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When you think of an “exploring woman” what comes to mind? Is it a version of Lara Croft? A world traveler? The super-toned women on the covers of fitness magazines?
In reality, any woman of any age and demographic can be an explorer; a life filled with adventure need not mimic a James Bond or Tomb Raider film. As a Fellow in the Explorers Club, I am lucky enough to count among my friends countless women who seek out adventure wherever they go. And these extraordinary adventurers are not just Explorers Club members; exploring women are everywhere, experiencing new thrills, achieving personal goals, and meeting challenges every day. Exploring women include you, Misadventures readers. As one of my favorite writers, Charlotte Bronte, wrote in Jane Eyre: “It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”
But what it does take to make that action? Over the years, I have discovered that there are certain characteristics shared by adventurous women around the world. Take a look at my list below—and I bet you will find that some, if not all, of these traits apply to you.
- Positive Attitude
My admiration for those who are able to maintain a good attitude during the bleakest moments has no limits. In the field, the ability to remain positive has tremendous advantages. If you can keep up a positive outlook while out in the elements—when you are tired, cold, hot, hungry and exhausted—you have a better chance of success than those who give in to negativity. It is important to look beyond the discomfort at hand and focus on what’s ahead.
- Focus and Discipline
Some women are exceptionally disciplined and focused. Some are not. I fall into the latter category! I get easily distracted—but when I am out in the field I make a point of being 100% present. In my experience, this kind of focus can be achieved by training both the mind and the body. Time in the gym optimizes my strength and stamina, but mental visualization techniques and breathing exercises enhance my overall ability to concentrate and stay present during my more adventurous pursuits. If you’re not sure if you can get somewhere, picture yourself there.
When entering unknown territory, fear is inevitable. How we handle it is what matters. First and foremost, do not panic. Think and act rationally. Exploring women rely on training and experience to maintain calm. I recommend developing a series of personal techniques that you can put into practice each time you need to master your feelings. Don’t forget that fear can be channeled into a positive stimulant; it sends the senses racing and the mind soaring into a different realm. Regardless of how you get there, inner strength against fear is key to feeling secure.
This is one trait that all adventurers share, but it is perhaps the most personal. What motivates each of us is unique, and may not be easily understood by others. Some of us may be pushed by personal challenges; others by external factors, like money, the possibility of fame, the promise of being able to say, “I told you so.” It can be terribly exhausting to maintain motivation on expeditions that test your mettle. What I have found, however, with each woman I meet in the field, is that there is always something at the heart of their expeditions, driving them forward, against all odds.
Curiosity can be motivating, but it’s less of a reason and more of a state of mind. If knowledge is power, then curiosity is fuel. It has sent explorers to the depths of the oceans, the reaches of outer space, and everything in between; it keeps our minds agile and young. Curious women seek adventure and new experiences from which they can learn everyday. This ability to not just ask questions but also go looking for the answers is vital. Above all, keep your eyes peeled and your heart open.
- Sense of Humor
Mental and physical strength are achieved through training and hard work. A sense of humor, however, is not something you can work out at the gym (though the gym can be funny) or learn from a book. When we are in extreme conditions, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature—elements beyond our control. This is the time when a sense of humor will make or break a trip. Contrary to what some believe, it is not stamina, strength training, or logic that give us an edge; it’s our sense of humor! The ability to see the irony of a difficult situation and recognize the need to take it in stride relieves mental and physical tension. When life hands you lemons, the choice is yours.
What I have learned throughout my career is that the best explorers inspire others by sharing their stories of both success and failure. They are generous with their time and knowledge. They want the generations of women who follow them to be better, stronger, more curious. Exploring women believe that when we work as a collective we can achieve more and inspire many.
Read more of Christine Dennison’s Exploring Women column.