Exercise is not adventure

A couple weeks ago I was with a group of young adults, and we were talking about how we could get more engagement with a group of teenage kids. One idea I put forward was "Well, we should have some adventures with them" to which the response was "Yeah, we could organize some sports and stuff" and from there the conversation changed to, well, exercise: running, biking etc.

At the time I felt this wasn't quite right, but I couldn't think of why. After some more pondering, I've come to realize it's because... Exercise is not adventure. Often an adventure will contain some physical activity, but that is sometimes tangental. So of course the question is: what exactly is adventure?

Adventure has some element of newness in it. Riding a mountain bike down a trail may be an adventure - for the first couple times. But if you've ridden that trail a couple dozen times, it's no longer an adventure. Back when I was a kid I went to the local scouts - once. After an evening of playing indoor cricket, I decided I didn't want to continue. Why? Because sports is also not an adventure. Sure, it involves elements of challenge, but in my mind I was there to learn and do new things. Sport may still be a challenge, but it's no longer an adventure. So if you want to organize an adventure, you have to find something people haven't done much before - a place they haven't been, a skill they haven't learned.

Adventure should also contain some sort of challenge. This is similar to "newness" except that some things that are new are not challenging. Just because you've never cooked a roast chicken before does not mean it's automatically an adventure. If you've never roasted anything before it may well be, but if you've got a cooking repertoire of roast lamb, roast pig and roast everything else, it may be too similar to other activities such that all challenge is taken away. And with the lack of challenge is a lack of adventure.

Does adventure contain physical activity? Often it does. Physical activity provides opportunity for pushing yourself in skills and in stamina. It allows you to strive and overcome, and the tiredness that you feel at the end is a reflection of how good the adventure was. But not all adventures are physically exhausting. Before we talked about roasting as something that could be an adventure, but I think many hand-skills can be an adventure. For a person who hasn't been in a workshop before, making a knife or building a box can be a huge adventure.

So what is an adventure? I think it's a reflection on overcoming a new challenge.