Exploring the psychology of extended-period expeditionary adventurers: Going knowingly into the unknown


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Abstract

Aim:This research aimed to explore the lived experiences of extended-period expeditionary adventurers to understand why these individuals adventure, and what they perceive gaining from such experience. Most work in this area thus far has focused on exploring pre-determined elements of adventuring such as risk, stressors, and personality traits. However, rarely the aim has been to understand the overall why of this specific participant pool; the meaning and perceived benefits of going on an enduring adventure or expedition.Design:Seven participants were purposefully selected for their serial and extensive adventure involvement to explore their lived experiences and in-depth insights. Method: This study utilised a qualitative approach, using semi-structured interview techniques and an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).Results:Three intercorrelated master themes were revealed: pre-, during- and post-adventure, all with subordinate themes: to go knowingly into the unknown; autonomy, the real outdoors and liberation; resilience and growth.Conclusion:The results suggest that enduring expeditionary adventures have the potential to accelerate and magnify individuals' growth and facilitate psychological well-being.Highlights‘Going Knowingly into the Unknown’ demonstrates a seeming contradiction between the need for certainty (knowing) and the contradictory need for uncertainty (going into the unknown).Adventures seem to serve as significant peak experiences that enable post-adventure growth, accelerating development towards realising one's own full potential, facilitate self-transcendence and increase wisdom.‘Going Knowingly into the Unknown’ can facilitate resilience through coping with tough times.A new definition of ‘adventure’ is proposed: ‘to go knowingly into the unknown on enduring expeditions, travels and experiences that are exciting, unusual or daring, and that involve opportunities for taking risks, whilst demanding commitment and responsibility’.It is suggested that Adventure Psychology becomes a new discipline to sit alongside Sports Psychology, potentially encompassing the associated yet disaggregated fields of Adventure tourism; Adventure therapy; Adventure recreation; Adventure travel; Adventure education and Expeditions.

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