FULL DISCLOSURE: My education makes me something like a C-level Ethicist (if we’re talking in terms of Hollywood’s grading system). And The Young Philanthropists, a non-profit I founded with Adventurer Leon McCarron, is working to make ethically travelling the world accessible to the masses. So there, I said it, I’m selling Adventure. (HaHa: Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich on it; also, you can come for free if you want).
So sales pitch aside, it’s fascinating to me that Adventure is inherently an ethical concept. Adventure often directly involves, (indeed, requires!) human interaction. If not with many others, certainly with one’s Self. It’s inward or its outward or (most often) it’s both. But whatever it is, it’s ethical. That’s the nature of human interaction.
So here are five components that are inherently ethical that can allow anyone (assuming your citizenship provides you similar political clout as the BuzzFeed audience) to travel the world.
COMMUNITY—because every Adventurer is a person, they have some sort of community around them. Even Adventures that are done alone require a community to provide the resources necessary to complete the project. We can’t live alone, therefore we can’t Adventure without others. More often, serious Adventures require much effort from many people. Individuals don’t even try to climb Everest alone. For this reason, Community sets a guiding standard for the rest of the ethical principles. That is, we’re going on adventures with friends. This is both the basis for our ethic, and what makes travelling the world an ethical endeavor. There are so many people out there that are travelling the world. Join the community!
This has been made possible by technological advancements by websites like WarmShowers or Couchsurfing, but you can also find community working or studying abroad, and there are sites to help with that, too. (Google: Workers On Organic Farms (“WOOFing,”) for free food/lodging, or things like teaching English abroad for working for pay). And if you have no friends that want to travel via adventuring, The YP has a free service linking individuals with others who want to or already are traveling the world (it’s often with people who are doing human-powered adventures around the world). If you’re keen enough to see the world—think: cycling/kayaking/hiking around a few continents over a long period of time—and you need a support community, we know thousands of people (random example) whose lives are adventures.
ACCESSIBILITY—in the field of Ethics, Ethicists call something “elitist” if it is inaccessible to a majority of people. If the wealthiest people in society, for example, come up with an ethic that asserts that you need at least 1 million dollars to be happy, we call that “elitist” because it means that happiness is not accessible for very many people. Usually, if an ethical idea has no way of applying to our life, it is not worth thinking about, so we don’t. If it is inaccessible, it is irrelevant. No one cares.
Regarding travelling the world, well, a lot of us want to do it. And one of our chief complaints is that it is, for some reason, inaccessible. A number of Adventure projects are aimed at proving that adventure itself is accessible, if one only has the will to exert the effort (and have the knowledge required to research the adventure market to train, purchase, and otherwise understand how to begin). And to some extent, that’s true. It’s worth noting, however, that even a “will to exert [a certain degree of] effort”, eliminates much of the developed world. That is, for whatever reason, travelling the world via adventure is not accessible for most people. Women, for example, are often keen to point out that it’s a guy that’s giving this “you can afford to travel the world if you just skimp on cleanliness and hitch-hike sometimes” advice, and that Adventuring alone poses more danger to them than the guy giving the advice. This is true, despite the fact that many women do adventure around the world alone. There’s usually a few people mentioning that whatever adventure is accessible for whichever other reasons, it is not accessible for this other reason. It’s finances. It’s too dangerous; no one will join me. Or, if those might not have to be true, they are because the person does not know enough otherwise. Examples of people who have traveled around the world very inexpensively by bike or boat or motorbike or foot (including Fat people) do not prove these reasons wrong. We have to believe them when they claim inaccessibility—for them inaccessibility is real. So sure, technically, travelling the world via adventure (i.e. largely human powered, or some “minor” motor use) could be accessible, but it’s not.
That’s when we remember that since community is necessary for life, it is also necessary, at least to some degree, to make adventuring around the world possible. And it’s correct: Adventure Travel with a community—a group of friends—makes things safer, much cheaper (next to free, pending what you’re willing to share), and makes researching the Adventure idea (and doing it) way more fun! (Indeed, that’s what we’re doing at The YP). So here’s an idea, check the internet, a few Facebook groups (like Adventure Cycling), and figure out which type of Adventure Community you’d like to get involved with. Ask a few friends, tell them you just met a few friends (via WarmShowers) you’d like to go visit—on the other side of the world. But you’ve got a few connections between here and there, so if they’ve got a little time, y’all could stop and stay with them on the way. You could probably significantly change your perspective on something in a relatively short period of time.
SERVICE—many ethical frameworks include an aspect of service. Most obviously are the religious ones, but it also includes frameworks that are not religious—think: humanists, or anybody who cares about their neighbors.
But in Adventure Travel, it takes on a whole new seriousness. Service, especially if you’re traveling as a community, is necessary amongst yourselves and as you encounter other communities. A community must serve each other individually, to some extent, in order to survive as a community. This is especially true on an adventure if you want to travel peacefully. But depending on how service is implemented with the other aspects of the Ethical Adventure framework, it poses serious answers for improving all of them. If a community is willing to serve, their trip may become much more (financially, communally, emotionally) accessible. It will also become much more useful to the communities it encounters and engages. The more you offer to help others, the more they offer to help you. That’s just statistically true. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot, many communities are happier to just have a party than work, but they’ll appreciate the effort. As we’re about to see, Service is also a great way to learn!
LEARNING—learning is fundamental to life—after all, it was once paramount in feeding ourselves. Many Adventurers do a fair amount of teaching, telling us about gear and the skills or costs or etc regarding going on adventures (including how to make them accessible). But they also do a ton of learning—usually from the people in the places they travel. Learning also goes a long way in bolstering the other points of our Ethical Adventure framework. Learning happens as we serve (we pick up skills, we gain experience); but it also informs how we serve. In many cases, it makes serving more interesting and meaningful. As we learn about our communities, they become stronger, closer knit, and more fun! And as we learn about resources and the basics of Adventure Travel, it becomes drastically more accessible.
Think about taking cultural courses, they’re often free or cheap, or language immersion courses, as a reason to travel. It will ensure you a community when you arrive and provide you with a base to travel, as inexpensively as you like, in the region. Indeed, use other websites to connect you with others who are doing similar things!
HUMAN POWER—This is also commonly addressed by most religious or ethical frameworks. We live in a body. We are human, and thus must do things with our own power. And our body resides on a planet that contains lots of other bodies. As people, we’ve been designing theories around these ideas since, well, since we first noted such facts on cave walls.
Adventure definitely makes us conscious of our physical state. We realize how capable we are of moving. We can see things the way they are—the beauty, the trash, the day-to-day lives of those other human bodies we pass or meet on an Adventure Trip. We see the cultures and the creations of the embodied selves, and we see the state of the place we’re living (Earth, in case you were about to Google that). This is a big deal, especially if we’d like to be individuals who contribute to solving global crises. Like, wouldn’t it seem that if someone was going to contribute to a global crisis, they would be most capable to assess the potential ethical consequences their proposed solution would cause if they had actually engaged the global crisis in various forms around the world? A shorter way of asking that is “Wouldn’t it be handy if the people proposing global solutions to problems had actually seen the world?” And not from the top of the Hilton. An Adventure Ethic engages all social and economic classes, partly because it can’t help it, but partly because it realizes if it spent too much money on travelling in luxury, it would miss out on part of the journey. The prettiest views are infrequently from hotels, and sometimes the best baths aren’t within four walls. The best connections to form a network are friends, not “contacts”. And the most rewarding experiences are the ones we work for.
As we become more aware of our own Human Power we become more ethical. We become more human. We become better workers, more capable of producing results that demand attention. And become more capable of, or open to, learning. We become open to using “correction” from others as a tool for and a willingness to serve more people. It enriches our community, and provides an understanding that makes Adventure Travel truly accessible. Just ask anyone who has tried it!
In conclusion, I’d like to point a few things out about this list of Adventure Ethics. First, it should be apparent that each of these qualities carry their own inherent difficulties. It’s rigorous to learn, to serve, to make something accessible, or to live in community. It’s hard to do these things because sometimes they hurt. Your body gets sore, or even more painful, it gets into shape. You fight with your friends. You struggle to learn difficult concepts—like why on earth anyone would do “that”. It’s frustrating to learn enough to serve, only to realize experience in service is the only path to excellence. But of course, these struggles make the whole process so much more meaningful. It turns the community into life-long friends, which makes service and learning and traveling way more fun (and way more productive).
I encourage you to have a go at using these ethics when you’re planning your next (micro, etc) Adventure Trip, and see how it shifts your perspective on what you can do and/or how you can do it. It’s basically what we’re trying to do at The YP. We think it’s an ethic that’s going to change the world, but only because it encourages us to see it, first.