The Exhilaration of Wild Adventure
After several months of juggling the wonderful but intense balls of life as working adventure mums, we are finally flying over the stunning ice flutes of Mt Cook in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
We take a tummy churning turn and moments later our helicopter lands by the exquisite, snowy, crevasse-sculptured basin hut which will be our haven for five scary but exhilarating days.
We fumble awkwardly as we fit our crampons, ice axes, harnesses and helmets before being safety roped together by our guide, ‘Lucky Phil’. We then tentatively crunch out onto the icy snow towards our first summit overlooking the Tasman Glacier. Our world of work, family, devices, traffic gridlock and back-to-back obligations evaporates with each passing step.
We make mistakes. Ropes are on the wrong side, legs are too close or too wide, someone accidently stabs their thigh with an ice axe. We sometimes falter, stumble, trip, fall and when it gets really hard we ask ourselves why the hell we're doing ‘this’ for a holiday.
But as we prosper it gets easier. We are constantly problem solving and getting more efficient with each step.
With immense physical effort and concentration we climb for eight hours, across crevasse fields, glaciers and up steep multi-pitch rocky ice ridges. My climbing partner, Sue, finally breaks the silence. “I feel so exhilarated.”
Our adventure is awesome, fear-facing fun. We come well prepared and have a recipe for risk management: lots of training, the best gear and uber-qualified mountain guides.
We know adventures in nature keep us fit, healthy, happy and youthful. We love it and it's abso-bloody-lutely good for us.
Happy mums are more fun for everyone.
Like childbirth, adventure can bring waves of suffering but it can also bring exhilaration that lasts for years. And it's fun fitness.
We can live without it, but we're happier and more fulfilled with it. Science uncovers why adventure helps us not only to manage our moods, but feel pure joy.
But we don't have to climb Everest to get high. We just have to step outside our own personal comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens.
When you look into the eyes of the walkers jogging across the finish line of a Coastrek 30-60km team trekking challenge, or hikers when they safely descend from the mystical Machu Picchu or summiteers after surviving the thin air of Mt Kilimanjaro, you see it. It's that look of exhaustion coupled with ecstasy that brings exhilaration; that feeling you get from challenging yourself and succeeding in nature; rejuvenating yourself and unveiling your inner strength and feminine power. These feelings of exhilaration are all based on our natural human hormones, driven by nature for our survival.
We get an endorphin high from hiking hills, an adrenalin release from leaping icy mountain streams, a dopamine dose (reward and motivation) from overcoming a challenge, serotonin (relaxation and happiness) from bathing in nature and oxytocin (tranquillity and love) from sharing the fun with friends.
These experiences in the wilderness also heal our bodies, improve immunity, build resilience, reduce stress and improve our sleep.
Author of "Moody Bitches" and psychiatrist Dr Julie Holland, says we need to "be natural to be healthier and happier." She says we should go wild, using nature to heal our bodies and minds.
Exposure to moderate stresses like rock hoping, leaping crevasses and balancing on narrow ledges boosts resilience.
So, what are you waiting for? Even if you just start planning your next adventure with friends, you'll get a good dose of dopamine and oxytocin. Put on your boots and walk to the sunrise for serotonin, then do some puffing up hills to get high. And when you climb that mountain, ford that stream or trek that trail, you'll feel the exhilaration that will inspire you to do it again and again. Such is the positive addiction of adventure. #livealifeyoulove.