man sits on a crag on a mountain wearing boots and looking at the snow and sky

21 adventure challenges to set yourself in 2021

From lacing up your hiking boots and climbing a mountain, to piling into the car for an incredible cross-country road trip, here's how to enjoy next year

Adventure is a subjective word. At the moment, popping to the Co-op three streets away rather than the one at the bottom of the road feels like an adventure. But, if you’d asked us to explain the word at the beginning of the year, we’d have had quite a different definition for you.

Oh, the things we were going to do in 2020! We were going to see the world, set out on expeditions and escapes to far-flung places and make memories to last a lifetime. As it stands, all we’ve made is a lot (and we mean a lot) of banana bread. But hey-ho. Such is the way of the world, and if we must endure a little lockdown to get the planet back on track, then so be it.

But that won’t stop us planning. And here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’ve been pooling our ideas and coming up with some of the most appealing, exciting getaways and jaunts for when lockdown lifts and international travel takes off once more. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and get inspired; here are 21 adventure challenges we’ll be setting ourselves in 2021 — and we suggest you do the same.

man stares out over mountain wearing hat

Climb a mountain

Let’s start with a big one — literally. Any bozo can climb a hill or tackle a fell, but we’re talking about a properly certified, bona fide, genuine crags-and-all mountain. Yes, it’ll take some hardcore training. Yes, it’ll take some even more hardcore shoes — but it’ll be worth it at the summit. And the best part? You can find them all over the world.

Take an incredible road trip

Now this is where a sense of fun meets a sense of achievement. Gather a handful of your best friends, pile them into the best car you can find — we’ve got some suggestions here — and take to the roads. Remember snacks, tunes and a destination a good few hundred miles away. And, as always, it’ll pay to take the scenic route.

Row your way across a lake

This one may sound a little tame for a challenge — but remind yourself of that that when you’re halfway across Windermere and your forearms are on fire. Again, wherever you find yourself in the world, you’re never too far from a big body of water — so whether it’s Lake Como or Loch Ness, get your oars out and get rowing.

man looks over cliffs while coasteering

Try your hand at coasteering

There are plenty of ways to coasteer. You could try adventure swimming, climbing, scrambling, jumping or diving. But there are two key factors to bear in mind. First off, safety: this is a tricky pursuit to set right if you start going wrong. And secondly, the view. But that shouldn’t be hard; from Glacier Bay to the Great Ocean Road, there are plenty of picturesque options around the globe.

Ski down a black run

Another one to work your way up to. Whether you’re a complete novice, or you consistently ski red during your annual alpine holiday, you’ll feel a grand sense of achievement when you complete your first black run. Take it easy, take your camera, and tick another adventure off your list.

Camp under the stars

You may not think sleeping outdoors sounds as difficult as skiing your way down a black run — but have you ever tried to put up a tent? We’d take the slopes every time. Thankfully, once you’ve negotiated all of those puzzling poles, you’ll get the best view of them all; a night sky full of stars. Just don’t camp too close to a city — unless you like the dull glow of light pollution…

tent glows under stars and night sky while camping

Go canyoning

It’s like coasteering, but inland. Our suggestion here would be to up sticks and head to either the US or South Africa to try your hand at this pursuit. And that’s not because the landscape is better — although it probably is. It’s because they call it by the altogether more fun names of ‘canyoneering’ or, for some reason, ‘kloofing’.

Reach a pole

Don’t laugh, we’re not expecting you to pack your thermals and jet off to the Antarctic. As the Turner Twins will tell you, there are plenty of poles to be found across the world — from the Bad Pole of North America to Spain’s Iberian Pole. Travel to one, and you’ll officially become a polar explorer. How about that?

Surf a big wave

It’s similar to skiing; you’ve either never surfed before, or you’ve never had the cojones to tackle a big, big wave. Thankfully, there are several beaches around the world that are known for the scale of their surf — from Shipstern Bluff in Australia to Chile’s Punta de Lobos. Pick your sandy destination, pack your board and check this one off.

person surfs big wave off coast of beach in ocean

Hike across a country

Unless you’re feeling very, very adventurous, we’d probably go for a smaller country on this one. Don’t go padding off over Russia or China. From the UK to Italy, most European countries would offer an insightful, exciting journey when crossed on foot. But equally don’t go too small; you can get across Monaco in under an hour…

Cycle the length of a country

If you want a slightly bigger challenge, swap your hiking boots for cleats and cycle the length of a country. Whether small and close to home, like Wales, or a longer, more exotic undertaking, such as the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route, there’s nothing quite like acting as your own engine throughout miles and miles of beautiful scenery.

Dive into wild swimming

If you’re shivering just thinking about this one, then we’d encourage you to dive in. Not until you’ve experienced the natural, fresh joy of wild swimming will you be converted. And, if you’re taking a dip in places as picturesque as Iceland’s Seljavallalaug, Laos’ Kouang Si Falls or the US’ Crater Lake, you probably won’t even notice the cold.

white water rafting two boats down river in canyon

Try white water rafting

It’s another pursuit people are known to avoid for concerns of safety. And it’s true, if you were to pump up your own dinghy and chuck yourself down the Zambezi with no supervision, it likely wouldn’t end well. But, with the proper tools and practice, there’s nothing quite so exhilarating. A hidden gem can be found on Italy’s River Noce.

Go ice-climbing

If you’re a frequent rock climber and you’re looking to take things up a notch, we’d suggest ice-climbing over free-climbing every time. Not only is the safety rope still firmly attached to catch you, but you’ll expand your climbing skillset and get to clap your chilly eyes on some cracking views at the same time. Ben Nevis is particularly good.

Run a trail race

We’d usually steer clear from competitive challenges — as most of these pursuits are challenging enough themselves. But there’s something about a trail race, and running in a pack across tricky terrain, that will really fire up your inner fight and determination. Head to Wales for the Dragon’s Back Race. But be warned; it’s tough.

man stands on top of jeep while northern lights and stars are in the night sky above

Chase the Northern Lights

Now this is an interesting one. It pairs the excitement of trying to beat nature with the beautiful views of the aurora borealis. They may be famously tricky to pin down, but if you choose the right group of friends, the right vehicle and the right time of year, you’ll be in for a multicoloured treat of a light show.

Face your fears and go caving

Another pursuit with multiple names, whether you want to call it ‘spelunking’, ‘potholing’ or good old caving, this is surely one of the most anxiety-inducing pursuits on our list. But, as with white water rafting and ice-climbing before it, if you do it responsibly and sensibly, there are some otherworldly views waiting for you — right under your feet.

Dive a tropical reef

This is one you’ll want to tick off sooner rather than later. With many of the world’s tropical reefs under threat from climate change, you won’t want to miss out on seeing them in all of their vibrant, vivid glory. But we’d suggest you do your own research — settle for cheaper tourism options and you might become part of the problem yourself.

person dives to a reef in the ocean wearing full diving gear

Learn to sail

It’s a romantic notion, but one that many don’t think is worth the calluses. We couldn’t disagree more. While the rowing further up this list may be a comfortable, casual way to take to the water, learning to sail will open up the ocean — and give you the chance to embark on more ambitious endeavours in the years to come.

See your favourite animal in the wild

It’s all well and good going to see your favourite animal — be it a duck-billed platypus or pygmy anteater — in the zoo, but nothing will beat clapping eyes on it in the wild. Jet off with your spotter’s guide, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for your best-loved beast. Just remember to pack the anti-venom if you’ve got a soft spot for vipers.

Ride a new animal

Let’s be honest, we’ve probably all ridden a horse at some point. Maybe it was a Shetland pony tour on the Scilly Isles, or maybe it was galloping across The Great Plains, but we’ve likely all done it. In 2021, we’re going to get back in the saddle once more — but this time on a new beast. Be it a camel, an elephant, a donkey or bull, there’ll be photo opportunities aplenty.

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