Life — and Mind — Changing
The transformative power of adventure is supported through clinical experience and research. Gary Tucker, Chief Clinical Officer and Licensed Psychotherapist at D’Amore Mental Health, offers some insight into the impact of adventure tourism on the human psyche.
“Extreme adventure tourism is an exciting way to challenge one’s abilities to explore new areas. At a physiological level, this type of activity triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins, which can give people heightened sensations. On an emotional and psychological level, engaging in extreme activities gives people a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as it can offer a feeling of freedom and liberation from the everyday routines of life, allowing people to access new feelings and perspectives. Engaging in activities outside one’s comfort zone gives people a sense of power to control their own lives, increasing self-confidence.”
Psychiatrist David Kolb pioneered study in experiential learning cycles, which may be the foundational elements of the extreme adventurer’s mind. He co-developed the Experiential Learning Model composed of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection on that experience, formation of abstract concepts based on reflection, and testing new concepts. These elements form a spiral learning pattern that begins with an event that’s more effective when it’s beyond the person’s comfort zone.
In Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Kolb defined this cycle as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” In other words, these adventures are a quest for fundamental knowledge, deeper understanding, and personal transformation.
Adventures can be transformative experiences that challenge individuals to confront their fears, develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and build mental and physical strength. I’ve seen my clients transformed by laying down first tracks on a morning powder private ski lesson before the resort opens to the public. I have watched Tom, Jonathan, and Yancy revel in how their businesses impact their clients’ lives and have seen them practice their art firsthand with profound results.
For a particular group of people, the love of adventure is the fuel that powers them past their comfort zone. It’s more than a shot of adrenaline. It starts a learning cycle where the participant learns more about themselves than the activity they undertake.
Extreme adventurers need more “gas in the tank” to travel past their expanded boundaries. It is that self-discovery that bridges the gap between living a normal life and living an extraordinary life. And they often find the outdoors is the best conduit to fuel that discovery process because of its natural resonance with the soul.