Confecting adventure and playing with meaning: The adventure commodification continuum

Peter Varley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


The paradoxical notion of ‘the adventure’ sold as a predictable, managed experience-commodity is explored here. The extant literature on the consumption of sport tourism adventure products is contrasted with definitional work drawn from adventure education, tourism and sociology sources and from Nietzsche's original ideas. In doing so ‘the adventure’ is presented as being located in the interstices between the controlled Apollonian and the chaotic Dionysiac forms of life. These efforts lead to the notion that the ‘true’ or ‘original’ adventure, in its ideal-type, has clear characteristics that the commodity version cannot allow. A model is then constructed; the adventure commodification continuum. This is designed to show that the products labelled as ‘adventures’ range from the controlled, rationalised and risk-managed ‘post-adventure’ experiences in the shallow end, to those experiences that allow greater levels of commitment, risk and responsibility at the deep end of the model. The continuum to some extent anticipates the potential criticisms of the definitional work for its essentialist stance by illustrating that the extent of the containment of adventure elements in adventure products varies considerably. Some are essentially just ‘adventure flavoured’ experiences–simply the product of marketing rhetoric and perhaps also the situational factors, such as an unusual physical environment. Other tourist products have rather more connection to ‘original adventure’ in terms of the definitional characteristics developed here. The final conclusion, however, is that only a lazy accommodation of the term ‘adventure’ would accept that this phenomenon is an experience that can be packaged and reliably offered to a customer in exchange for money. It is therefore proposed that the direct experience of the definitive, Dionysiac chaos at the heart of adventure is commodification-proof.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-194
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Sport and Tourism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


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