I’m not so keen on the inspirational quotes, though - the soundbites that once might have meant something, but now spend all their time plastered across over-exposed, over-filtered photographs of lakes or mountains or dirt roads or railway lines, or those twee pastel photos of young, long-haired, white women wearing oversized woollen jumpers and cradling enamel cups of steaming coffee while gazing into the middle distance. Those inspirational quotes never seem to mention getting lost in thick cloud at the top of a cliff when your GPS battery dies and you haven’t bothered to bring a paper map; or your car breaking down in the outback when you haven’t told anyone where you’re going, there’s no phone signal and you’re running out of water; or zipping open your tent to find a beast going through the food you failed to pack away properly, and wondering in that split second whether this particular creature prefers chocolate bars and peanut butter or human flesh. I rather think the best adventures do not include being dead.
(Here’s a fun flowchart: Did You Have A Good Adventure? Though I think my idea of "hard" might be quite a lot gentler than other people’s! Also, here's an amusing "lessons learnt" blog post about cycling in a Californian winter.)
I suppose it's about balancing the two extremes: learning to plan with an appropriate degree of rigor for different travels and adventures - and to suit my capabilities. Last summer, I headed out for long daywalks without a map, food, or raincoat (my plans involved checking the forecast and walking in East Sussex, where a pub is never too far away). Likewise, wild camping at least once a month last year made packing for microadventures almost second nature - it felt more like slinging bread and tea in the sack a la John Muir than an exercise in major event coordination. Moving up a notch, planning a five day walk this summer, I’ve mapped out a general route and booked accommodation along the way - soon I’ll have a look at places where we can buy lunch, and I’ll stock up on chocolate bars. And last summer, when we were heading off on our walk across Wales, I spent longer thinking about kit, looking at maps and making sure I knew where we were headed: we’d been stuck up a Welsh hill in less than ideal circumstances before - not something I wanted to repeat.
But then, next year, we’re going on an adventure more stereotypically adventurous than anything I’ve ever done before - more remote, more challenging, more, “I don’t even know if this is possible.” And in response, I am reverting to type: plan, plan, plan!
Writing about planning
Why? Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m afraid.
My big worry is that I’ll look like a fool if the plan doesn’t come to fruition. How will I feel in a few months or a year if I have to come back and admit to the people who read this that we’re not going on that big, remote, challenging adventure at all? I’ll feel like a failure, that’s what.
(A lesser fear - one that’s more likely to happen, but easier to put aside - is that I’ll get a lacklustre response. Nobody will be enthused. Nobody will be encouraging. Nobody will comment. Nobody will give it a star or a thumbs up or a heart or a smiley face. I have to remind myself, that’s OK - I’m doing it for me, not for the lurking internet hordes, and naturally it's going to be more exciting to me than to anyone else. Besides, I've talked about this plan with people outside of the internets and they seem to think it's interesting!)
. . . all-too-often we only get to hear about adventure plans when they are unveiled / announced / launched / released, and above all . . . final. The reasons for that are valid - you don’t want to look like a prize banana after all - shooting your mouth off and then not doing what you said you would. But it always seems a shame that the journey to the start line of an adventure should appear so effortless.
An adventure down the Snowy River
And next year, we’re going to try and follow the Snowy the whole way from source to sea, walking, paddling, wading, scrambling, swimming . . . however we can.
Luckily, I love planning.