I’ve had my fill of packaged thrills and spills
We’ve had an amazing fun filled family week driving across Europe en route to Iceland, stopping off for a wide variety of new, different, enjoyable, thrilling and exciting family activities as we’ve made our way across Holland, Germany and Denmark. So why after all that action do I feel somehow dissatisfied with it?
Am I an adventure snob?
I’ve always been a little snobbish about ‘soft’ adventures, you know like the kind of thing we’ve been doing this last week at theme parks and attractions across Northern Europe. Don’t get me wrong I loved the zip-wire, thought swimming the wild water river was one of the best indoor water attractions I’ve ever been to, screamed along with the kids as we pelted down the ‘water tubes of death’, thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of dropping into a crevasse on the Polarcoaster and was happy to keep my window firmly wound up in the lions enclosure. In fact I enjoyed myself so much I could quite happily have gone back and done all those things again. And the kids would have worshipped me for it.
But at the same time as wanting more I’ve also been left with a sense of disappointment. I mean these packaged experiences are great, they make mini adventures accessible and easily enjoyable by anyone, but there’s something about these kinds of activities that doesn’t quite do it for me.
I think Matthew hit it on the head when I asked him what he thought about our action packed euro attractions week.
“If that was it and we went home now,” I asked, “would you say you’ve had a good holiday?”
“Well, I don’t know,” he replied, pausing for a moment. “The thing is I don’t feel like I’ve actually achieved anything.”
Would you like that adventure packaged sir?
There’s no doubt if you’re looking for thrills, these kinds of packaged mini adventures really work. They are a great option for families who don’t like the hassle of organising things themselves or don’t yet have the skills or confidence to do so. And they don’t really require much of you other than a fat wallet and the time and guts to have a go. Everything else is taken care of; risks are assessed and controlled (by someone else), the experience is managed (by someone else); so all you have to do is turn up, pay up, and enjoy the ride. It’s soft adventure, guaranteed thrills without spills, in a neatly packaged experience, often with the option to buy a photo afterwards as a momento.
But a momento of what? You see I don’t know what I’ve achieved through these experiences? (or for that matter why that matters to me!) And I think it’s the lack of sense of achievement that leaves me feeling somehow dissatisfied.
I know I’ve had some great new experiences. I’ve had to face fears, step off a tower and throw myself down a rapid. I’ve had fun and enjoyed little extra adrenaline rushes. But don’t think I’ve learnt new skills. Or gained experience I can use in the future. I haven’t had to make decisions and face the consequences of them. Or take responsibility for myself and others. It’s all been done for me. Pure thrill consumption without the personal risk, effort or reward that makes the more satisfying kind of experience I crave.
And so for something completely different
And so as we leave Europe behind and head into the Icelandic part of our journey I’m both sad and glad to leave behind the thunder of the roller coaster, the whip of the zip wire, the scream of pumped up kids, and the thump thump thump of the fun fair. For the next four weeks the thrills will be more of our own making. Less car, hotel, coffee shop and sculpted garden; more bikes, tent, self catered, wild nature. A stripped back experience, a different kind of adventure, exploring the unpackaged offerings of the natural environment. I know it will be harder work and the outcomes much more uncertain, but therein lies the joy and the satisfaction of knowing ‘we did it ourselves.’ Iceland here we come.
Enough soft adventure, now the ‘real’ adventure begins…
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be circumnavigating Iceland, both on and off our bikes as we explore the four points of the compass, sometimes on our own, and where we need it with professional help.
- We’re starting with a seven day biking expedition in the East, exploring the interior around Lake Lagarjflot and the fjords out to Borgafyjordur Estri. Then we’re going to be visiting the Askja Caldera with guides from Fjalladryd.
- In the North we’re heading out to sea with North Sailing on a Whales, Sails and Puffin cruise. We’ll be sampling some real wild water on an Icelandic rafting trip with Adventure Iceland and testing our skills at 4WD expeditioning on one of the interior routes using a vehicle from Go Iceland.
- We’re still shaping our plans for the West but expect to be exploring some of the remote fjords by bike, and checking out a couple of unique eco tourism projects based around two natural resources – geothermal spas and fishing.
- Finally in the South we hope to visit to the Westman Islands and spend some time getting up onto some glaciers and volcanos and down into some lava tubes, probably without bikes!
We know we’ll have to invest more time and energy into these things than a theme park. We know we’ll be biking gravel roads, camping in the wild and cooking on a one pot stove. But I’m betting it’ll be all the more satisfying for that. No pain no gain eh?
This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We spent summer 2012 exploring Iceland and The Faroes, researching what’s on offer for adventure seeking families. We’re grateful to Smyril Line for help with transport, to Berghaus and Thule who helped equip us for the journey. All experiences, views and opinions are however, as ever, our own.
You can see a map of our journey on The Family Adventure Project Punkt! and view some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of what we got up to.