Putting adventure on the map

My partner and I have just come back from driving again — across Italy. For the past five years we’ve been finding our way around exciting countries such as Cuba and Mozambique.

In remote areas where GPS doesn’t work, I read the map and he reads the street signs. Except I’m geographically dyslexic and can’t work out my ups from downs, or my lefts from rights. And my partner, until his recent laser therapy, was very shortsighted, so he couldn’t read road signs until it was too late.

Meanwhile, neither of us speaks Italian, Spanish — or Swazi as we drove up the east coast of Africa a couple of years ago.

We found GPS of little use driving across the US where “Take the second exit left” was impossible to decipher when there were scores of overpasses and underpasses every which way. I’d say we got it wrong half the time — darting off in an unintended direction, arguing, “It’s your fault …” “No! You said …”

All of which probably doesn’t sound like fun. But it always has been. We have a ball often because we get lost and end up in extraordinary places.

The reason our journeys are relatively stress-free is because we plan to have an “adventure”, which means very few pre-bookings, so we don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We book hotels online as we go, or stop at a local motel along the way. It costs more but the spirit soars free.

We’re not alone in these nutty DIY adventures. There’s a demographic that, like us, wants to have adventures — but not too big. The “mini-ventures” or “glam-ventures” often involve a car or trailer. My partner recently did one on his own, hiring a motorbike and riding around Tasmania.

Mini-ventures include driving across Central Australia, but in a luxury four-wheel drive, which I did with a girlfriend; or trekking in Nepal, but at relatively low altitudes where you can see the splendour of the Himalayas while staying in quaint tea houses instead of braving dangerous peaks.

My partner and I trekked in the Amazon, but it sounds wilder than it was because we stayed in nice eco-villages along the way and had good guides.

Similarly, some people go glam-camping (glamping) in Africa on luxury safaris.

Mini-ventures are exciting enough for older gen Xs or younger boomer “zoomers” in their 50s who love the “my adventure is bigger than yours” catchcry, but without being exposed to too many tarantulas, scorpions, cliff faces, or civil wars.

Don’t think too much; DIY with the help of Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor.

Get a vehicle and go free. But preferably with someone who can read a map.


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