Travelling solo or looking for a riding partner? Wondering whether you need a support team or not? Even if you're embarking on a solo self propelled challenge other people are always going to be central to your project. Here are some lessons I've learned about engaging other people in my own adventures.
If you have a good thing going, there will be people out there who will be willing to get onboard to help out. Whether you’re trying to collaborate with press, sponsors, fundraisers or volunteers it’s essential to first understand what it is you’re trying to achieve.
Then, with your aims and objectives intact, you must assess your skills and abilities to determine what holes are left for other people to fill in your project.
Solo or not?
I regularly see shout-outs on Facebook where people are inviting someone - anyone - to join them on a big adventure. Whether the reason is to avoid travelling alone or to simply find someone to share the experience with, choosing a partner (or not) for a big adventure is the most crucial decision you'll make before, during or after a trip.
It's hard enough to get on well with a good friend/loved one once plunged into the fatigue-ridden, intense environment of an ever-moving trip, so the chances are that finding a random stranger through social media won't end well.
Surviving a journey is one thing, but surviving a friendship is a whole other matter. A fall-out between friends (or strangers) can turn the trip of a lifetime into a nightmare and frankly, you don't need the stress.
If you love the idea of heading off on a big trip but wonder whether you're going to be lonely, just remember that solo travellers meet more people along the way.
So what makes for a perfect riding partner?
1) Humour: an adventure will show you bare more often than not, and if you're not able to joke around with your running mate then you'll not want to be with them at all.
2) Motivation: the best teams share the ultimate goal and are geared up to push each other towards the finish line. Although everyone comes into a venue with their own agenda the importance of agreeing on priorities should not be underestimated.
3) The ability to say sorry: in the hardest moments everything can become a niggle. At the same time humans make mistakes, especially when they're tired. Saying sorry is a wonderful diffuser - even if you think you're in the right. It's better to stay on good terms than to win a nonsensical argument.
Do you need a support team?
I've had teams on a couple of my adventures and there have been great moments and downright awful ones. It never ceases to amaze me how the most wonderful, friendly, funny people can totally lose their shit when thrust into a new environment.
It's rare to find someone of the utmost quality for a team without being able to pay them. And if you're operating on a shoe string chances are your team will be made up of young, inexperiences members. Perhaps full of enthusiasm, but not the most efficient troop.
The saddest moments of my adventures have involved falling out with team members. If you're the one on the road and they're travelling in a different way then there's already a gap of understanding between you, and from the support's side it's not easy to spend your life helping someone else in the limelight.
I have a simple set of rules that I ask of my support crew. Smile, pull your weight, and look after your role.
Just like finding a riding partner, each member of a support crew will have their own motivation for being involved. Experience, love, being involved in a story. It doesn't really matter as long as everyone works towards a common goal with humour and empathy.
And finally, each member of the team must have ownership over a role that is NECESSARY for the expedition and one person (not you) should be Chief of Staff, charged with managing the team. Trust me, when you've been on the road for hours and you're not at your best, managing a team (especially the worst bits) is the last thing you need or want to be doing.
Honestly, there is very rarely a need to have a support team. You might want one for peace of mind, or feel that having gear carried/ food made/ camp set up will ensure you fit your adventure into an existing time restriction or make a long remote road possible. Perhaps added minds and bodies will help a fundraising effort or just boost morale.
But assess this choice seriously. Support teams multiply the costs of an expedition AND the chances of human stresses. They also remove a great deal of freedom from an adventure - and if freedom and escape is one of your driving forces, why limit yourself?
I'm assuming you're planning an adventure because the process, undertaking and outcome mean something to you.
Ultimately, if anyone is involved they need to add value to the project, and certainly more than they can take away.
Even if you decide to go solo without a partner or a team, there's a very good chance you'll need people to say yes at some point. Gear from a sponsor can lower the cost of your venture and, if you play the game correctly, working with sponsors can increase your profile, too.
The unexpected and temporary
If you're spreading a message, raising funds for a charity or just want a bigger audience online, those people you meet along the way are a huge asset. I dig this element as much as other aspects of my adventures, meeting and engaging with strangers, getting to know them and, if I'm lucky, receiving some kind of support.
If anything, the kindness of strangers refreshes ones faith in humanity. And if you're doing your job right they'll become part of your ever-growing team.
Team Base Camp
Often, a support team at base camp back home can provide all the support you'll need. Someone to email the media or potential accommodations down the road, look after your social media accounts or help muster support and sponsorship before a trip.
Cheerleaders who send you the right messages at just the right time. Friends who care enough to keep an eye on your progress, moods and content are priceless because they care from a distance. A simple text can raise the spirits, just as much as a mug of steaming tea.
There's nothing like having a band banging your drum. Find your orchestra
Whether it's just you and a friend, a team at home, a support crew on the road with you or even if you've decided to go solo, a practice trip - even if it's just over a short weekend - can make a huge difference.
A practice trip is an opportunity to iron out the creases, help you understand what needs to go in the bags and also a chance to bring to light unforeseen issues.
If you're trialling with a new support team this is where you see how people react as part of a team. Make it hard, put them through their paces. Best to find out their weaknesses beforehand than once you're far, far away with no turning back.
Finding the best crew
If you know you want a team on your side and want to attract the best people, passion, potential and purpose are three key factors that will make your project attractive to others.
Anyone signing up will need something tangible out of their involvement. Sometimes satisfaction, opportunity and experience will cut it, but the more you can offer the more likely you are to find strong team members. You get out what you put in, and that works both ways, for you and them.
Stand in their shoes, help them stand in yours.
Outline the skill sets and qualities you’re looking for and then advertise on social media, tell your friends and colleagues, and most importantly ASK around for recommendations. Before selection, spend as much time together as you can.
And as hard as it seems sometimes, get excited. Passion makes the world go round and it motivates better than anything else. Everyone needs some geeing up whatever the situation. If you're solo, find people who give you energy. If you're running a team, believe in them just as much as you need them to believe in you.
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