Not the most enticing of offers for most people, but for some, it’s just the thing they’re looking for in life. Pushing boundaries and getting out of a comfort zone, can be both exhilarating and rewarding. There’s no doubt that travel and discovery are very exciting, but what kind of a person would respond to Shackleton’s search?
According to Associate Professor John W Vanmeter, a neuroscientist at Georgetown University in Washington DC, our need to explore is regulated by the brain. There are two regions in the brain that are linked to risky behaviour: the limbic region which is driven by new experiences and by rewards from stimuli, and the prefrontal cortex, which does a completely different job; it makes executive decisions and stops us from engaging in risky behaviour.
“One person’s brain may be more or less developed,” Vanmeter says. “The connections between these brain regions may be more finely tuned in one individual than another.” Vanmeter says that a more active limbic region is typically linked to greater risky behaviour (such as dangerous expeditions).
“I love the freedom,” said Roff Smith, a National Geographic photographer and an expeditions leader of his trips to faraway, difficult-to-reach places, whose achievements include a 16,000km bike trip around the Australian outback.
The effect of the adventures is felt because of dopamine in our brains. High levels of this chemical are linked to risk-taking behaviour; the ‘riskier’ the behaviour, the greater the rise in dopamine. And this rise in dopamine acts as a ‘reward’, making us feel good.