What makes an unforgettable adventure?

Living, volunteering and traveling across the globe, I’ve realized I’m an adventure junkie. I enjoy sitting by the pool, nursing a beer and relaxing but it doesn’t excite me. Meeting new people, immersing in different cultures, tasting funky foods and experience LIFE in all its raw, imperfect beauty – that’s where the real fun is.

Hiking in torrential rain one day, Laura and James and I started reflecting on our most memorable adventures. Despite the weather, we were having an awesome day and it was a perfect reminder that the most memorable adventures don’t usually go to plan.

James, aptly articulated that for him, an adventure needed three elements to be memorable; ‘good people, a challenge, and some mystery’. While each element can make or break an adventure, the combination is what transforms a regular adventure into an unforgettable adventure.


  1. Good People

Nate having fun at the Mirror of Hope with co-founder Judy (left) and Patricia (right).

Being an extrovert, people are incredibly important in my life. I cannot count the number of times I have trusted a complete stranger and it has become the most incredible experience. Like the time I was walking down a street in Barcelona when I heard someone call my name. I turned and recognized a girl I had met once in Tanzania but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name. Regardless, I went over and said hi and a few minutes later was invited to join her and her friend on a sailing trip in Germany. I’d never been sailing, I hardly knew Aylin (later remembered her name) and didn’t know her friend but the adventure was one of the highlights of the 6 months I spent traveling in Europe. Best of all Aylin, Lena and I still keep in touch.

Even if you are an introvert, make the time to say hello. Get to know the people you meet. Instead of asking “where are you from”, try something more personal like, “what do you love about travel” or “what is one of your favourite travel stories”. If you’re open-minded, authentic and curious, they will reciprocate this energy. Maybe you’ll even become best friends.


  1. Challenge

That feeling when you reach Stella Point, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Most people assume a challenge needs to be physical; this isn’t true. A challenge can be anything that pushes your boundaries and makes you feel uncomfortable.

Each time I  summit Kilimanjaro, I find myself asking, “why are you doing this? It’s cold, you’re exhausted, you’ve already been to the top, just go back to bed…”. As the sun starts to peak over the horizon and you glimpse Stella Point in the distance, you begin to realize what you’ve accomplished. To share this experience with other amazing people and to prove to yourself that you can keep pushing when things get really tough is something you’ll never forget.

The physical challenge of Kilimanjaro is often the easy part. Mental toughness is what really counts. Without mental grit, you cannot summit Kilimanjaro, even if you are the fittest person in the world. When we push our boundaries and leave our comfort zones, we create opportunities to grow and to learn. My favorite thing about trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro, is seeing what a difference reaching the summit makes in the lives of the people I climb with. Seeing how they grow as people and that moment when they realise what they are really capable of  – that’s the magic of Kilimanjaro.


  1. “The Unknown”

Mt Kilimanjaro peaks out from hiding during a trek up Mt Meru in 2012.

As we grow older, our brain is less stimulated; we understand how the world works and we live our lives to a schedule. Unfortunately, this causes us to over plan our lives (and adventures). We actively avoid (or at best over manage) danger and “the unknown”; knowing exactly what will happen, when it will happen and what to feel when it does happen.

STOP! You’re robbing the adventure from the adventure.

3 years ago, my brother, Dan and I were on the way to a camel market outside of Harar, Ethiopia. It was 35+ (degrees Celsius) and about halfway there our old, blue, beast of a car broke down. Instead of sitting in the car sulking, Dan and I put on our runners, headed for the biggest mountain we could see, telling our driver we’d be back.

Along the way, a group of local shepherd boys left their goats and joined our expedition. Together we ran, slipped, tripped and crawled our way up a mountain for absolutely no conceivable reason other than because we could.

After exploreing some epic rock caves, climbing giant rock boulders and spotting a pack of hyenas, we waved goodbye to our new friends and stumbling back to the car. The camel market was fun, but the highlight of the day for Dan and I was undoubtedly that mountain.

Nate peaking over the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and wondering what animals we might find today.

When you’re planning your next adventure, don’t forget to leave some space for a little mystery. The unknown will get your heart racing and make you feel alive – really alive. It will also create challenge and through challenge, you can bond with some amazing strangers.

Not sure you know how to let go? Think about traveling with Adventure Out Loud. We’ll plan your entire itinerary for you, adding the perfect amount of mystery and challenge and because we are a reputable company, you know you’ll be safe. Plus all of our tours are led by an experienced Australian guide who is with you 24/7. Find out more here.


Had an adventure you’ll never forget? Share it with us, we love adventure stories.


About the author

Nate is an adventurer, keynote speaker and responsible tourism expert with a serious case of 'Locational A.D.D'. With experience, travelling, living & volunteering around the world, including in developing countries such as Cambodia, Tanzania and Kenya, Nate is determined to do whatever it takes to make education accessible to every child in Africa.

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