Adventure Islands Journeying Risk Why Adventure?

I’ve had my fill of packaged thrills and spills

Wild Water Raftig Center Parcs
Written by Stuart Wickes

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? 

Polar Explorer, Legoland Billund

Can you package ‘real’ adventure?

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.

Looking up at the Zip Wire Tower, Center Parcs

There’s a rush when you jump the tower, but it’s short lived

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.

Wild Water Raftig Center Parcs

Wild water rafting – great fun but not enough for me?

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.

Iceland Kerid Volcanic Crater near Reykjavik

Kerid Volcanic Crater, Iceland.

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 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.

You can browse all the posts from our Adventure Islands season here.


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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