risk

The pros, cons and responsibilities of popularizing adventure

This morning I woke up to the news of ten people dying when two helicopters collided while filming a French survival reality television program. This horrible accident has me questioning, yet again, the wisdom – or lack thereof – behind popularizing highly risky adventure activities through reality television.

Several weeks ago, British television aired a two-part documentary about a British adventurer trekking the length of the Nile River. While on the trek, the adventurer and his guide, at this stage completely on their own, had to walk through territory they knew was under the control of armed men. They clandestinely filmed an exchange in which they gave the armed men some of their gear in order to secure their passage through the territory. Later, in the same documentary, a journalist and his photographer came across the adventurer and asked to join them for part of their trek. Apparently they were heading in the same direction. They were welcomed by the adventurer, who continued on his way to trek by the side of the Nile, during the daytime, in exposed 50-Celsius heat. The journalist got heat stroke. Due to the nature of this particular trek, the emergency evacuation available to the adventurer was hours away. All that could be done was to set up a makeshift shade for the journalist and try to cool him with the little amount of water the group had. The journalist died. The adventurer appeared incredibly sad. The end of the documentary showed a black screen with the picture of the journalist and a nice “In memory of…” And viewers were expected to then watch the second part of the documentary the following week and cheer the adventurer on for the remainder of his journey.

I felt insulted. A man died, in my mind and from what we were shown, directly as a result of this group engaging in unacceptably risky behavior, and I was expected as a viewer to take this in my stride as being normal and expected. I was supposed to accept that the adventurer continued on his trek, continued to film, and continued to enjoy and revel in his own experiences. I refused to watch the second episode of the documentary the following week. Not that it mattered to anyone.

I believe it is one thing for an individual to engage in risky behavior only at his or her own expense. But that it is a completely different and unacceptable thing to take inexperienced people under one’s wing while engaging in such behaviors. Much worse, I believe, is popularizing this sort of activity in a way that undermines the seriousness of the activities involved. (more…)

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Ready for a New Adventure: I Ask Myself “Why?”

Every single time I set off on an adventure, I can’t help but ask myself for the millionth time, “Why?” What seemed so logical and simple when the idea initially originated now seems so odd and out-of-the-ordinary.

“Why do I keep doing this sort of thing to myself?” I ask. “What do I get out of it? Why am I doing it?”

It is always at this stage, a few days before the actual trip, that fear, trepidation, and anxiety find their way to settle into my heart and mind. These are not new emotions for me. I feel these when I embark on any sort of change. ANY sort of change. I manage to get myself, like most others, into a daily routine that I am comfortable with. Anything that changes that routine, engaging in a new activity, writing a new article, meeting up with people for coffee, going on an errand I’m unaccustomed to, all these things cause me anxiety and minor trepidations. I have come to learn that if I succumb to these emotions every time I feel them I would do nothing with my life beyond my simple, daily routine.

Yet I am also aware that the anxious emotions I feel before an adventure are well-founded: there are risks involved, I am embarking on a lot of unknowns, and I am leaving my family behind. I have found a way to work with my pre-adventure anxieties. They guide my thoughts to the possible risks involved in my upcoming journey and I make sure to put in an extra effort to organize the trip in a way that makes it as safe as is possible.

None of that removes the nagging question, “Why?”

In no particular order, here are my answers: (more…)