching this aspect of my journey. Many seem concerned that I’m just going out there and “winging it”. I realized I did not talk about safety very much in my presentation or in the About section of my website.

 

“Do you WANT to stay alive?”

 

Someone very dear to me asked me this a couple of weeks ago. The answer is yes. I also want to feel what it means to be fully alive, more than I have allowed myself thus far. I feel a stereotypical criticism toward the idea of “thrill seeking” behavior, as if people who do this are mindlessly putting their lives at risk just to feel some intense sensations in their bodies. I feel that to be a simplification of the reasons for taking large risks. First of all, many who do very risky things (skydiving, big wave surfing, extreme skiing, for example) are taking extremely calculated risks based on a lot of field experience developed over time. That said, there is still risk. Not all environmental factors can be controlled, and for some, the experience is worth the risk. For those who don’t know what that somatic sensation is of the perfect balance between danger and excitement, it’s not just a nice feeling. It gives a sense of what it means to be completely alive and present, even if for a moment. If I wanted to feel the ultimate risk without safety, I’d jump out of a plane without a parachute, just to see what happens. That is not my plan. I am however going putting myself at a higher level of risk than I had experienced living in Seattle while on this journey. I am doing this for a very specific set of reasons that are essential to the experience. I hope the importance of this makes sense from what I have written. I seek to ride into the unknown, as prepared as I can be, but without planning every detail in advance so as to preclude my ability to discover my path as it unfolds. In the following space, I will share a few aspects of how I am approaching this challenge:

 

  1. Clothing

I’m bringing many layers for my travels in Northern Alaska. I’ll have wool and synthetic layers for on the bike, and down layers for keeping warm at night. I have a set of cold weather clothes that is sealed in plastic and only comes out in the comforts of my dry tent. The clothes that may get wet will still keep me warm while wet, just uncomfortable. My shoes are insulated neoprene, designed to get warmer when they get wetter. I am not carrying more layers than necessary and I will likely have cold fingers at times, but I won’t freeze out there. Similarly I need to carry thin layers for warm weather that also can act as partial sun protection. I have this stuff for further South.

 

2. Repairing things

I have the materials to replace a tire, tubes, repair current tubes, replace broken cables and chains, fix damaged wheels, tune things that get out of whack, grease things that need greasing. I can patch my tent if torn. I carry duct tape for many odds and ends and zip ties for others. Every system that I could carry a backup with reasonable weight, I have.

 

3. First Aid

I took a 10 day wilderness first responder course in Utah to prepare for this journey. I am carrying a simple but dynamic medical kit with all I could carry to predict the unpredictable. I even have a small tube of cement designed to act as a filling in case I fall and chip a tooth on the trail.

 

4. Animals, Big and Small

I have treated all my clothes with permethrin to ward off the mosquito clouds in Alaska. I carry DEET for additional coverage. I have a face net for when I get off the bike and need to cook and see. I have a sealed tent so I can escape the bugs at night.

For bears and the likes, I have bear spray and an air horn to scare them off. I plan to hang my food far from my sleeping area so as to not tempt wandering giants into my camp. I have a bell on the bike to make noise while I ride and alert all animals to my presence. I have a small speaker for playing music and making noise around camp at night.

That said, I’m traveling through bear country. It is a risk. And it is done all the time by many people without problems. I very much hope to be one of them.

 

5. Navigation

My goal on this trip is to have the freedom to alter my course as I go without needing access to google maps or other online sources which would be unavailable in the wilderness. To reach it, I have downloaded 3 different types of maps of North, Central and South America which I can route on and upload those routes from my laptop to a small GPS device on my handlebars.

I am also carrying a SPOT tracking device which acts as an emergency beacon should I need it and sends signals to a website that plots my current location (See the Route page under the About tab of the Spoke and Words site).

 

6. Food and water

I have the capacity to carry up to about 7 days of food at a time, and carry a water filter with enough storage for 12 liters of water.

 

 

I’m sure there’s more, but for now I hope this small list answers the basic questions of whether or not I’ve done any planning for this journey. I’m sure there are details I have not considered. Some of them may lead me into situations I could not have foreseen, while others I could have. This is where the adventure comes into play. I know the risk seems too great to many people in my life, and I hope you can find a way to respect the ways in which our perspectives differ in this way, knowing that I am taking care of myself as much as I can while honoring my deep needs.

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