People travel for all sorts of reasons. Whatever your motivation, there is often a mix of something pulling you into the unknown and pushing you away from home comforts. For me, that push comes from needing to escape routine, where technology, daily schedules and habits govern my ‘modern’ life. How everything from the air temperature to the time the sushi rolls are available for lunch, is managed by external inputs. Too long in the cycle of 9-5 and I begin to suffocate in my own rituals and routine. The travel pull factor on the other hand, for me, is always the same. I like to remind myself that I am very small in this world. I always choose to travel to destinations that put me in my place.
“No amount of human management can hide that we humans are really not in control of our surroundings. Mother nature really does holds all the cards.”
One way to make yourself feel really small is to go somewhere really big. As snowboarders, skiers, bikers, surfers, wakeboarders or skydivers we are always exploring new locations and terrain. The mountains have always been one of the biggest travel pulls for me. I enjoy being at the mercy of the weather, the limited daylight and the ever-changing snowpack. I find that surf trips offer the same pull. It’s the getting up at dawn when then winds are soft, waiting for the dropping tide or sitting patiently for days for a new swell to arrive that keeps me curious. With surfing, nature also dictates your actions and activities. When I finally get a chance paddle out there, it’s the strength and power of the ocean that reminds me of my size, keeping me fully immersed, focused and absorbed. Slightly uncomfortable but thrilling at the same time, I believe it’s that sense of uncertainty at not being able to manage our surroundings, not knowing what’s around the next corner or behind the next wave that ignites us as adventure seekers or action sports advocates. Nothing is more humbling then being reminded how small you really are. That is definitely a draw card of the sports we do.
Recently a huge storm hit Sydney and central NSW for three long days, cutting the power, flooding the streets and cancelling all ferries, trains, flights and other managed services. The city and much of the state was at a stand-still. Sydney’s premiere said to stay at home and buckle down. Daily routines were inconveniently interrupted at no notice. People were freaking out! Our comfortable, managed environment so reliant on electricity, timetables and automation of services, ceased to function. There was nothing love or money could do about it. There was no other option but to roll with it, to accept that outside mother nature was throwing up 13m swells, 100km/h winds and hitting us with over 400mm of rain. She was boss and we were being put in our place (sadly parts of NSW were declared a natural disaster zone with lives lost and many houses destroyed). What I found personally interesting about this experience was how comfortable I was with the chaos (we were nowhere near the worst of it and my thoughts are with the many people whose lives were disrupted beyond lose of phone charge). The lessons I learnt on adventures waiting for incoming swells or major snowstorms to pass while Mother Nature did her thing, granted me a sense of calm that I could draw on at a time when other city slickers panicked at not being able to boil the kettle. So you can’t get your morning coffee; no you wont be able to charge your phone and no you can’t get to work. Deal with it. Shit, even enjoy it. Take it as a an opportunity to slow down and step away. You can’t control everything… The ocean was incredible to watch those three days.
As our sports, mountains, beaches and landscapes become more managed with terrain parks, wave pools in cities, backcountry tours and managed inbounds terrain, the appeal of getting out there ‘away from it all’ is increasingly at the forefront of travel’s most powerful pull. Sales of splitboards that support distant backcountry exploration offering alone time in the mountains with no phone reception have increased worldwide with most major snowboard manufacturers now mass producing a product you can buy in your local shop. It’s interesting how we have to travel to far-flung places to ‘turn off’ or get a break from our lives, rather then make space daily doing things that make us feel small again. Introducing that simplicity that being outdoors brings.
I’m eternally grateful to the sports I do for giving me the opportunity to travel; to get into that flow state that immerses me in the moment, giving me a break, both from my routine and the workings of my mind. Adventure travel, and travel that involves being outside in nature, have one thing in common. They have the ability to make you feel very, very, small… and this is a great, humbling and awe-inspiring feeling.
Header image self taken by the late wingsuit flyer Alex Duncan courtesy of Maxence Cappelle