Maslow’s Hierarchy of Adventure Needs

Maslows Hiarchy of Adventure Needs

Every adven­tur­er expe­ri­ences that moment. It’s that brief moment of an exhale atop a world­ly view; it’s the moment when a bead of sweat driz­zles on your face but you’re too exhaust­ed and in too much ecsta­sy to both­er with it. It’s the moment, like a light-switch turn­ing on, where you sud­den­ly change, and start to need that feel­ing again.

Some­thing about you has changed because of the envi­ron­ment you’ve cho­sen to endure. It could be a new idea, a new way of look­ing at things, and always, a fresh look at who you are. For a quick sec­ond, the clouds part, and in that brief sliv­er of time, you real­ize your full potential.

More com­mon­ly known as “a‑ha!” moments, these are the moments when the synaps­es con­nect on trail and every­thing sud­den­ly becomes per­fect­ly in place. These moments are rare and expe­ri­enced only by few. They can best be described by Maslow’s Hier­ar­chy of Adven­ture Needs.

Maslow’s Hier­ar­chy of Adven­ture Needs

Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Needs
Cer­tain human require­ments must be met with­in every adven­ture or it’s no longer an adven­ture — it becomes sur­vival. Some of these require­ments include water and oxy­gen as well as oth­er resources that take fore­thought like food, cloth­ing, and shel­ter. Every envi­ron­ment has dif­fer­ent phys­i­o­log­i­cal con­straints on a per­son — cloth­ing needs for the desert vary from alpine ter­rains while a one-man tent does half the job for two peo­ple. Under­stand and meet these basic needs, and you can start to con­cen­trate on more impor­tant things: like enjoy­ing your time (self actu­al­iza­tion — we will get to that).

Safe­ty Needs
Are you being chased by a pack of hun­gry wolves? Are you hud­dled in a shal­low cave dur­ing a thun­der­storm? Is that wild rice and native mush­room goulash not sit­ting well? If you answered no to these three ques­tions, then you’re on a track to meet your safe­ty needs. Safe­ty on a back­coun­try adven­ture can best be described by that moment you crawl into your sleep­ing bag warm and dry, your belong­ings orga­nized neat­ly under the tent flap, with no clouds in the sky. Now that your basic sur­vival and safe­ty is tak­en care of, you can start to focus on the enjoy­ment of the trip.

Love & Belong­ing Needs
This frag­ile dynam­ic that can be dis­turbed by even the most slight­est of ges­tures. You’re snow­board­ing and every­one wants to hit the side coun­try but you don’t have the gear so you’re “wel­comed” or even encour­aged to sit it out (right­ful­ly so — take a class before hit­ting the side­coun­try — but bogus on your friends for ditch­ing you). You want to climb at a crowd­ed crag, but as a newb with no belay, you sit on the side­lines hop­ing for a route like a runt hopes for a teet.

Your “fel­low recre­ators” can deter­mine whether you feel wel­come or if you feel ostra­cized. No one wants to be where they don’t belong — and that might be the point. After­all, who wants to share a lim­it­ed num­ber of swells to an ever grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of kooks.

But what about those who adven­ture by them­selves? Meet­ing the love and belong­ing need while on a solo adven­ture seems like a para­dox but when alone, hos­til­i­ty of the sur­round­ings takes a back seat — for this per­son can force himself/herself to fit in. Per­haps that’s the beau­ty of ven­tur­ing alone.

Esteem Needs
Whether it’s for the solo explor­er or the whole team, esteem is that sense of accom­plish­ment. On an adven­ture, it can be best described as the con­fi­dence x‑factor that encour­ages you to push your bound­aries. It’s the dynam­ic that helps you block out the onlook­ers. At this point, you’re very close to enjoy­ing your out­ing, and once you’ve done so, you’ve hit…

Many peo­ple nev­er self-actu­al­ize while out­side. This is why so many pre­fer to slow­ly die in front of a TV than to live life out­side. Self Actu­al­iza­tions are the moments that bring you back out. It’s the moments — the stoke — that makes you crave that expe­ri­ence again. It’s that “damn that mis­er­able (light­bulb ding) DAMN THAT WAS AWESOME”  moment. Scram­bling up rocks to stand under a water­fall — gru­el­ing waist deep up  a hill so you can turn around to a hard earned pow­der field — sum­mit­ting a (how­ev­er small) moun­tain to stand on the peak, lift your arms, and yell at the top of your lungs.

Just like how Maslow says that Self Actu­al­iza­tion can only hap­pen when the first four needs are met, it’s the same out­side. You’ll nev­er be drawn back to the out­doors if your only expe­ri­ences with it were dan­ger, hos­til­i­ty and dehydration.

And while some peo­ple require more or less of each need, a pri­mal root of each must be ful­filled to reach that final goal of self actu­al­iza­tion while outside.

With con­tri­bu­tions from Yoon Kim