Unless you have a really big adventure in your sights, it is important to manage how much time and focus you put into the planning stage. Over planning can be a really bad thing. Not only will it delay you in actually getting out there, it can also take away the beauty of spontaneity that often makes a trip. Having said that, it is important to be sensible and prepared for what you are getting yourself into. You want to be safe. So look for a happy medium. These are the steps I follow when I plan an adventure.
#1 Do your research
The internet is your best friend when it comes to planning an adventure. There is so much information online with useful resources and guides to save you the effort of working everything out yourself. Find adventurers who have done a similar trip to you and read their journals to pick up tips. See what they were wearing and what equipment they took.
Buy books and guides on you destination. Get reading and make a note of anything useful that you come across.
I always have a nosy on the Explorer Connects team mate page to see if there is anyone doing a similar trip. Maybe you can join forces and share ideas.
Finding a guide or contact in the country you are heading to usually provides invaluable information.
If I get really stuck and can’t find the information I need…I ask. Either on an adventure group (like on Love Her Wild or the Yes Tribe) or by sending an email to an adventurer. People are happy to help.
This is the stage that I cement my idea. Decide on a route. How long it will take and what I need. Usually by the end of my research, my expedition looks different to how it did at the start. It’s important to be flexible and to think outside the box to make your dream a reality.
Here are some useful resources to get you started:
RGS have a database of expedition reports
Find a similar adventure to yours on 100+ adventure ideas
The Next Challenge has a wealth of resources on various types of adventures
#2 Get the equipment
I like to put together a list of equipment I am going to need early on, as it helps with budgeting and logistics. Do a rough packing list (you can tweak it later). Note down all the stuff you already have and the stuff you will need to borrow or buy.
One option at this stage is to consider approaching companies for sponsorship in kind. Check out my guide on getting sponsorship for your adventure, if you want to pursue this.
#3 Work out a budget
Next comes the budget. Create an excel spreadsheet and record all the different elements and costs involved in your adventure. Include gear, transport, accommodation, training and insurance. This should give you the total cost.
I then decide how I am going to pay for the adventure. Can I get the costs reduced? Will I pursue scholarships and funding? Am I going to save and pay for it myself?
Once I know this, it should give me an indication of how long I need to get the money together. This, along with the research I did to determine the best time to attempt my challenge, should give me the date of my adventure. Put it in the diary. In big ink letters! Book the time off work if needed.
You might want to check out: how to fund your adventure
#4 Get your head around logistics
The logistics stage is probably the most fiddly. Depending on the size of your adventure, you might have lots of different elements to plan. Each adventure will have a different list of things that need to be organised. The 4 main areas to consider are:
How are you going to get to your destination and around. If you need to book a flight, I usually use SkyScanner or Kayak to find the best deals (Kayak offer a flexibility option which can help reduce costs). You might also need to do some research on in-country transportation options. A big consideration is the equipment you have with you. If you are carrying a bike for example, you will need to book this in advance with the airline and organise a box or a way to package it before and after the adventure.
If you are taking a tent and planning to wild camp – easy! I used to plan roughly where I would wild camp each night but, now I am over the nerves of sleeping anywhere, I like to play it by ear. If you are in need of accommodation and want to keep costs down, use Airbnb (click here for £25 off your first booking) or Couch Surfing. Otherwise I use Booking.com, who usually offer the best deals.
The Visa Machine website is great to use to work out if you will need a visa. These can sometimes be long and complicated to get, so put your application in early if it is needed.
If you already have insurance, check if your activity is covered. If not, you will need to hunt down an adventure insurance company. Whatever you do, don’t leave the country without good insurance. I found this out the hard way!
#5 Set up a website
Blogging is a great tool to engage people in your adventure. It is also a big commitment though. Social media is another great medium for sharing. There are lots of people who have grown a big following using one platform alone, like Instagram.
For a basic blog, you can use a free site like Blogger. It is easy to set up and use. Invite all your friends and family to follow you and start blogging early on. You can write about the adventure you plan to do and a bit about the preparations.
Send an email to your local press as well. They might want to do a write up on you and your adventure. Great exposure, especially if you are using it to raise money for charity.
#6 Start training
I’m terrible at training for an expedition. I always have the intentions in place but usually life gets in the way. I still managed to get myself around the London Loop on a kick scooter and hiked 1000km across Israel, even though I was out of shape.
Ideally though, you will be a bit better prepared. For some challenges, you simply can’t do them without training before hand. I like to head to the library to pick up a few exercise and nutrition books and I steal the plans that I find there. When I trained for the marathon, I put a schedule (photocopied from a book) up on the wall and ticked off each training session which worked really well.
#7 Try hard not to get stressed
Organising and getting to grips with an adventure can feel a little overwhelming. I have never done a trip where I haven’t had a moment before departure when I felt like I was underprepared, I didn’t have enough time and I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Having a meltdown is all part of the process. Everything worked out fine in the end, even if I wasn’t properly ready.
Adventures are meant to be scary, that’s what makes them great. Embrace the fear and don’t get stressed!