A lot of people tell me they would do an adventure if they had the money. But of all the adventures I have done, money has not been an issue. The biggest challenge is actually making it happen, taking that first step, committing (for more on this, have a read of why I do adventures and you don’t). There are so many adventure funding options available that money should never be the thing to hold you back.
There are some exceptions when funding does become an issue: big mountains, the south and north pole, crossing oceans and space. These require backing, big corporate sponsors and huge amounts of planning. They are in a different league. I’m focusing on the 95% of adventures though. The ones that are so accessible you really don’t have any reason not to start planning one right now. If you still aren’t convinced about the money side of things, here’s a guide on how to fund your adventure.
Adventure funding: get a plan
All adventures start with an idea. If inspiration is lacking, check out this list of 100+ adventures ideas to get you in the mood. Once you have your idea, you need a budget. Work out how long the adventure will take, add some contingency days if needed, then estimate how much things will cost, day by day.
The main categories are:
Add them all up and you should have your initial budget.
Start by lowering your costs
Before you start looking for money, the easiest thing you can do is reduce the cost of the adventure in the first place. As someone who now travels full time, I can tell you that the great thing about adventures is you can do them very cheaply. When I hiked 1000km for 2 months across Israel, it cost me just $600.
Adventures usually require stripping down to basics, something that actually enhances the experience. Before starting to work out where you can get money for your adventure, take some time to look at each of the expenses. Think about how you might be able to reduce them.
Transport – Could you ask a lift from a friend instead? could you hitchhike? If you are going abroad, is there a cheaper flight option available?
Accommodation – Could you wild camp? Are there free bothies you can stay in? If you don’t want to camp, could couch surfing be an option?
Food – Instead of eating out, could you buy your own breakfast and lunch to eat on the go? Could you take a stove to cook your own dinners?
Equipment – Do you really need everything on your list? Is there an alternative you can use that you already have? Could you borrow these items from a friend or maybe from a local group (i.e, need a helmet – maybe ask a local rock climbing club)?
Get in-kind sponsorship
Now you should have a list of the absolute essential costs that you need to make your adventure happen. If I can’t afford to do the adventure myself financially, one place I look is to companies for help. Getting people to give you money is a difficult task, but in-kind sponsorship (where a company will provide a service or equipment free of charge) is a lot easier to secure.
In-kind sponsorship works best if there is an exchange. For example, if you are planning to keep a blog, you might be able to provide exposure for a company. If you can take good pictures, you could give images using equipment ‘in action’. Or, if you are raising money for charity, you can just ask them to do a good deed.
Asking for sponsorship in kind is not just limited to equipment: If you need transport, you could contact a taxi company; If you need food, you could ask a supermarket or pub if they will feed you. Or, if you need accommodation; perhaps a hostel will put you up for free for the night.
You can read my complete guide: How to get sponsorship for your adventure.
Still need money?
If you’ve reduced the cost of your adventure to bare minimum and tried your best to get services and products sponsored, then you should be left with a final amount that you need to make your adventure happen. At this stage, it comes down to money. Financial sponsorship is a competitive and difficult field to get into, unusually best pursued if your adventure is very big. For example, it is breaking a record or involving an impressive feat.
If you are looking to do a big expedition that you think is worth corporate sponsorship, I can recommend reading the RGS Expedition Handbook.
Assuming this is not the case though, you have 3 options left….
Funding option #1: Bursaries and scholarships
There are numerous bursaries and scholarships available to help fund peoples adventures. Most of these are open to anybody, although they do usually have certain requirements. The award might be aimed towards people from a certain place or they are looking for a certain type of challenge. You don’t have to be a seasoned adventurer to win a bursary and, in fact, being a newbie will often work in your favour.
When applying for a bursary, follow these steps:
Do your research: Search online (use the resources below) and collect a list of all the bursaries and scholarships that you can find available for adventures.
Read the criteria carefully: Take some time carefully reading the criteria of each scholarship and bursary. Make a note of all the ones that you meet. If you are happy to do so, you might want to consider adapting your adventure slightly to meet the criteria if this is easily done.
Check the application deadline: Most bursaries have a deadline, some which may not meet your timeframe. The first thing I do is to make a list of all the suitable bursaries I am applying for in order of the deadlines so I know when I need to apply for them and in which order.
Be honest and original in your application: Fill out the application carefully. Be honest about your plans but also be original with your writing, you are competing with hundreds maybe thousands of others so you want your adventure to stand out. Ask only as much as you need. Only submit the form once you have re-read the application to check it is in order.
Don’t hesitate to reapply: Bursaries and scholarships will usually be in touch to tell you if you are or aren’t successful. If you don’t hear back, you can assume that you weren’t. In most cases, it is fine to reapply so, if it is still relevant, don’t hesitate to try again next year. You might need to try a different angle on your application though to get it noticed.
Here are some bursary and scholarship resources to get you started….
• As a very proud winner of Tim Moss’s, The Next Challenge Grant (for my Scoot the Loop adventure), I can fully recommend checking it out. This award is designed for simple innovate adventures that anyone can do. There are also some great resources on Tim’s website.
• BMC have a list of mountaineering grants.
This is not an exhaustive list so doing your own research online might find new bursaries which are not noted here. If you have been connected to a university or large organisation, it is also a great place to start. Drop them an email to ask if they have any adventure funding opportunities available for alumni. These sorts of grants will be considerably less competitive giving you the best possible chance of winning one.
Funding option #2: Pay for it yourself
There is a down side to relying on grants and bursaries for funding your adventure. They are time consuming, often have strict deadlines and are competitive. There are also usually expectations involved, just as there are with sponsorship. You might be required to write articles or provide photos. There’s also a new level of pressure attached when it comes to completing or sticking to your original plan if someone else is helping fund it. Which leads me on to the second adventure funding option, pay for it yourself.
Put away a bit each month or sell some stuff that you no longer want. Monthly savings could earn you the funds you need for your adventure in a matter of months.
Alternatively, you could get a second part-time job. Think about the most effective way to use your time. Filling out applications or contacting companies can be seriously time consuming. As is writing articles and editing photos. Hour by hour, getting a part time job could actually prove more profitable. It is also a guaranteed way to fund your challenge.
There are lots of great adventures that are self funded. The freedom that comes with it might actually make it the most desirable option.
Funding option #3: There’s still a way
If you have tried all the above avenues and you still can’t make it happen, there is one other choice. Head out on your adventure with nothing in your pocket. Make being broke part of the adventure itself!
Still not convinced?
….George Mahood walked the full length of Britain, starting with just a pair of boxers and nothing else. I can recommend reading his very amusing book.
….Tom Allen took on the same challenge but with a bike and no money in his pocket. He even built his bike on a tiny budget beforehand
….Students Tom Langhorne and Cameron Hyde once hitchhiked a 650 mile journey without spending a penny
…Tim Moss climbed the equivalent of Everest using nothing but his work stairs and his free time
…Laura Bingham crossed South America without a budget
….Alastair Humphreys spent a month in Spain using only his terrible violin playing skills to cover food and accommodation costs
…Lily and Sarah visited all the states in America without spending a penny. They relied on hitchhiking and peoples generosity
For a few other clever ways to fund your adventure, see: 6 ways to have a free adventure
Got any questions or tips about adventure funding options? Let me know in the comment box below.