Extreme Adventure Travel in Plan B Nation

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

If you check out travel magazines, you’ll find an abundance of offerings for those seeking the ultimate challenge. “An Extreme Adventure reveals exactly who you are, demanding the most of your physical, psychological and perhaps even spiritual selves,” reads the copy on Abercrombie & Kent’s Extreme Adventures site.

Just as rock climbing and whitewater rapids test our ability to navigate the outside world, travel in Plan B Nation tests our inner resources. No, we don’t come away with gorgeous vacation photos or tales of exotic locales, but when the journey is successful, it leaves us with something more:  An appreciation for our strengths in the face of real-life adversity. You might say it’s the sort of journey for which the others are preparation.

And yet, for all Plan B Nation has to teach us, it hardly has the cachet of a backpacking trip in the High Sierras or a solo ocean voyage. Why is it so hard to see its potential gifts?

For one thing, it’s not something we choose. We like to see ourselves as autonomous, masters of our fate. Plan B Nation can be an unwelcome reminder that this isn’t always true.

For another, Plan B Nation is all-too-often linked in our minds to failure. Those over-the-top vacations?  In case you didn’t know, they cost lots of money – simply embarking on one makes clear that you’re doing pretty well and your safety net is ample. Plan B Nation, on the other hand, tests that safety net. For observers, as well as us travelers, this can be pretty scary, especially when you have no idea how long the risk will last.

But for all the obvious differences, Plan B Nation continues to be for me its own sort of adventure. It’s brought me amazing traveling companions whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and the opportunity to view vistas I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Like any adventure, it has its highs and lows. It also has its stories, the ones that I’m telling here.

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “Extreme Adventure Travel in Plan B Nation

  1. Amy, I compare your Plan B to my Second Lives. It’s all about transformation and our ability to change. It not only keeps us going but it keeps us young and vital.

  2. Sometimes I think it’s not just the successes of trips in Plan B Nation that should be celebrated, but the ability to think of it as an exploration at all deserves recognition. We get so tied into our first plan, that any deviation can be self-shattering, instead of an opportunity to develop new skills and new perspectives.

    • Thanks, Matthew — Just a little clean up + a very kind person on the online forum Third Tribe threw this header together for me without my even asking. (I’d just said that I knew that I needed one.) People can be really great sometimes. :-)

  3. Your post is a good reminder that the most life-changing adventures are internal. It’s a rare citizen of Plan A Nation that takes them voluntarily and one of the great benefits of being catapulted into Plan B Nation is the opportunity to learn the contours of our internal landscape, to cultivate our intrinsic resources and develop more. Thanks for this lovely piece, Amy!

  4. I think that there’s a useful difference to be made here about core versus “optional” issues.

    Time-limited adventures can be wonderful. And the truth is that those kind of challenges – while they have great benefits – never touched the core root challenges of my life.

    I did interesting adventure travel! But I still remained wedded to the idea that I lived in the middle of a metaphorical beautiful tea party. My reality was that I was sitting in a metaphorical broken-glass-strewn asphalt parking lot surrounded by vicious, violent people whose actions showed they could care less about me. (their language was different of course!)

    I had no idea. Waking up to that reality was a nightmare. And the most useful thing that could happen.

    I have new confidence in my ability to solve problems step-by-step, a better ability to assess my situation and read people, a clearer understanding of what actually brings happiness, and a deeper joy of the privilege of food to eat and work to do than I have ever had before.

    Plan B nation talks core issues. Few outlets have the courage to go anywhere near them because those issues require wrestling with the issues of intimacy, judgment, and priorities.

    • Those are amazing images, Allegra — the tea party vs. the glass-strewn parking lot. Also love this: “Wak­ing up to that real­ity was a night­mare. And the most use­ful thing that could happen.” Thanks for all you do in the world — not least of which is being such a supportive, kind, and compassionate friend.

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