The Small Things

Like any long journey is made up of many individual miles and days, the planning of an adventure is simply the accumulation of multiple tiny tasks.

Mobile office and charging system off the coast of West Sweden

Mobile office and charging system off the coast of West Sweden

I’m in the process of bringing together an adventure between July and September this year. It's largely offshore along a large coastline and although I'll be travelling on an innovative form of waterbike the planning process would be the same for a kayak, SUP or any other type of small boat expedition.

And much of the process would be applicable to any adventure, on water or not. Your adventure is a picture, and now it's time to create the pixels.

This might be helpful if you're already planning or wondering whether a big adventure is the thing for you. Take it bit by bit, and everything is achievable.

 

My Process, in no particular order

I know what I want from a journey and these ideals lead to my first tasks. 

1. Find out the full distance (minimum 1000 miles)

2. I like a moderate to difficult physical challenge, meaning a minimum of 6 or 7 hours on the move. At the same time, I take no enjoyment in going so hard every day that I don’t have time to embrace the environment or my brief place in it. I start by deciding on my form of transport and then multiplying a realistic average pace by the hours I think I can spend on the move each day. This gives me a rough mileage per day (RMPD). Take the full journey distance and divide it by the RMPD and we get a day count, to which I add a rest day for every seven days accounting for healing, unforeseen delays and other engagements. And thus, I know know how long I need for the journey.

3. I like a good spreadsheet and will create a simple guide to the journey, breaking down columns into Days, Daily Destination, Distance, Commitments and then, to be filled in during the trip, Sleeping Spot, Details for people I meet, Highest and Lowest points of the day, and other notes. On this spreadsheet I'll add milestones — these are often locations where I can resupply — at appropriate points. For example, if my average kayaking day is 30 miles and there's a good sized town on the river 210 miles downstream, I'll add that town to the spreadsheet as my destination for Day 7 (or Day 8 if a great rest day option appears in the first week).

Pinning the map...

Pinning the map...

4. Before the journey I spend a little time on Google Maps, creating my own map and adding pins throughout. There will be layers for towns/ villages along the way for food/ drink resupply, another for camping spots, another for features/ activites I know I'm likely to film and photograph, and another for people along the way.

5. Building on the last line of 4., I like my journeys to be split between solo and social. Especially if my trip has a really good narrative and therefore might be media and/or community friendly, I'll research relevant communities, businesses and individuals along the way. Some of these might come on the recommendation of others who have travelled my prospective route, many will be the result of an Internet search. For example, if I'm travelling on water it's likely that watersports, kayaking, paddleboarding or sailing clubs will take a interest in the endeavour. Perhaps this will result in a Forrest Gump-style day on the water, accommodation, local media coverage, food, a fundraising party or BBQ. All a chance to meet you people, find out an often cloudy version of what you should expect over your next miles, and a lovely opportunity to encourage a crowd to say yes more! An Adventure Telegraph is a beautiful thing — if people buy into your adventure they will actively call ahead to friends, media, strangers and clubs with the immortal words "There's a crazy redhead making his way towards you on an X, look out for him!" What's for sure, if you don't contact anyone before the trip, the first they'll know about you is when you happen to drift by.

On approach to Memphis with a crowd from the Wolf River Conservancy and Bluff City Canoe Club

On approach to Memphis with a crowd from the Wolf River Conservancy and Bluff City Canoe Club

6. Make a website/page. Even before putting it live, I build up a vision of my journey by creating a webpage. If I want to share a tracking map I'll make a route section. Photos? Let's add a gallery! And so forth. This process helps me nail down an elevator pitch and get excited about the time when I'll be able to do this trip rather than just write about it. Once you've got a decent online brochure outlining what you're up to, it's much easier to pin down people you write to — they'll be able to look at your site in their own time and find out what you're about.

7. Money. I make a list of all factors and items necessary for a trip, each with an associated cost next to them. Mode of transport. Flights to start/ from finish. Camping and expedition gear. Food. SIM card/ mobile router. Insurance. Support team costs. Those are the basics. Different people need different things. The next phase is to see whether I already have some of the kit listed. Whether I can get some of it sponsored to lower the budget further (in the understanding that when you get something for free, at the very least it's going to cost you time — sponsorship isn't ever free stuff). And then I've got a budget.

8. Sponsorship. If indeed I am sponsored some gear or other part of the trip, I want to make sure that I honour that kindness. Again in a spreadsheet I'll list my sponsors, what I've been given and what I've promised them in return. Then I'll add tasks to complete throughout the Expedition Spreadsheet which I wrote about above in 3), ensuring that I cover all bases. Follow the plan and by the end of the journey I will have satisfied by commitments to sponsors. Simple.

 

Legwork leads to legwork

Besides the natural lag that occurs if you're relying on others to agree on a detail or reply to an email, if you get to it and follow the list a huge adventure could be planned in less than three days. As it is, this removes all anticipation and can introduce nerves, so spread it out over a couple of months and get disciplined. 

One or two tasks a day and before you know it you're packing your bags, heading to the airport, landing, loading up your kayak/ bike/ sup/ pogo stick, and off you go. 

And of course, there will always be things you forget to tick off the list. It's almost always because they're not necessary, and you'll get round to them once you start.

Enjoy the small pile of little bits and enjoy them well, and you'll start your enormous journey with confidence, knowing that you've already done the hard stuff.

Now, all you have to do, is move. Good luck!


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