Q&A

How do you manage hygiene on a big adventure?

Question:

How do you manage your hygiene and your money while on a big adventure?
- Dominic Harrison-Poole

Answer:

As crucial as both of these are, I’ve already dealt with how to pay for adventures here, so below will focus (briefly) on the smelly bits.

There have been times when I’ve been so oblivious to my own stink the reality only hit home when I walked/rode/paddled into a populated region, then wondered why mothers were frogmarching their children swiftly in the other direction.

The human nose is very clever. When it’s had a bit of something it turns off most of the receptors. It’s nature’s way of helping us cope, I guess.

My attitude to hygiene is fairly simple. If I have an open wound I’ll keep it religiously clean until it heals up. Otherwise, I like being dirty as long as nobody else is effected. You’re more likely to need a wash when on land and the fumes, dirt and general detritus settles on you without so much as a second thought. Skin and body hair especially does an incredible job of harbouring bacteria, and in hotter and more humid climates just a couple of hours on the move take you way beyond need-a-shower level.

I do enjoy a little splash in a sink in a gas station or roadside McDonalds, hand soap does the trick pretty much anywhere, but I’m carefully to wipe up afterwards. I don’t think the cleaners there get paid enough to deal with my mess.

If I’m travelling on or beside water I’ll swim wash at least once a day, more often if it’s fresh water. I did a trip in the Atacama desert a few years ago and my mates and I showered once in 19 days. We were just walking lumps of red dust but it was okay, because we were in the middle of nowhere and barely saw anyone. We smelled so bad ourselves we didn’t notice each other’s whiff.

Most of my trips are more social than that, so I’ll try to stay moderately clean if the chance allows. But still, I’d say on an average trip I shower every four or five days. A little splash under the pits is always a good move if a tap or stream presents itself.

Dr Bronner’s All-In-One soap is a good thing to take on a trip if you have the room, they come in small containers and wash hands, body, hair and clothes. And of course, clothes smell just as much (if not more) than a dirty human, so I treat my clothes just as I would myself on a trip - at some point everything needs a bath.

And if in doubt, if you smell so bad you can’t have a good conversation with someone, you smell too much.

Let me leave you with two words. Wet Wipes.

How do you decide what to do next?

Question from Jon B: 

I'm a compulsive over thinker so trying to decide on something is a daily struggle, from ordering in a restaurant to choosing between the red pill and the blue pill (a Matrix reference if you have ever seen the film). Every action and social interaction will have 1000 different possibilities and I will think of most of them before I decide how to move forward.

So the big question, how do you decide what to do next?

Answer:

We have more information at our disposal today than any of our ancestors had to deal with in a lifetime, and the option of multiple angles, results and effects means it’s rare that we face a simple yes or no.

Personally, when faced with a hard decision I feel a knot in my stomach throughout the process, one which tightens with time. I’ve lived a weird adult life, often on the move and without consistency, and as a result I’ve had to make many varied, sometimes surprising decisions.

Ultimately, the more we do something the better we get at it, especially as we develop and understand our values and beliefs, upon which all decisions should be founded.

I trust my gut instinct implicitly, and favour excitement as an indicator that I’m headed in the right direction. I’ve always wanted to be excited about life, so I try to make every decision based on whether or not the potential journey and outcome makes me smile. I know that sounds a bit flappy, but it is what it is. I recommend giving it a go.

I’ve also created a few parameters for different parts of my life which instantly help me narrow down decisions. In adventure I usually travel at least 1000 miles without a motor, and then the variable factors usually come down to physical state and the time I have for a trip. Narrowing the field of your decisions is another step towards simplicity.

When it comes to money, I only spend when it feels like an investment. I don’t buy crap for me (or anyone else) that is useless. I really enjoy living cheaply and feeling like the money I spend develops me as a human.

We make decisions every day, consciously and unconsciously. We’re really good at it most of the time, when we don’t think about it. There are a hundred reasons why a decision might be difficult, and understanding these cons might help you along on your own path, so I’ve listed a few of those briefly below and then offered a couple of different tasks and processes which should help make your decision-making clearer and easier.


The bad news

Every decision requires a compromise and choosing one thing will mean you miss out on another, infinite amount of experiences. Thinking about life this way is suffocating, and luckily, most of the alternatives we’ll never have cared or thought about. So let’s focus on the important stuff that is pulling you left and right, and that’ll simplify the decision.


The good news

Almost always, you know the right answer already, even before the weighing up begins. It’s just hard to realise because of the noise, head vs heart, opinions and expectations and potential for regret.

Remember: Gut instinct bypasses temptation, greed, finances and expectation - learning to listen to your gut sometimes takes some bravery.


Do yourself a favour

Remember that whichever way you choose, it’s not the end of the world. If it doesn’t work out, something else will come along. If you choose not to take the job because it doesn’t feel right, another option will come along because you rightly made the space for it.

Simplify the process by understanding all the options and what they mean.
Make a list of your options, then alongside each one list the pros and cons. Then narrow your favourites down until you have only two possibilities. Then, discuss it with others to come to a final decision.

Who are you making this decision for?
If you make the decision for anyone else, you risk disappointing yourself and then not being the right version of you for the person you were trying to please.

Overthinking
Think too much and you’ll miss the important bits, you’ll stress yourself out and become ill. No decision should make you ill, ever. The only reason to take an eternity deciding on something is that you already know the exact outcomes of each choice. Ironically, if you already knew the outcomes, the decision would be easy.

However obvious it might be, you can’t predict the future. You only know how you feel now and trying to outthink your gut might mean you miss the obvious choice.

Treat the decision as a game
This isn’t life or death. If you were controlling a video game character who had the same choice to make, what would you go for?

Choose your counsel wisely
Don’t ask everyone their opinion, most people won’t be able to help and the more input you get the harder your decision will be. Avoid people who make it seem as though they want what's best for you, but assume they know what that is when even you don't. Their suggestions might be right, but if they ignore your thoughts and don’t account for your feelings and concerns, they’re likely to miss the mark.

Life is a lesson
Even if you’re a braniac you didn’t get everything right at school. And guess what, look at you now! Each choice we make teaches us a little more about how to act in the future. You’re not supposed to get everything right, so stop trying so hard. There’s ice cream to eat and friends to hug.

Do you have all the information you need?
You can’t decide anything on a hypothetical. Make sure you know what factors are at play before starting to decide. (This is especially key in a decision that involves other people - make sure you know what they think about it, rather than assuming or fearing the worst).

Is the decision worth your time?
Paralysis by analysis. A big, life-changing choice is worth good consideration, but spending a week deciding on the next movie you’re going to watch is silly (tip: if the decision making process is taking longer than the probable result, you’re over thinking this).

Remember that at some point, indecision becomes a decision to do nothing, which might be the worst decision of all.

Walk on it
Get outside, never make a big decision in a room. Give some space to your thoughts. Ask what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Can you choose both?
Perhaps there’s room to leave the door slightly ajar in case your first decision doesn’t work out.

Are you torn?
If you’ve been in decision mode for a long time, there’s a good chance that both options were as good as each other. That’s why it’s difficult, right? Both will have compromises. Which one will help out more in the short, medium and long term?


TOOLS AND TASKS

A handful of ides that might aid your process:

1) Understand the source of your fear: write down and answer - “What am I afraid of happening if I make the wrong decision?

2) What’s the worst case scenario for each choice? Write this down, and then think about what actually needs to happen for worst case scenario to be reached. You’ll see that it’s really unlikely and understanding that you’re in the right position now to avoid catastrophe can go some way to removing the doubt and nerves

3) Is your decision permanent? If it’s reversible, take comfort in this, it means the pressure is off!

4) Ask advice: You don’t have to do all this by yourself. Choose one or two people who might be impacted by your decision, or whose opinion you trust. Let them say their bit, even if they voice things you don’t agree with. Remember, you chose to share the problem with them. Give them a chance to help. (Speaking out loud can also help put thoughts and decision into perspective, so find a neutral observer who is a good listener!)

5) Stay calm. Ensure you have all the information you need to make a qualified decision. Consider your values and beliefs (ALL of your choices should be in line with these) and understand your priorities (family vs work, time on the road vs extra sleep, exercise vs commute, etc).

Operation: Decide

List all of your options, be thorough.

a) Write down pros and cons for each.

b) Think out of the box (are you considering all of your options, or just the obvious ones?)

c) Get rid of impractical options.

d) Go for a walk or meditate - stop your mind being so busy and give space to your thoughts.

e) Play devil’s advocate with each potential option.

f) Consider whether you feel guilty. Are you finding yourself saying the words “must” or should”? This can be a natural feeling when caught in a decision, but choices should not be made out of guilt, they’ll come back to bite you in the long run.

g) How are you going to feel about this decision in two years?

h) Trust your instinct.

i) Where’s the excitement? (If there isn’t any, over any of your choices, perhaps you’re looking in the wrong direction?)

j) Know your back-up plan. You'll better react to potential outcomes when you’ve considered them and your likely course of action in any given situation.

k) Look to the positives - assess the cons in your list and find ways to make them better. ie. if you had to take a job that might involve a really long commute, what could you do with that time? More work? Read a book? Meditate (not recommended if you’re driving). Could you stay closer to work for one or two nights a week to reduce your drive time?

l) If you go for it and it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. Just go in prepared to act whatever the outcome. Maybe the job is great and the commute isn’t that bad, but it’s impacting your relationship or health.


Once you’ve made your choice…

Carry it out as best as you can. Don’t worry, don’t second guess yourself. Just go for it and spend your energy on more important things. If doubt persists after a decision and it just doesn’t feel right, this isn’t a one-chance life. Be flexible and realise it’s ok to choose wrong. Go back through the process and do what feels right. Take responsibility, and ensure where possible that have someone to support you when you make your choice. You’re not in this alone. Good luck!


If you haven’t heard of the YesTribe, it’s a group on Facebook where people are willing to help each other. If you’re struggling with something or want to share a win or something that excites you, post away. The supportive response

How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs helping others?

Question from Emma T: 

I work in the charity sector and I love my job and what we are working towards. However sometimes there are not enough hours in the day.

I’ve started trying to make the most of the time outside of work with micro adventures and crafting projects. I do occasionally get paid to cycle around for part of the day so it has its benefits. The charity sector is full of passionate people who work over and above but this can sometimes take it toll.

How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs working/ helping others?

Answer:

Before diving in to explore work vs life balance, it’s important to understand where the question comes from for you personally. That there’s a question at all suggests something isn't working for you.

We all have to work, without it we don't get paid, can't afford rent, food and the lifestyle we choose. Deriving a sense of value from the work we do is a prerequisite that most of us consider, but how far that value takes us is a question of will. People who work in the charity sector have almost always chosen a lower wage in return for adding value to other people's lives.

Yes, there's a (good) selfish return from the feeling of helping others, but when that feeling of worth is outweighed by doubt the most obvious answer lies in a lack of balance.

There are lots of different ways to help others, and there are many charitable jobs that require people to sit in offices and never see the direct results of their contribution. At some point, for most, the appeal will wain.

Direct contact with other people and feeling the tangible impact of our work is something we all crave, Helping others can keep the fire going, but the fire is brighter when the contact is face to face rather than from afar. 

I'd always encourage folks considering a new career path to first assess ways to try and change their current role so they can be more satisfied, and at the same time make more of a positive impact from within an organisation.

When you're working in the charity sector and then start to feel like you're not enjoying yourself, there might be a great sense of guilt. After all, you're contributing to the wellbeing of others, and surely there are plenty of other people doing similar work who are satisfied with the honour of helping others? 

The simple answer to your conundrum is one you already know, that your work vs life balance isn't level.

There are many different ways to help others and your current role certainly isn't your only option. It's natural to want for a new challenge and whether it's within your current organisation or not, there's another more satisfying work option out there waiting for you. Remember, this isn't your fault - even if you enjoyed your job more in the past, we change, we need different things in time. It's not a phase, it's time. Look after yourself now, not then.

On the personal side, if you don't feel like you're doing enough for yourself, then sort that out, now! If you're not happy then it doesn't matter what your job title is, you're not going to be at your best when helping others.

You can make more difference smiling and chatting to every stranger you meet in a day than working in a refugee camp with a scowl. Our ability to help and give comes from within, and when you're forgoing self care in the pursuit of helping others, you're caught in a vicious circle between feeling and expectation.

An idea:

Find half an hour out of your day and split a page into two columns. On the left side, write THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT WORK AND LIFE and on the right side write THE THINGS I DON'T LIKE AND NEED TO CHANGE.

Then list as many bits about your work and life as you can think of. By the time you get to the bottom of your page, you'll have plenty of things to work on, and a pretty good idea of what your ideal life looks like. Go in pursuit of that, and your work/life balance will start to look after you a little more.


Do you have a question that I might be able to help with? In 2019 I’m answering one new question a day; about adventure, lifestyle, resilience, facing up to a challenge (or a naysayer) and so on.

Even if it’s a small one, why not ask? I’d like that. Thank you!