How can I lead a more adventurous existence?
January 5, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

How can I lead a more adventurous existence?

I'm a guy in my late 20's and in grad school. In a few years, I'll be entering a demanding profession and won't have nearly as much time to have interesting experiences outside my career. In the meantime, while I still have an abundance of free time and a minimum of responsibilities, I'd like to have some real adventures.

I don't really mean adventures of the "climbing Mt. Everest" or "scubadiving off Aruba" sort, though those do sound like fun. More like adventures of the "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" sort. The kind that make for great stories while reminiscing with friends over beers. I want to find myself in unexpected and bizarre situations, the kind that make you laugh and wonder "How the hell did I wind up here?!" I want to feel uncomfortable but come out fine in the end, to meet strange people and skirt the line between danger and harmless fun. Of course I'd prefer to not wind up dead, in jail, bankrupt, or with any other longterm negative repercussions, but I am willing to take some risks that other people might find unacceptable.

As a bit of background, my youth up until now has been spent fairly conservatively -- not due to any political or religious leanings, but because I am, by temperament, an introspective sort, more of a "thinker" than a "doer," and I've always been a bit hesitant about taking risks. I'd like to change that. In a way, I'm trying to make up for a youth that hasn't been nearly reckless enough. I look back on the past 10 years and it's just a blur of reading and studying, of thinking and analyzing too much, with too few vivid and memorable encounters and too many regrets about things I should've done, but didn't. I suppose another way of phrasing this question would simply be how can I become more spontaneous and open, in such a way that would promote having interesting experiences? In live in a major metropolitan area, FWIW. The more concrete the suggestion, the better.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 109 users marked this as a favorite
Travel internationally, stay in hostels, go places where you don't speak the language.

At home, take public transportation more, and talk to strangers. Say yes to things that make you nervous. Go to restaurants where you don't think you'll like the food, and order the weirdest thing on the menu. Go out dancing.
posted by vytae at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Say yes. Any time someone suggests something that isn't immoral, illegal, terribly dangerous, or really prohibitively expensive, say yes. That means that if you're finishing up dinner and someone suggests going out for a drink, you say yes. If a friend wants to try out a new French fusion cooking class and asks whether you want to go, you say yes. If a distant relative invites you to her wedding, say yes. If it's 11pm on a Tuesday and someone says, "Let's go to Atlantic City right now!" you say yes. If there's a Metafilter meetup in your city, say yes. If you see a note on a website about a flashmob to have a water pistol battle in the town square, say yes. If a friend asks you to help him kill someone, probably don't say yes, but offer to take him out bar hopping to talk about what's making him feel homicidal.

There are lots of opportunities in life to have fun and do cool stuff. Most of them come up when you least expect it, so the way to get into those situations is to be out there. Some of the stuff you say yes to will be boring or stupid, but some of it will be the stuff of hilarious stories.
posted by decathecting at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [65 favorites]

Take a long weekend.
Put some water and a few granola bars in a shoulder bag.
Pick a direction and start walking. Determine to just walk and not spend money. Sleep when you are tired, where you can.
Halfway through your weekend, turn around and try to find a way home. If you get home with time to spare, go get a drink with friends and tell them the stories.
Repeat with different directions.
You will learn alot about your locality, people and yourself.
posted by Seamus at 12:04 PM on January 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'm a guy in my mid-20s, emerging from a very conservative-hesitant youth that's probably something like your own. The single best thing I've done for myself over the past few years was to learn to say yes, in exactly the way decathecting describes. It's hard at first, but after a point the "requirement" to say yes actually becomes incredibly liberating, and it works out wonderfully.

Another way to put it is this: Do everything that looks interesting or might be fun; don't allow yourself to say "no" to a possibility, except when purely practical matters interfere.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:14 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to say I'm in a similar situation. I'm in my mid twenties, and feel like I've wasted a lot of my life over thinking things, and never really letting go and experiencing what should have been the best years of my life. I think a lot of this is down to me being under my parents' thumbs constantly, as well as some of my own personal hang ups.

I expect, like me, you're just all too aware of the ramifications of doing stupid, risky stuff. Which is where the excitement and the anecdotes are. I've started doing things that make me uncomfortable, but I have to say I still seem to get nowhere.

I'd be interested to see what others say, but I can only imagine the answer is going be that to be more adventurous you're going to have to switch off that part of your brain, that says you'll run out of money if you do this, or you'll get arrested if you do that, and so on.
posted by iamcrispy at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2010

More like adventures of the "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" sort.

Go to rock shows.
posted by The Straightener at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here are a few more-pedestrian-but-kinda-interesting suggestions I got when I asked a vaguely similar question two years ago.

If I could make a more general suggestion: put yourself in a position where you can take advantage of these things. Keep a minimalist home with only the things that you love, particularly if you can leave it and not worry about watering plants or feeding a puppy. Get a passport. Pack lightly, and always fly carryon if you can, so if you see an opportunity to go standby or take a last-minute weekend trip, you can do so. The same goes on a smaller scale for carrying few things with you as you go out walking (phone, small wallet, keys) so you can stop and enjoy your experience instead of "oh, gee, where did I put that thing?"

Couchsurfing? Not so much for the cheap travel (although it's good) but for making connections with people who live and experience the areas of the world you want to explore.

I was really inspired by Jeffrey Steingarten, who, in The Man Who Ate Everything (fantastic book!), had to get through all of his food phobias and dislikes before he felt he could be a proper food critic. Maybe that's a good place to start. Don't do stuff because it looks like it might be wild or wacky; take a look at the things that you specifically find challenging or distasteful and set about challenging those notions right back.
posted by Madamina at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Take a road trip! Avoid major cities and major highways. Sleep in small inns, non-chain motels and barns (with permission of the owner). Eat only in non-chain restaurants and make chit chat with locals. Look at the landscape. Take your time! I did this in my early 20s. Drove from NY to LA in a non-direct 4 week way. It was the best experience I've ever had (and that was 20+ years ago), and the stories I could tell. . .
posted by Pineapplicious at 12:41 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two things that immediately stood out in your question. First, you want to have stories that you can sit around and reminisce over with friends years later. So it seems to me that cultivating lasting friendships with folks who are likely to enjoy the activities you crave might start you on the path and satisfy the second thing, which is that you are not, on your own, a doer. So these friends should be doers and you should be inclined to take their lead and enjoy the doing thereof.
All else should follow nicely.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go backpacking in Australia or Thailand.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on January 5, 2010

It's very odd that living an adventurous life requires rigorous devotion to a series of rules and constraints that must be obediently followed whether you want to or not. I guess I have a hard time seeing how this is anything other than making other people's expectations of what your life should be into your self-improvement goals.

There's an easier way to do this! Do a bit of backpacker stuff, go to some rock shows and stay up all night or whatever -- no need to pull out all the stops. When it comes time to tell anecdotes, make sure to keep it vague and slightly mysterious. Your audience will fill in the gaps with far more exciting things that you don't actually have to do yourself. A little exaggeration goes a long way - getting a tattoo from a nice, hygienic Western tattoo parlor isn't all that exciting, but if people are led to believe you got it in a seedy bar in a part of Bangkok that they don't show the tourists, who's going to know?
posted by AlsoMike at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding Thailand. Go to Bangkok, spend a nights there, meet some people and hire a van & driver to take you south. Go to the islands. Dont do drugs or even think about it. Drink Singha beer. Good times will come very quickly. Also, its cheap.
posted by daveyt at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2010


Sit still. Go to a bar pull up a stool. And then just sit there, by yourself. You will be amazed at what complete (non-drunk) strangers will talk to you about. How they will confide in you. And the things they will ask you to do.

You have to go late. And stay late. There are many, many very ordinary people who need a break from themselves, from the expectations and limitations of their normal lives. And they will sit down next to you. And you will find yourself in the midst of fascinating, often startlingly intimate conversations. You will be amazed at the kinds of conversations you will have with someone you know you will never see again.

Choosing the right place is important; not too nice, not too dive-y. Upscale hotel bars are also particularly interesting. People shed their daily skin when traveling. Most importantly, be nice. Keep to yourself. Don't be creepy. Don't fidget. Don't hit on anybody. Just absorb. If you are a decent, amusing, non-predatory, well-tipping guy, the bartender will love you. And you won't go thirsty.

This is one of my favorite things to do. It can make you feel very alive...and new.
posted by nickjadlowe at 1:15 PM on January 5, 2010 [35 favorites]

On top of the whole say yes thing, which I think is great advice, I would advertise to your friends that you are up for anything. Even an email would be fine, and send it out to everybody. "Hey everybody, I'm trying to try more stuff in my life, so drop me a line if you're up to something interesting." If I got a note like that from one of my friends, or even acquaintances, they would get an invite every time I decide to go to a beer tasting or head to the mountains to snowboard.

Couchsurfers are good for this too, both for traveling and for a local community of people who are generally pretty open to new experiences.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:15 PM on January 5, 2010

I'd like to add that it's important to be nice to everyone. You don't have to be Mister Friendly all the time, but don't talk trash and don't shut people out, and encourage everyone you know to be that way as well. I think this is really important. The best adventures come from being with people you'd never expect to be with and being in places you'd never expect to be. You'll never get there by being exclusive or grumpy. Elitism is for jerks (but I'll hang out with them anyway).
posted by skintension at 2:02 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt

I think you have to practise doing things that you instinctively avoid, and avoidance often stems from fear.
posted by kjs4 at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

get a job as a bartender at a dive bar. seriously.

Also HST said something to teh effect of :
The truth is never told in the 9-5 hours.

Be ready and willing to regularly stay up until 4-5 am. You will meet some of the real creepers this way.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking about this exact same problem lately, and was actually thinking of doing a post...looks like you beat me to it. I'm about the same age, now I'm sort of craving the adventures I missed out on. I guess my advice is to be more open and spontaneous - if have an idea that's crazy but feasible, go for it!

I highly recommend travel if you can afford it. If not, find a way to go anyway - some of the most adventurous travel stories I hear are by people who were on a shoestring budget and had to figure it out as they went. Just don't overplan, the best travel stories are never planned in advance.

I also second the suggestions about making changes in your day-to-day life. Try new restaurants, ride public transit (riding the subway feels like an adventure to me, particularly at night), etc. Also try hanging out with people who are a little more adventurous - they'll give you good ideas and maybe someone to swap stories with. I've met quite a few through my local CouchSurfing group.
posted by photo guy at 2:51 PM on January 5, 2010

Maybe all you folks who have just said you were wanting to do the same thing should band together and do stuff together!
posted by wyzewoman at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing what everyone else said about going out late at night. It's uh, fairly easy to hook up drugs or sex at clubs in major metropolitan areas, especially in afterhours joints. The truly best thing to do is to find a popular person and befriend them, but that's easier said than done. Don't be afraid to talk to the guy getting free drinks from the bartender, is a hint. And yes, don't be afraid to tell people what you are looking for.

One big adventure thing that a lot of people I know are into is Burning Man. I think that would totally fit your requirements, and it's early enough in the year that you could ingratiate yourself into a camp and not actually have to invest a ton of effort yourself. Still some investment, but it's a lot simpler that way.
posted by herbaliser at 3:02 PM on January 5, 2010

Seconding vytae: it's time to get out of Dodge and hang out with locals who aren't local to you.
posted by SuzB at 3:19 PM on January 5, 2010

If I had written this question (at one time, I probably could have), I'd probably mark all of the answers as best answer. I'm not sure how much more I have to add, but here's my experience, being a late-twenties introverted-thinker with a conservative, low-risk upbringing who decided she wanted more adventure in her life (with the understanding that ymmv):

If you haven't already, accept the fact you are, indeed, a "thinker." This is a good thing. The world needs thinkers, the kind of people who are able to process the big picture and not just take each moment as it comes. But because you are a thinker, because you are able to see the big picture, it will take a pretty firm step to transition to "doer." It's easy to say "take a road trip!" or "go to Singapore!" -- but to actually book those plane tickets and set aside the time and stop the mail and get someone to water your plants and yes, yes, I know you want spontaneous and adventurous but there are still some responsibilities, and they can easily trip you up if you let them.

Sure, you can get pretty far by relying strictly on past regrets and future desires, but you eventually have to accept your personality and work within the limitations. And by limitations, I mean, for example, how introverted are you? While I would love to be able to be the person that does something crazy and exotic every weekend, the reality is I need quite a chunk of time (and quiet) to recharge from whatever adventures I do have. This may, perhaps, limit the quantity of adventures -- but I'd like to think it means I'm more apt the fully enjoy the experiences I do have (and I do). So you'll need to figure out what your limitations are, compare that to the type of adventures you'd ideally like, and figure out how distant the two are.

In order to start to close the distance between the two, you're going to need a "doer" friend. While it is quite conceivable for you to jump-in full-splash, the reality is you're a "thinker" -- you've grown up that way; it's what you're used to. But it makes it really difficult to start saying "yes" right away to adventures.

So you'll need a friend. Preferably one who is outgoing and doesn't mind looking like an idiot. He or she doesn't need to be a super-close-best-buddy -- but someone you feel comfortable with to trust to some extent (because you will feel awkward stepping out of that thinking shell the first few times). There are many upsides about starting with such a friend -- not only will s/he delight in having an "accomplice", but likely this sort of person is apt to "gather" people, and you'll expand your circle of acquaintances, which will lead to further adventures.

When this friend comes up with adventures (which could be as tame as trying out a new restaurant or creative as establishing a neighborhood-wide soap-box derby), you say "yes." If this is a good enough friend, eventually your enthusiasm for new things (or rediscovering old) will feed off each other, and your friend will then become the encourager for your crazy ideas.

But saying "yes" is key (as mentioned above by other wise posters). Not that you need to say "yes" willy-nilly to everything (although that might be kinda cool, and I may be a lame dork for refering to this book, but it's a fun take on the idea of opening up for adventures and saying yes to everything. [Note: it's really nothing at all like the movie. The book is actually pretty enjoyable]). The idea is to not only be open to possibilities, but to take them. And without out-thinking your way through them.

This doesn't mean to stop thinking full stop. Because, if you follow this path, you will more than likely end up in a few dodgy situations, and the fact that at the back of your mind, your observational over-thinking skills are continuously running, means you'll be able to create an escape plan of sorts and live to laugh over the story another day.

It gets easier and easier over time to say "yes" to things (or even "no", once you've gone past the over-board must-make-conscious-decision-so-I-don't-wimp-out phase), because you'll be able to look back at your arsenal of adventures and think, "wow, I survived that previous adventure, so heck yeah! I can survive this new adventure!" Eventually you will graduate into the world of not only saying yes, but "yes, and." (Now that, my friend, is where adventures are truly born.)

I'm being purposefully vague about what types of adventures, because the whole point is discovering them, isn't it? The idea is finding those weird crazy one-off stories that no one else has really experienced before, right?

If you go into a situation with an open mind, low expectations, and maybe a dash of naivete*, you're bound to have an adventure of some sort.

(tl;dr - be comfortable with the fact you're a thinker; find a doer friend; say "yes.")

*Many of my adventures have stemmed from the fact that I just didn't know what I was getting into. I'm not sure if I can recommend this, but it definitely helps.

On preview: I'm NOT saying "don't go on a road trip or Singapore." I'm mostly focusing on that first step, which is generally the hardest for us over-thinkers.

posted by paisley sheep at 3:39 PM on January 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Some of the ideas already mentions sound very interesting. I am in my mid-fifties and have had quite a few adventures. Sometimes I wish my life were more boring.
Backpacking and staying in hostels in Europe sounds totally cool.
From this end of life let me encourage you not to be discouraged about not having a lot of stories, etc. from your youth. Many of us wish we would have had less adventure and more studying.
Because you have studied and been conservative, you will probably have a good job and a nice home for your future family. You will not have to work two jobs just to survive. You will not be homeless. The woman you choose will not have to figure out how to feed your children on a tiny budget. You have been smart, although it may not feel like it at times. You are standing on the brink of the American dream.
If you truly go for adventure, don't do anything that would spoil what you have worked so hard to accomplish thus far. Best wishes.
posted by srbrunson at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about squatting?

From my experience (visiting & hanging out), squat households are hotbeds of fun, especially when they're motivated by bohemian, anarcho-punky, alternative lifestyle values & politics - which they always seem to be.

Always something new & creative going on, as well as a wider squattocracy community (including overseas) to potentially hook into. And if it's sex & drugs & rock'n'roll you're after, you might find a fair bit of that, as well.

I don't know exactly how you find an "in" into the community, other than randomly knowing somebody, but presumably these days you can find all kinds of forums etc on the internet...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:41 PM on January 5, 2010

Gay bars.
posted by hworth at 6:12 PM on January 5, 2010

In addition to saying yes to things, think of things that you would normally say no to and do them. Two nights ago I was watching the stars from the top of a waterslide attached to a lighthouse by the beach. Not something I'd normally do, but all it took was the idea and an open mind.

And when people say avoid the illegal things, I think you can apply a little flexibility there. Murder and assault are not so hot. Climbing over a fence to play in a warehouse? All good.
posted by twirlypen at 7:20 PM on January 5, 2010

Volunteer to teach English to recently arrived immigrants and refugees. Learn their languages in your spare time (Haitian Creole is particularly satisfying!) Open up to their world. Learn to dance. A whole new world opens up.
posted by zaelic at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2010

Post a Craigslist personals ad with this AskMe question as the text (not Casual Encounters -- your ad will get bumped off the front page in minutes). Meet the first responder.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2010

Three things that have worked for me:
  1. Do stuff Do anything - it's not so important what you do, but just that you do it. If you want to be motivated, adventurous, passionate, excited, and exciting... you breed those qualities from actually doing stuff. Sitting around doing nothing is the absolute worst thing you can do. Here's a start - pick up three objects right now and attempt to juggle. Try for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Do stuff that scares you Not just once, but do something that scares you every week. Take up dancing lessons, sing karaoke, bungee jump, go someplace.
  3. Write a list of stuff to do You've seen the film "The Bucket List"? Write your own list of things to do; make it exciting, make it inspire you. I recommend starting with a short list (try 5-10 items). There is power in writing it down. Here's some things off my list - volunteer, be an extra in a movie, pilot a hot-air balloon, light a bonfire, run a marathon (and finish), learn to weld... you get the idea.
Good luck! Enjoy your adventures!
posted by damian_ at 8:44 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't go to Zion national park or yosemite until I was at and old. When I got there, I realized that I had wasted my youth. I could have lived the life of a climbing bum in camp IV.

Also, when you get just a little older, you'll realize that nobody cares about anyone elses story about that time they were drunk and they met that guy who did that thing.

Memories though. Those are sweet.
posted by mearls at 5:33 AM on January 6, 2010

Seconding Gay Thailand
posted by kaizen at 5:48 AM on January 6, 2010

Do, and make plans to do, things you never thought you would do. So - look in your local paper or TimeOut and go participate in something you simply never thought of participating in whether it be music, lectures, physical activities, travel, etc. This never fails for me. There's nothing that makes you feel more alive than stepping outside your own self-definition.
posted by xammerboy at 7:37 AM on January 6, 2010

I got my adventure fix in college with Urban Exploring. As long as you are OK with the possibility of trespassing charges and you treat the places you go with respect. It is an awesome way way to inject some adventure into daily life.
posted by Widepath at 11:32 AM on January 6, 2010

I sometimes fear that my life is getting boring (same boat as OP) and so I try to shake it up:

You don't have to travel, I don't think. Invite everybody from your floor/building/block over for a night of drinks. Become a friendly, regular face around where your neighborhood & town. Meet people outside of your academic setting. Cultivate friendships with small business owners, bartenders & coffeeshopfolk, band members. Start with "Hi, I've been in here a bunch & I have no idea what your name is. I'm ___." Get friendly enough that you work into their social networks. It's pretty easy to do this in a low-key, non-creepy way. In addition to this, work backwards through your social timeline. Are there people you've lost touch with? Drop them a line, reconnect. You can have lots of adventures with people who've known you for a long time.

Browse 43things and create your own list. Then get an okcupid profile: date people you meet through it. Combine these two by suggesting to your date "Hey, I've been meaning to try ____ for a while, wanna join me?"
posted by knile at 4:23 PM on January 6, 2010

Spend your money on activities (not things) and spend it now (because tomorrow you may die).

And randomize, because reason will lead you down well-worn paths.

For choosing a travel destination, put a map on the wall and throw a dart. (If you have other restrictions you cannot override, choose the place closest to the dar that meets those restrictions.)

When out for drive, stop at a major intersection and spin a bottle or a spinner from a board game to choose a compass direction.

For choosing a month, throw dice (12 months). For choosing a date, flip a calendar to that month's page and throw a dart at the calendar.

Pull numbers or place names or people's names out of a hat.

Open a book to a random page and act on what you read.

Take a bicycle along on a train ride somewhere pretty far away (considering when you have to be back) and then ride all the way home. Make it far enough that you have to stay overnight somewhere once or twice along the way home.

New friends will lead you along new paths.
posted by pracowity at 7:44 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've had the exact same mentality so many times where I set out to have a fresh new path in life with new adventures, new friends, and stories that I'll have forever. The hardest part is to stay motivated to keep it going. Too many things come up with work, errands, plans, etc that makes it tougher to keep challenging myself to have more amazing life experiences. If a handful of you would like to keep in touch to keep each other on point with this, that may be a good resource.

Love the advice in this thread, you're fortunate that you may have the time and resources to be able to do some of the more time consuming and far fetched ideas that may not be realistic when you do enter that profession. Gotta say though, srbrunson had a pretty refreshing perspective for me up above. I feel like I've done well for myself 'on paper' as a young guy, but always think everybody else is having the real fun. Interesting to see the flip side of all of that, kinda highlights the 'grass is always greener..' idea.
posted by coffeecold at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2010

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