Processing Adventure Experiences

As a pilot and a diver I use checklist…maybe as a driver and even as someone who holds debriefs, I should use them as well

I have made a living at understanding the intricacies of taking an adventure based activity and helping clients assign meaning and application to their day to day lives. With that said, taking an adventure experience and simply learning from it is something each of should be doing anyway. Whether that application is to future adventures or application to work, family, etc is up to each member of the activity.

The process I use is something I learned as a ropes course facilitator and leadership development instructor in Texas. The process uses  simple “What Happened”, ” So What” – How did we act/respond/do”, and finally “Now What– What do we do different, how do we learn from this, how does it apply to other aspects”

I find that using this with all members of the adventure helps to internalize the adventure for everyone.

An example where we have used this recently was on a Geo-Caching trip to Swan Falls. The Swan Falls Dam is an old hydro-electric dam that at one time supplied power to the mining town of Silver City. The dam was built in 1901 to generate electricity. It is the oldest hydroelectric dam on the Snake River. The area is a favorite place to visit for us and is filled with dozens of Geo-Caches, with lots of variety of types of caches. The closest town to Swan Falls is Kuna about 16 miles away.

Normally I am very precise in checking out our vehicle before heading out to the back-country. As a habit I carry survival gear, water, food, and fuel in case we should get stuck. I normally stop off at a gas station to top of our tanks. During those stops I also grab snacks such as soda, chips, and candy bars.

But I have been dieting. Ignoring my desire to consume empty calories, I forgot to fuel the Jeep prior to departing. On top of that, I had just spent the weekend cleaning out our spare gas can and had not refilled it with petrol.

So there we were, unknowingly setting out for Swan Falls Dam, already on empty. A few hours later, after traversing back-country trails, climbing in and out of canyons, and enjoying the throaty power of our off-road rig, I noticed my mistake. We made an immediate decision to abandon our last three geo-goals and head the (now) 20 miles back to town. Milking the Jeep by driving reduced speeds, coasting down hill, and watching the RPMS we made it back to Kuna without having to walk.

In the parking lot of our favorite burger joint, with milkshakes in hand we did a debrief. Below is an example of what could be heard in the cab of our rig:


“We failed to fill the Jeep up with gas prior to heading out.”

So What:

“We almost ran out of gas”

“I was worried”

“I changed my routine”

“We worked together to keep ourselves calm”

“We had a plan if we should run out of gas”

“We had our survival packs”

“I had a gas can I could take with me to walk to Kuna”

Now What:

“Each of us check the fuel level before departing”

“Create a checklist like we use for flying and diving”

“We need to do this in other parts of our family life as well…”

We use this debrief on all our adventures and it has not only helped us grow as a family, but it has made all of our outdoor activities more rewarding.

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