Adventure Conference in the City

Friday, 12th Oct, was an unusual morning for me. I was invited to speak at the inaugural Adventure Conference organised by the SMU Xtremists Club (Singapore Management University). I was not the only speaker. Dr. William Tan – a Neuroscientist and Medical Doctor, a Paralympian, a World Records’ Holder, and an International Inspirational Speaker – was also invited to speak. I was excited about the conference. Aside from having the opportunity to share with the young people about the goodness of adventure, I was more intrigued to hear from Dr. William Tan.

SMU Conference Booklet

The conference is titled as “Adventure’s Role in our Youth’s Education”.  This is a topic that is so close to the hearts of many educators, especially for those involved in Outdoor Education.  Adventure is every where, anyone who seeks adventure will likely to have great returns.

What is an adventure? An adventure is something that has a certain of uncertainty, a risky affair, and is probably a self-discovery process where one can be themselves again.

I was not there to convince the audience to take up climbing, or any particular adventure sports. My sharing placed emphasis on how adventure sports are important to the youth. In this high level of technological development and urban comfort, engaging in adventure sports will likely be one of the best ways to build self confidence and improve self-esteem, resilience, and more importantly, to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.

There are various adventure sports that one can engage in, such like mountain biking, diving, climbing, trekking, just to name a few. The key point is that one must enjoy the process of adventurism because most of the time it is enduring of hardship and pain. And through these elements, one will experience many great moments of self discovery, achieving hard goals, good team work – all that can be translated to all  aspects of one’s life.  It doesn’t really matter if you are young or old to engage in adventure sports. However, I strongly believe that adventure sports will greatly benefit our young ones given that most of them grew up in a very well controlled environment, and to the extend of an overly protected environment. Being young is an advantage, because as we grow older, we tend to have fear. Here, I will share a quote by Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (also known as 赛珍珠), (June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973), an American writer who spent most of her time in China:

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.”

The above quote is so aptly applicable to the Singapore Women’s Everest Team. The team was founded by four young ladies, then undergrads with NUS (National University of Singapore). Being young, they made big bold dreams. Had it not for their bold intention, I would not have had the chance to climb Mt Everest, not to mention the experiences that we went through together and the lessons learned that cannot be found in the classroom.

Dr William Tan, a World Records’ Holder, a Paralympian

For me, the highlight of the conference is the sharing made by Dr. William Tan. I also had the privilege to share the same stage with Dr. William Tan, engaging in a dialogue session with the participants. I have read so much about his achievement, and his charity work; to meet him in person and sharing the same topic just made me feel so honored.

Many may not be new to Dr. William Tan’s achievement, but I would still like to make a mention here, I will keep it sweet and short. Dr. Tan set out to attempt seven marathons in seven continents in 2005, after convincing the Antarctic Marathon organiser to accept his participation. Dr. Tan completed his 6 marathons in 6 continents, but faced with a serious technical problem with his wheel chair when he was on Antarctica. He had to abort his attempt. He returned to face the challenge in March 2007.  After completed the 6 marathons, he was forced to abort his attempt, once again, on Antarctica due to poor weather condition. In his own words he said, ” I was disappointed, but no defeated”. The same year, he made the bold attempt again. He then set off to complete the 7 marathons in 7 continents in Dec 2007, completing the feat in 27 days, creating a world record.

It is already hard enough for common folks like us to want to do a running marathon, and here we have a man who was paralyzed from the waist down due to polio at aged two using his hands to wheel 300 kilometers on harsh terrain. Overcoming the adversities, Dr. Tan shared that he sees opportunities not obstacles, and focus on solutions not on problems.  He emphasized to the attentive audience to turn setbacks to a strong comeback, learn from the setbacks and not to let the same mistakes repeat. His words certainly sink into us, for he has preserved and worked his way to become a medical doctor and a neuroscientist he is today, helping to heal lives in his profession.

The dialogue session went on fruitfully, I was totally absorbed into the conversations with the audience. I was absorbed just so because I was speaking from my heart, and speaking about a topic that I am so close to.

I am glad that SMU got me involved in their first Adventure Conference which in return, I gained much by sharing my experiences. Here is a note from the management for the positive responses received by the students:

Dear Dr Tan and Joanne,

I would like to add my thanks for your open, witty, moving, visually captivating and inspirational sharing. It could only take 2 special people who have lived through all that you have to have been able to touch the hearts and minds of the audience.

So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Warmest regards,

Ms Bernadette TOH
Office of Student Life
Singapore Management University


Hi Dr Tan and Joanne,

Just want to drop a note to say a BIG Thank You both for your presence and contributions at the Adventure Conference last Friday.

We have had numerous students coming up to us to say what an inspiration both of you have been to them. We felt that it was timely for both of you to share your experiences and this has definitely created the much awareness we wanted for our students.

With renewed excitement, they have told us they would like to continue to have the Adventure Conference next year as they are quite fired up now.

Again, thank you for your much needed inspirational talk in helping to create more awareness for our Adventure programs.

Thank you.

Alan KOH Swee Wan
Senior Associate Director, Sports & Adventure
Office of Student Life
Singapore Management University


As Helen Keller once said. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

When is your next adventure?

With Dr. William Tan at the SMU Adventure Conference 2012


Joanne Soo
October, 15 2012

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