The way we define adrenaline adventures varies based on our level of thrill-seeking desire. For some, that means jumping out of planes, while it translates to being on a very high building floor for others. Some are born adrenaline junkies, while others experiment with their comfort level, pushing those boundaries at various times.
I’m the first person to admit that most things terrify me. I fear heights, and extreme speeds make me uncomfortable. Not having steady ground under my feet is horrifying. Yet, I always try to push myself to overcome those fears by doing things that scare me. So far, those experiences have been some of the most rewarding ones.
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There are many ways to make your heart skip a little bit faster. Whether you’re an adrenaline-seeking junkie or are looking to step out of your comfort zone like me, here are some ideas to add to your bucket list.
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Adrenaline adventures: up in the air
Air-bound activities automatically come to mind when most people think of adrenaline adventures. For thrill-seekers, nothing beats the rush of adrenaline as much as being in the air does. There are many to choose from, from full-on action to more laid-back activities.
Hot air ballooning
Hot air ballooning is a popular activity in many parts of the world. In some places, hot air balloon festivals are all the rage, attracting onlookers and participants alike. After all, gliding through the air in an open basket can be a fantastic way to see the sights. There are no windows to peer through or walls to obstruct your view.
You have probably seen images of colourful hot air balloons floating over the volcanic peaks of Cappadocia. It’s a bucket list experience for many, and here are some other epic destinations for balloon rides.
Paragliding/ hang gliding/ acro-paragliding
Choose your adventure with paragliding, hang gliding or acro-paragliding. While all three operate on the same free-flying principle, the difference comes down to the glider’s shape, size, and weight. While paragliders sit in a harness suspended below a fabric that resembles a parachute, hang gliders are in a harness that’s suspended from the airframe. The metal frames have heavy tarpaulin stretched over them to form a wing.
Those that crave a bit more adrenalin from their gliding can try acro-paragliding. As the name implies, it adds a bit more ump to paragliding by adding tricks, spins, loops and reels in the air. The tricks are possible by manipulating the lines of the glider. This sport is not the one to start with, but something to aspire to once you get the hang of it. I couldn’t resist.
Skydiving is not for the faint of heart, but it can become addictive for many who try it. Jumping out of a plane offers the ultimate high of all adrenaline adventures, and it’s not hard to imagine that someone can become addicted. There is a certain freedom in flying, and the views aren’t bad either.
I’ve done it once, and it was enough for me. My least favourite part was the actual jump. I made the mistake of closing my eyes and then felt like I was in a washing machine on a spin cycle. My favourite part was once the parachute opened. That experience was incredible. The adrenaline high wore me out, but the experience was worth it.
Wingsuit base jumping
Those who want the thrill of flying with an added element of danger can try wingsuit base jumping. Nothing will make your heart beat faster than jumping from a cliff or a building wearing a full-body, aerodynamic outfit and a helmet. Don’t worry. There is also a parachute. The suits are designed with chambers that fill with air and create lift.
Adrenaline adventures: water
Not all adrenaline adventures take place in the air. For many adrenaline junkies, the next thrill is in the water, and sometimes it’s even underneath it.
Surfing is more complex than it looks, and it’s one of the most challenging water sports. While it takes years of practice to surf the waves like a pro, it’s something even beginners can tackle with proper guidance. Expect a lot of upper bodywork as you lift yourself off the board when the wave comes.
There is a lot of paddling and swimming as you drag your board in and out of the water. You won’t be riding massive waves right from the start, but it’s something you can work on. Much like skydiving is an addiction to some, riding the wave is the same for others.
White water rafting
For a more hands-on adrenaline rush experience, try navigating an inflatable raft down a choppy river. Not only are you dodging whirlpools between rocks and trying not to fall out, but you’re also doing it with a bunch of other people. It’s a true man vs. wild face-off that will hit all the right notes for thrill-seeking.
There are six rafting levels of difficulty, from slow-moving water with small waves to the highly technical and challenging. That means there are many different levels of adventure to choose from.
Cavern and cave diving
Cavern and cave diving take going underwater to new levels. Exploring water-filled caves, cenotes, and sinkholes is not for beginners. Those that do it are drawn to discovering unexplored and untouched water environments and ancient rock formations that have not seen the light of day.
Cavern diving is an extreme sport, while cave diving is reserved for experts. Both require certification and specialized equipment. Caverns are illuminated by natural light, and diving takes place at the mouth of a cave. Cave diving can go miles underwater into tight spaces without natural light and limited visibility. Both are extreme adventures and guarantee bragging rights.
If you like to mix up your adrenaline adventures, canyoning night be for you. It combines water sports with hiking, climbing and gliding. You’ll walk, swim and hike while crossing waterfalls, ravines, gorges and water basins, all in the name of adventure.
Canyoning is best done in organized groups with guides who know the area and potential dangers lurking ahead. It’s a physically demanding activity best suited to those whose fitness level is better than average. If you love the outdoors with a dash of adrenalin, you’re going to love this.
Adrenaline adventures: terra firma
Staying on the ground doesn’t mean a lack of adrenalin. Thrill-seekers will find plenty of choices for their adrenaline adventures. Now you need the courage to do them.
Rock and cliff climbing
The adrenaline rush that comes with rock climbing is what makes this such a popular sport. It will challenge you physically and mentally, especially if what you are climbing are cliffs. We’re not talking indoor wall with fake rock steps here. Think Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible scaling a rock.
Climbing also extends into scaling ice-covered mountains, frozen waterfalls and glaciers. It calls for additional equipment like crampons and ice axes, and both options offer a shot of adrenaline that appeals to thrill-seekers.
While extreme hiking might not seem as adrenaline-packed as some of the other activities listed here, it offers its own set of thrills. Extreme hikes are not just ones that take a long time to complete. They take you on a journey through different elevations, altitudes and often encounter extreme weather. Across hanging bridges, steep staircases and while clinging to sides of cliffs, check out some of the extreme hikes in the world.
Zip lining is a simple concept that delivers a big punch, and it provides an adrenaline rush that is part of any great adventure. Zip lines can stretch across forests, canyons, volcanos, beaches and other natural settings that offer amazing views. With a simple pulley and lock system, you can zip across that line while adrenaline pumps in your veins.
I’ve done zip lining in several countries, and I have loved them all. This is probably one of my favourite adrenaline adventures that don’t completely scare me to death. If the opportunity arises, you can zip upside down, giving you a very different kind of rush.
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Bungee jumping is great for those that fear no heights and don’t necessarily want to jump out of a plane. The launching pad for a bungee jump is usually on a tall building, bridge over water or a ravine, or a natural setting that allows a person to jump while connected by an elastic cord. The cord attaches to a specially made ankle harness, often backed up by a secondary harness to ensure safety. Once the movement stops, the jumper hangs at the rope’s end, where they either climb up the cord or are pulled up by an attendant.
This is an excellent option for those wanting to take their skiing or snowboarding to another level. Why wait in line for a ski lift when you can use a helicopter to bring you to the remote, powder-filled slopes of your dreams. No crowds, just pure snow bliss.
Depside what you see on videos, you don’t jump out of the helicopter with your skis/board and hit the slopes. This isn’t James Bond. However, you get to glide on unspoiled snow peaks that make you feel like you’re in the clouds. Those who know what fresh powder experience is like will appreciate this type of adventure.
Sand and/or volcano boarding
If snow isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the thrill of the experience by boarding down a sand dune or a volcano. Like in snowboarding, you ride your board down a hill picking up significant speed. You can do it either standing, sitting or lying on it. Sandboarding is sometimes referred to as sand surfing, which gives you an idea of what to expect. For more adventurous and advanced riders, board tricks and flips come with the territory.
Adrenaline adventures: man-made
With the human desire for adrenaline-fuelled activities always in demand, it’s not surprising that we have created more things to thrill us. When air, water and land aren’t enough of a challenge, you can find other adrenaline adventures to add to your bucket list.
Sky walks and glass floors
When you want to experience a bit of adrenaline but don’t want to jump out of planes or cliffs, sky walks and glass floors could be for you. No equipment is required. You can find glass floors in tall buildings that allow visitors to stand on them while looking down below. Sky walks sometimes have glass floors as well. They stick out over a natural feature like a canyon or a gorge, and visitors can walk on them to see what’s below.
The EdgeWalk is a unique Toronto experience that offers visitors a full circle, hands-free walk on the city’s tallest attraction. The walk takes place on a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide ledge encircling the top of the CN Tower’s central pod, 356m/1168ft (116 stories) above the ground.
This was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Once I stepped onto the pod, all my fears went away. The views were spectacular and calming all at once. You can see the whole city, the lake, and Buffalo across the lake if the day is clear enough. It was a fantastic experience and one I’m happy I did.
Rollercoasters can get that adrenaline going like no other ride. Rides with steep drops, crazy turns and twists at extreme speeds will get your heart pounding in no time. There are many different rollercoasters worldwide, with the steepest at Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Japan. It has a 121-degree free fall, seven twists and a drop of over 141 feet (43 m).
Not ready for the real thing? Then the simulation labs are the place for you. You can try free-falling, scaling walls and even experience zero gravity in controlled environments. These labs still pack plenty of adrenaline but simulate real experiences without the risk. It’s a great place to start if you’re unsure about jumping straight into the real thing.
Animal encounters for thrill-seekers
Coming face-to-face with a wild animal is the ultimate adrenaline rush for many. However, unless such an encounter happens in the wild, the experience is staged. When we use animals for our entertainment, we ignore the cruelty behind the scenes. The animals are provoked, agitated and used for our enjoyment.
I have decided not to include animal encounters on this list because I don’t believe in animal cruelty and want to promote such activities. There are enough adrenaline adventures out there to keep us busy without resorting to abusing animals.
What to know before you head out on adrenaline adventures
Always remember SAFETY FIRST. Adrenaline adventures involve an element of danger that gives us that rush we associate with them. There is a reason they make you sign a waiver before you participate. It can be dangerous.
Always do your research before doing any thrill-seeking activities. Reputable companies won’t go for shortcuts that might endanger other participants or guides. Safety equipment is provided for a reason, and you should follow the instructions of your guides. They are the experts and know the area better than you. If there are any issues with the equipment, make sure you address them with the company reps. It’s better to double or triple check than not at all.
Also, don’t overestimate your abilities. We might all think we can do anything, but that’s not always the case. Many adrenaline adventures are very physical, and you must have a certain fitness level to achieve them. Lying about your abilities can put you and others in danger, and you don’t want to be that person.
Don’t do any adrenaline adventures on a dare or under pressure. If something doesn’t make you feel comfortable, don’t do it. Just because someone else’s threshold is different from yours doesn’t mean you should attempt it anyway. It will most likely end up not the way you imagined.
We all have different limits when it comes to dangerous activities. It’s one thing to challenge yourself and another to push yourself to a point where you are in danger. Your life isn’t worth the risk.