The meaning of adventure
Introduction Adventure is a term that surrounds us in contemporary society, and is used in a positive sense to convey the merits of all sorts of experiences and products. Despite, or perhaps as a direct result of its reach, the definition of adventure is remarkably fluid, with Varley suggesting that it has seemingly become an ‘infinitely vari able, malle able construct’ (2006a: 174). As a consequence it is important to take stock of its origins and interpretation, therefore this chapter will examine the varied meanings of adventure through an illustration of its context-dependent and highly mediated aspects. Whilst adventure tourism is an industry sector that has seen significant global growth as outdoor recreation opportunities have become increasingly commercialised, it also has a long history evidenced in exploration, wars and even in basic biological responses. Adventure tourism includes a great diversity of activities, from those with little actual risk to those posing quite significant challenges to participants, although the perceptions of this may often be dramatically different. Authors agree that adventure tourism activities include specific elements such as specific skills and elements in which the outcome is influenced by the participation. However, increased commodification of the adventure experience has involved transfer of risk responsibility to commercial operators. In this realm the experience may become overloaded with high expectations, especially if the setting and perceptions of the organiser differ from that of the tourist. In order to uncover these differing perceptions this chapter poses several questions to signpost discussion and lead into the more empirical parts of this book. Given the geographical coverage of this volume it is pertinent to consider the location of adventure, as well as participation in a commodified era. The importance of technological and organisational structures in improving access is only one dimension to these aspects. However, probably the major issue that adventure tourism academics and the industry have struggled with is in achieving a definition of adventure, so we begin with the question what is adventure?