Leading Article: To travel is often better than to return

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The Independent Online
ADVENTURES come in three parts: preparation, the experience itself, and return. Preparation is often tedious, though alleviated by a sense of pleasurable anticipation. With luck, the experience itself lives up to expectations. What few adventurers expect is that returning home will be so difficult. For many of the 179 participants in the British Steel Challenge round-the-world amateur sailing race, coming home seems to have been the hardest part; in their case, not just because they had been through such memorable experiences, but also because their lives at sea over eight months had been so structured.

For all the wildness of the porpoise- laden seas through which their yachts sailed, the competitors had become semi-institutionalised, fulfilling clearly defined tasks, and to a large extent depending on each other. On their return they found themselves back amid banal reality and obliged to take all the decisions of daily life.

Given that the aim of adventurers is to pit themselves against nature and to raise their consciousness by experiencing something wholly new, it is hardly surprising that many, on completing a long trip, cannot bear the thought of returning to the grind of quotidian bread- winning, the seeming futility and emptiness of which have been exposed by what they have undergone. The contrast between the peaks they have scaled and the dismal plain to which they have returned is too painful. They face the choice of reluctantly reverting to mundane employment, while perhaps planning the next adventure; trying to find a new job closer in spirit to what they have been through; or 'opting out'. In the Seventies, running a smallholding in Herefordshire was popular. Today's New Age travellers are a sub-species of those pioneers, even if more have had their minds blown by drugs than by adventure holidays.

For Chay Blyth, organiser of the round-the-world race, facing danger in a hostile natural environment is the best way of achieving a new perspective on life. Though more likely to be fatal, driving the wrong way up the M1 would not achieve the same result - even if a taste for danger lies behind most such acts of madness. Nor is confronting danger the only way to find the path to a more fulfilling life. To some, religion is the great adventure. To others, the way is revealed through long illness: nothing concentrates the mind like being obliged to lie still, staring at the ceiling for several months.

From such experiences, too, it is hard to return to everyday life. They may be painful as well as exhilarating. But those who make such journeys, including the latest circumnavigators, gain the courage to re-examine their lives, so opening doors to greater self-fulfilment.