Outdoor Education R&E Center

Psychology of Adventure

James Neill
Last updated:
10 Mar 2007

Why do we take risks and pursue adventure?  Wouldn't it be easier and better to play safe and stay at home? 

The psychology of adventure may hold within it some secrets to understanding, unlocking, and fulfilling human's potential to experience more than the everyday.

Deep down, we all thrive on a sense of adventure, and experience it in one form another.

Some may seem more adventurous than others, but there are common underlying processes.  Adventurers often follow steps such as initial failings or trauma, strivings, an opportunity or problem, the role of a mentor and training, a climax in which a person is pitted against a significant challenge, and ultimately a triumph and resolution/transition.  More than we might realize, such processes structure our behavior and choices.  Since it works so well, movie-scripts are often structured around similar basic story formulae.  An example of such a heroic story is Homer's "Ulysses".

  • For more, see the work of Joseph Campbell.
  • Related link: About how the motto for Outward Bound ("to serve, to strive, and not to yield), was derived from the poem "Ulysses" by Tennyson, which is about the life of Ulysses.


Adventure, in a psychological sense, is closely related to challenge, stress, coping, difficulty, fear, narrative, resilience, etc.. More specific examples of the psychological aspects of adventure follow:

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