Music is something we are constantly exposed to. Car ad jingles on TV, elevator experiences, and even the radio manages to find time for a song or two between commercials. Background noise and the constant hum of living in a busy city is something many people seek to avoid by escaping into the countryside for an 'Adventure'.
But what happens when we bring the noise we are trying to escape with us? Does music have a place in Adventure?
Before my first trip, I spoke to another Australian Adventurer who is somewhat more hardcore than I am . (Example: When I saw a snake in the river I stayed meters away from it took a quick photo then paddled away hastily. When they saw a snake, they chased it to the bank, and took a photo of them holding it up by the tail...) When I asked how they kept themselves entertained and did they use music, they scoffed and said nature was all the entertainment they needed. Across both my trips I've seen this, and I agree that nature truly can be a great entertainer. Adventuring in silence offers an opportunity to see the world in a detail that we often miss. We rush from point A to Point B deafened by our motors and blinded by the blur from our pace. Moving slowly with just the crunch of gravel underfoot allows us to focus our senses externally and gives us time to process everything we observe. Prolonged exposure to these sensations allow us to recognize patterns too.
As I paddled down the Darling River I began to recognise the smell of the feral goats as I passed. Thanks to the frequency of the goats on the river bank, as time went by, I was able to accurately guess the number of goats, which bank they were on, and how far away they were, before I could see them. This completely unique (and now very useless) skill kept me entertained along the Darling. Moving in silence allowed me to study the goats and other animals I encountered. It wasn't my aim to learn about the animals, but purely by sneaking up on them I was able to see them behaving naturally (and also see how they reacted to a threat in the form of a silent 14ft paddleboard floating towards them). Stalking up towards unaware animals and experiencing very raw nature made me feel like the hardcore adventurer I had spoken with. Just me, nature, and my adventure. Pure.
On both of my trips I have spent the majority of my days alone on a river, with just my mind and my surrounds to keep me company. While experiences, like the goat smelling, can entertain you, after so long in silence inevitably your focus drifts from the external to the internal. It's a unique and rewarding opportunity to really just stop and think about how you feel about 'things'. To stop and analyse, how you came to be standing on a SUP board thousands of km's from home, and perhaps hundreds of km's from the nearest person, can both a reward and challenge to overcome. But it's not just the bigger things that I analysed. At one stage I found myself wondering for hours why I had decided to buy a blue dry bag for the trip instead of a red one. The constant questioning of everything combined with experiences of extreme loneliness and boredom is a bad mix. On both trips there were times I had spent too much time in my own head and needed an escape, which was music.
Music is such a big part of modern life that we tend to associate different songs with different memories. I was able to use songs to transport myself back into memories of times with friends and family and cope with the loneliness of my journey. A party song would remind me of a time a mate had done something funny and cheer me up. A nursery rhyme I thought I had long forgotten, would spring into my mind and take me back to the joy of being a kid. More than once I was caught singing away by fisherman who I then quickly paddled past rather embarrassed while they wiped blood from their ears (I am not much of a singer).
Adventure and embracing the outdoors is a personal thing. Similar to how I can safely assume I ruined the ambiance for the fishermen I passed, there were times when I wanted to hear silence, only to hear noises from a nearby houseboat or campsite. The noise of others we try to escape can sometimes follow us to our silent refuge. More than once I have cursed other noise makers on the river banks, only the following day to paddle past others playing my own music.
Sometimes music is the perfect solution to enhance a situation. Other times it can ruin the experience completely. Through 113 days of adventure I still haven't been able to decide which I prefer and because they offer such unique experiences I don't know if I will be able to. What I do know however, is that there can be a place for music on adventure, it's just a matter of finding it. The only way to do that, is to go explore.
So next time you're listening to a car ad jingle or drowning in the messy hum of the city, listen closer, because the sound of adventure is calling.