For my second column for Global Grapevine I thought I would talk a little more about the trip I’m planning and how I went about putting the details together.
Last November I hadn’t made my final decision to leave and go ahead with the adventure, but having just attended the explore weekend at the Royal Geographical Society my head was swimming with ideas and I was fairly sure that a major trip was something I wanted to undertake, so I started planning.
I decided to write a list of skills, places and key considerations to begin forming my plan but above everything else I wrote, in bold letters, “DON’T DIE!” This may sound flippant but it was anything but. One of the talks at the RGS was on expedition risk management and it really struck a note with me.
Something that frustrates me about working for a large company is just how restrictive it can be and I can’t wait for more freedom but that doesn’t mean I will be taking unnecessary risks. Obviously spending my life on the road on a bike is inherently more risky than sitting in an office, but this can be mitigated, in this case for example by wearing a helmet and having good lights.
A lot of people ask questions about the dangers I will be facing but if you follow advice and make sensible decisions these can be reduced greatly.
Planning a challenge you can manage
With this key message underpinning the entire planning process, I then allowed my imagination to start firing. Having heard talks from a variety of experienced adventurers and after reading reports of many expeditions, I started my list.
Things that I can already do, could learn to do and would like to do started filling up the page! I wanted a physical challenge. This was for certain. There was a void that needed to be filled having been unable to join the army and the emerging candidates became a bike or rafting/kayaking trip. For quite a while I had dreams of an unusual and ambitious biking and pack-rafting adventure around the world, or at least a large stretch of it, but eventually I decided to scale my ambitions back slightly and set off on my bike.
I would be camping for the vast majority of the trip and probably travelling in some remote locations, so I didn’t want to take on too many challenges in one go. There is time for me undertake something unique in the future (a big kayaking trip is going to happen!), but currently this is about learning the skills that I need. I have described myself as an apprentice adventurer and this is my apprenticeship.
To base the trip around an activity that I can do, albeit currently over much shorter distances, is a way of reigning myself in while I learn the survival skills I will need for future plans, without putting myself in an unnecessarily dangerous situation.
Why travel Australia?
Having decided on the activity, the key remaining choice was where I would be travelling. September 2014 fitted with work as the most sensible time to set off and I decided on an initial duration of a year. The trip can be extended or adapted beyond this but current plans should take me to September 2015 when I will hopefully begin seriously finding a way to make a career out of this lifestyle.
Departing in September dictated that a starting point in the Southern Hemisphere would be a sensible choice, to avoid the northern winter. It also fits with my desire to start a long way from home, making it impossible to turn back or put off leaving. I would book a flight and from there would have no option but to hit the road. Australia immediately stood out.
September is early spring in Australia so the climate would be warm but not scorching, the country is large enough to be a serious challenge before having to take another flight and the primary language is English, so again, I wouldn’t be adding unnecessary difficulty. Additionally, the prevailing winds are from west to east at this time of year in Australia so I decided to cycle from Perth to the East Coast, and Sydney or Brisbane.
Following the sun
To carry on the warm weather theme, I decided to spend the summer in New Zealand before heading north to Southern California as spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere.
Canada was the first country to make my list to form part of the expedition so from the south of the US it seemed obvious to me to head north to the border. I would follow the sun up the West Coast, taking in the Pacific Highway and some of the spectacular US National Parks on the way before arriving in Vancouver and British Colombia in early summer.
I could then enjoy the Canadian summer cycling the width of the country, again with the prevailing winds, before dropping back down in to the USA and the Boston and New York area. This plan fits my timescale, the weather shouldn’t present any additional dangers and it leaves me in a final location that will allow me to get to wherever I need to be for future plans. But who knows, I might even decide to carry on and just set off south again!
I hope this explains some of the reasoning behind my plans. With time I want to learn new skills, travel to more remote, non-English speaking countries and take on more extreme challenges, but for a first adventure I think it is very important to not be so ambitious that it becomes unsafe. It’s important to gain the experience and complete the apprenticeship first!