As I make plans for 2018, I'm really thinking about what matters the most, and, to help measure the significance of what I'm pondering, I'm asking myself if it will still mean a lot to me in 10 years time when I imagine my life will be very different.
Big expeditions involve many people and need a lot of researching, planning, training, financing, sponsorship and time away before you even start enduring the isolation, cold, pain, fatigue and challenges that inevitably arise on every expedition. Few around me understand why I put myself through it until I'm safely back home with stories to tell.
So much goes into expedition planning. The process is a roller coaster of big highs of excitement and deep lows when coming up against obstacles, often leaving me wondering if it will ever happen. It's always a relief just to start and be in a place whereby emails can't reach me and the only problems I have to deal with are the ones right in front of me.
So where do I start planning for an expedition?
I start looking at maps of areas I’m attracted to. I then read up on the geography, culture and history of the area and try to find out about what life is like there. From my reading I’ll often be lead down a few fun investigative routes for potential ideas or stories I want to learn more about. I’ll then reach out to people who know the area for advice and search for companies/people who may be able to help out with the logistics of transport, food drops and kit. Once I have a firm idea, I’ll then write a risk assessment and make sure that I have the adequate training, skills and rescue back up to minimise any risk and ensure that my insurance is valid (v v important). Only then I’ll start looking for sponsorship, and not before I’ve answered these 4 essential questions so I can be sure that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it for the right reasons:
What is it about this idea that gets me excited?
The physical challenge? The area? The achievement? What I’ll learn? The people I hope to meet?
What are my motives behind doing this?
I always ask myself this to ensure that I’m doing it for my reasons, not to please a sponsor, not for bragging rights, and not because its easy to organise or just because I have time to fill.
Is it worth it?
I’ll weigh up everything I’ll be putting into the expedition verses what I hope to get out of it. Which way does the balance tip?
What am I giving back?
I don’t want to just go on a jolly. Can I raise awareness of an issue? Volunteer? Tell a historical story? Champion a cause or exceptional people?
In short, the whole process generally goes something like this:
Have a crazy, overly ambitious idea to execute a long, physically challenging, at times painful and sleep deprived journey
Get stupidly excited
Make multiple lists
Obsessively research day and night
Spend hours staring at lap top screen
Big low, drinks lots of tea
Scale down expedition
Stare at lap top some more
Come up with semi sensible, realistic plan
Reach out to experts and people knowledgable in the area.
Get stupidly excited again
Close lap top and go to the pub bummed as expedition clashes with other trip ideas