We have all read of the legendary adventures of men such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his trips across the frozen wastes of both the Arctic and Antarctic, John Goddard who navigated both the Nile and the Congo Rivers, and Rolf Potts who undertook a minimalist trek through twelve countries on five continents with no luggage and only a few toiletries and underwear tucked into his pockets. These trips may be a great deal further than you want to go, but there’s no reason why you cannot plan and execute your own legendary adventure.
You don’t have to be a tri-athlete or a mountain man to plan and undertake an adventurous journey; you just need to adhere to a few basic principles.
Choose somewhere to go
Don’t feel constrained by what you think you capable of doing. Break out of your comfort zone and choose a destination; that’s the start of your adventure. Be brave, leave the tarmac behind, and look for a place that you have always wanted to visit, and somewhere away from the crowds. You want to feel you’re exploring your chosen destination, and that will be hard to do if around every corner you run into an RV and a smartphone-toting yuppie.
One place to start would be to look at popular hiking trails in your area. Is there an alternative to the mail trail? Nowadays many popular trails have an alternate route that is slightly more complex but has almost no other hikers on it. This might be the place for your first adventure, and could allow you to test out some of your ideas.
If that’s not appealing, what about looking at one of the countries in the world that has more wilderness than civilisation? Africa has many options; Botswana has the Okavango Delta as well as the Central Kalahari, both magnificent and remote; Angola has stunning sea and mountains but is also off the beaten track, while Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Rwanda are all beautiful countries with a lot more open country to explore. If Africa does not appeal, what about Greenland? A country of desolate but magnificent landscapes, thermal geysers, glaciers and beautiful coastlines just begging to be explored in a kayak. Then there’s Chile or perhaps Argentina – travel down to Tierra del Fuego where an adventure is just waiting to happen.
What to do when you get there?
The location will, to a greater or lesser degree, dictate what you will be doing. For example, should you choose an area such as Botswana, you will find no high mountains or fast flowing rivers so activities such as mountaineering or rafting on a river will be out as will any form of hiking as there are plenty of large cats that will enjoy you as a snack! But there are wonderful opportunities for camping and for exploring the waterways of the swamps on a mokoro (a canoe made from a hollowed-out tree), and camping on islands with some of Africa’s glorious wildlife for company.
Places such as Greenland, with high mountains, glaciers, and stunning fjords, lend themselves to rafting expeditions or kayaking, ice climbing or hiking.
Remember that your adventure need not necessarily be human powered. There are many opportunities to take an adventurous motorcycle trip or drive a 4X4 on an off-road adventure. Allow your imagination to take flight,
and if you have to learn to ride an adventure motorcycle, get out there and learn – you are never too old to take advantage of learning a new skill.
Don’t go in blind – do your research
No adventurer would set off blind, and you shouldn’t either. No-one would advocate that you set off into the wide blue yonder without knowing where you’re headed, when you should go or what challenges you may face. Good research can make the difference between a wonderful adventure and a nightmare from hell.
Time of Year
This may sound a little strange but summer in Africa can bring temperatures over 40˚C (105˚ F) every day with the temperature at night not dropping by much. If you cannot function in these temperatures, then go in winter when it will be considerably cooler. On the other hand, winter in Greenland is fraught with blizzards which will spoil your adventure very quickly, so read up on the country you intend to visit and work out when would be the best time to go. Also, work out when the peak tourist periods are likely to be and decide if you can live with the crowds or would rather go earlier or later and put up with variable weather.
Plan your destination and sort out your maps
Google Earth will become your best friend during this phase of your planning. It can give you an excellent idea of what is in the area that you can take advantage of, such as rivers for rafting, lakes for fishing, snow for skiing, or mountains to climb. You will also see what roads there are if you intend using an adventure motorcycle or perhaps a mountain bike. Look in some detail at the area you want to explore and then find maps of the area.
Never go on an adventure holiday without good quality printed maps of the area. GPS units and other electronic devices are great and will certainly help, but do not rely on them 100%, and always have a backup in the form of a printed map so that if your electronic gadgets fail, you still have a means of navigating out of the area. Of course, you need to know how to read the maps; there’s no point in having them if you have no idea how to use them!
Every country you visit has different requirements for visitors. Make sure you know if you will need a visa or medical inoculations and make sure you get them all in good time. Make sure you are aware of any requirements inside the country. For example, you cannot pay for entrance to a national park in Botswana at the entrance; it has to be paid for in advance. Check the entry requirements before you leave; nothing is worse than scrambling around in an unfamiliar country trying to resolve issues that you should have sorted out long before.
Travelling there and back
If you are going international, how will you get there and back? Again, turn to the internet and look at all the options for flights as you may well find that flying a roundabout route will get you there cheaper. You may even turn up some surprising stopovers that can add to your overall adventure.
Once there, how do you get to your destination? Will you hire a car or a motorcycle? If so, what are the driver’s license and insurance requirements? Have you found a hire company and what do they provide? If you are camping, can you take your equipment with you? What is the airline’s policy on luggage? Will you be able to get your camping gear within your baggage limit? If not, can you hire camping equipment at your destination?
Gear – the stuff that will keep you alive!
Take time to check each aspect of your trip as nothing can kill an experience faster than getting to your chosen destination only to find that you can’t carry out your plan because you neglected something. Take your time, think carefully and put the pieces together until the jigsaw is complete.
At the top of your list, you should have shelter, sleeping arrangements, food, and water. Make a list of what you want to take. Don’t start packing until you have it all together. Look at the pile and be realistic – can you manage it all? I pretty much guarantee that you will need to cut it down considerably, otherwise, you’ll need a small truck to move it all!
If you can foresee any problems, try to find a solution before you leave. For example, if you are packing an air mattress take along a repair kit: if you spring a leak you can fix it. The same applies to tire repair kits for punctures. A great deal of this will come with experience, but reading about other peoples’ adventures, in books or on the internet, may give you an idea of possible problems and some ideas for getting around them.
Adopt a calm outlook
You are not setting out on a pre-packaged holiday where a tour guide will resolve every issue for you. You are setting off into the back of beyond, and things are almost certain to go wrong. Understand that this is a matter of when not if and you are going to have to change your plans on the fly, think quickly and above all stay calm. Face each problem that arises and calmly set about finding a solution to it. You will amaze yourself at how resourceful you can be when there is no-one around and each problem solved adds to your store of knowledge and boosts your self-confidence.
Histrionics and yelling do nothing to solve problems and may even aggravate the situation beyond recovery. Cultural and language problems will arise, and you must remember that you are in someone else’s country and treat everyone you meet with respect and dignity. An attitude such as this will take you a long way, and you will find many people who are very happy to assist you.
Whatever destination you choose, using the tips given above will make it a magical adventure, take you far from the madding crowd and provide you with experiences to last a lifetime.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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