Disclaimer: These adventures in Italy were sponsored by Visit Trentino and part of the post-conference tour with Traverse 2019 in Trento.
Once upon a time travel writers were adventurers. No whip and hat needed but by default adventure was part of their job. That must have been a time when there were still blank spots on the map, when countries weren’t counted but borders crossed without knowing that you did. A time for storytelling and a world without TripAdvisor kept for a select few and usual male travelers. A time when the pursuit of an adventure led to the story without a second of hesitation that such a pursuit would inevitably lead to a good story. SEO was most definitely not part of the equation.
Those times have long passed. Welcome to the digital age.
To be honest, I don’t mourn those times. Maybe simply because I never knew them. I may look longingly to these writers and stories of past times like I look at anything historical while knowing deep down that I wouldn’t have fared well back then. Knowing at least in hindsight the issues and dangers these past times bore, knowing that even if my spirit was adventurous enough I wouldn’t be able to see this world without my very modern contact lenses.
No, I don’t mind being a child of my generation, hugging my iPhone first thing after waking up. At least not most of the time.
The other day, Adventurous Kate was berated by a reader for not being adventurous enough. Needless to say, this comment came from the comfort of someone’s couch and was delivered through modern technology which makes it just a tad bit hypocrytical but it also made me think: are we still having adventures, big or small and however we may define the term?
The Urban Dictionary defines adventure as follows:
“What every girl on tinder says she likes while she watches Netflix all day.” or “For some, it’s a new pair of underwear, a different route to work or a new pizza topping. For others, it’s a life-threatening outdoor experience that makes life worth living. The experience usually involves loss of digits, limbs, friends or all of the above.”
The first one made me giggle and the second one truly resonated with me. I like to think that adventures are for everyone. And just like this damned comfort zone, we are constantly told to leave, are very unique to each person.
Over the last year, I have had quite a few adventures. Or at least something that most people would define as an adventure: I saw gorillas in the wild and also a couple of black mambas (an adventure I do not need to repeat ever!), I held a dead goat carcass, and I free-dived next to a crocodile. I also opened my heart to someone only to have it swiftly broken which was the biggest adventure of them all, one that I am still not sure I regret undergoing.
So no, I don’t think there is a universal definition of an adventure. What might be adventurous to you may not be adventurous to me and vice versa. I think eating street food in Bangkok is just a logical thing to do while my friend who is a war reporter for a big international news channel would not ever consider eating from a street hawker. Fair enough as I wouldn’t consider getting shot while at work an acceptable risk in return.
Adventures in Italy
When I came to Trentino to attend Traverse, a blogging conference, I wasn’t looking for adventures of any sort. Unless, of course, you consider finding the best gelato in Trento an adventurous quest (it is the violet ice cream from La Gelateria btw!) or eating pasta every single day for two weeks straight (yes, very successful with this one too). But no, Italy didn’t scream adventures to me by any definition even when choosing my post-conference tour titled “Be a rock (climbing) star”. After all, I had rock climbed before, the tour was labeled as ‘easy’, and I knew there was usually lots of sitting around when climbing in a group I didn’t even expect it to be too strenuous. And since rockclimbing is one of THE things to do in Trentino I thought it wouldn’t just be a good choice for me personally but also a great opportunity to create some cool content for those readers planning a trip to Italy.
We started our trip from picturesque Trento in Italy’s north and made our way towards the mountains. First up on the agenda was the Mount Bondone Adventure Park and a Via Ferrata. The idea of an adventure park didn’t scare me much and the Via Ferrata was announced as easy enough that a child could do it. Really how hard could it be?
I lost a bit of my bravado once we met Franco, our mountain guide who handed out harnesses, helmets, and Via Ferrata kits with karabiners and ropes. The equipment looked serious and not in a fun adventurous way but rather in a ‘put this on, it is life or death’ kind of way. Things got even
worse more adventurous once we made our way to the adventure park which you can only access with a licensed mountain guide. This wasn’t a park made out of colorful ropes, treetop walks, and shady picnic areas – this was all sheer rockface and steel ropes. And to make things even more challenging it was one parkour where one adventure connected to the next: first up a steep climb to the top of a rock, next up a Tibetan bridge, a secured hike on the side of the rock, and finally a zipline back to the starting point.
I think it was the sight of the Tibetan bridge when I decided that I had had enough adventures for the time being and this was not one I was keen to undertake. I am still not sure what happened considering that I am usually not scared of heights but before I knew it I was having a full-blown anxiety attack including a few tears, absolutely refused to go anywhere close to the rock of doom as I quickly named it, and was in dire need of a smoke.
I pretended to be the designated photographer for the rest of the morning while feeling foolish and small. Maybe my adventurous days were truly over? Maybe I had to accept that my comfort zone included sharks but no mountains? Maybe I had to accept it and focus on more important things like pasta?
But as it usually goes in situations like this, at least for me, a little voice in my head started to bother me. A stubborn voice which reminded me that getting out of your comfort zone is good for you. A voice that was stronger than the feeling foolish and small, one that told me 40 was just the right age to have more adventures not less. A voice that made it very clear I may just regret if I didn’t at least try to climb a little, metaphorical mountain.
After a lunch of Grana Padano, speck and beautifully unadventurous views of Lake Cavedine it was time for our afternoon activity: the Via Ferrata Jurassik Klettersteig. For those who don’t know, a Via Ferrata is translated as “iron way” and is a secured climbing path that leads along a rock wall with metal steps, steel ropes, and ladders along the way. While you are always clipped onto a wire with karabiners most Via Ferratas are not for the fainthearted or in my case, mermaids who had just indulged in Italian delicacies and generous amounts of prosecco for a week.
As it goes with most Via Ferratas – you have to commit because once you start, the only way is up (or through) as very few Ferratas come with an ‘escape route’ which would allow you to stop or turn around halfway. And with that, it became clear to me that I had to commit too. Either to sit it out or to have an adventure, try and possibly fail. I told myself to do it in preparation for our Trentino rockclimbing course and to be a good group member but in hindsight, I think I just did it to spite my own fears; I can be stubborn AF.
Franco went first and I followed, watching him how he clipped and unclipped, nimbly moving his feet on the narrow steel steps, balancing on his toes, then his heels, not in the least phased by the sheer rockface, the slippery crevices, and the not so short drops in the gorge of the Klettersteig. I simply remembered my mother’s words when she told me the story of the sweeper from my favorite childhood book Momo: don’t look how far you have to go, just look at what is right in front of you.
So I took it one steel step at a time. I didn’t look up or down or far ahead. And so I didn’t fall and I didn’t stumble, I just climbed and followed Franco and when I felt like I was hanging on for dear life I reminded myself to simply breathe and kept going.
It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t easy, and in hindsight, I am not even sure if it felt like the big adventure I needed to prove I could still have. It was just something I decided to do for better or for worse.
There was still more to come over the next few days but once the ice was broken I just went with it and didn’t question myself again. It did, however, make me realize that for some, those activities are adventures, for others, they are just another day at the office. For me, they were both and neither and ultimately just a good reminder that the great affair is to move. That is all that matters and whether you call it an adventure or not is just semantics.
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