Notes on adventure
Are we are a company built around the experience and beauty of pure adventure, I thought I’d write up some notes on just what an adventure is, and all the information that you need to know about them. Expeditions are supposed to challenging, so this article is not intended to make things easy for you, rather, to hopefully encourage you to take bigger and bolder steps out of your comfort zone.
Opinions on Adventure/Expeditions
The word “adventure” gets thrown around like the word “love” these days… and I get why, we live in a world of one upmanship and the English language lacks enough adjectives to describe everything rightfully. So, use of hyperbole is common place. I actually saw a company a few days ago, which had the word adventure in the title, which was advertising different kinds of romantic dates for long term couples… They didn’t mean adventure in the dirty way you’re thinking, pervert, they were using the word to describe a blind folded cookie baking session. So you can see my dilemma. “Adventure” as a word means nothing these days, so you have to be cautious about who is toting it and just exactly what they are selling you.
Adventure, by definition, cannot be entirely planned. It must involve to some degree, a period of challenge or accomplishment and must be, in my opinion, truly note worthy (for you as an individual). For that reason, the Inca Trail, while incredible, is not really an adventure unless you do it in a way that meets the criteria below…
In general there are only three ways to have an adventure:
- You take on a guided feature of endurance and accomplishment (climbing a mountain, trekking to the poles)
- You dream up your own mad idea and venture off into the wilderness alone or with friends
- You join a notorious community based expedition race, attempting to get from point A to point B in the shortest time possible despite the ridiculous obstacles in front of you
There are also a wide variety of ways to make any expedition easier, and while these don’t detract from the sense of adventure, in my opinion, they do detract from the ‘purest’ form of adventure. A purest expedition, is one which is designed to truly test the human limits- trekking to the poles pulling all your own supplies for example. However, you can have just as much exposure, and get our of your comfort zone equally, and more safely through the addition of some support.
Support could include, driving instead of walking, using gps instead of a map. There is nothing wrong with either method, the key thing is to take on a big challenge that for you (or for humanity) is new and will push your limits.
The cost of any expedition can vary wildly, depending on how you go about arranging it. If you self plan and shoestring the whole thing, a method common in the uni-graduate community, you can travel pretty far and wide for a few grand. If, on the other hand, you’re taking on a more monumental challenge that requires guided support, niche transport and equipment, you could spend a considerable amount more. However, that’s why Echio exists, to give you the flexibility to chose the option that works best, and to reduce some of the costs of your expedition by doing some or all of the leg work yourself.
In addition to self funding your expedition, you can also raise financial support from businesses and peers. There are a wide range of expedition grants available to support you, depending on the type of adventure you’re taking on. It’s unlikely you’ll find a company will to pay for you to take a jolly 7 day trek somewhere, but for the bigger, more bolshy challenges there are a wide range available. You’ll also have more options if you’re under 25 years old.
Communications and emergencies
When you decide to take on an expedition, or adventure into a world that’s unknown to you, it’s a crucial factor in planning to ensure that you have some connection with the world, for two reasons:
- Safety and emergencies
- Communicating updates (usually for sponsors, charities, family back home)
Communication in the broad sense, could mean anything that enables you to reach civilisation in a short enough time span to save your life, if something goes wrong. If you’re never going to be more than a couple hours from the nearest town, you could risk no other communication forms. However, I wouldn’t advise it. In general you can get a phone signal in most places world wide, barring canyons and out to sea. There are also things like satellite phones, BGANs and distress beacons which are readily available for comms with the outside world.
Be aware though, that your lines of communication can lure you into a false sense of security, and so despite whatever emergency back up plans you might have, it is never a substitute for proper planning and preparation. Never put your life solely in the hands of an electronic devise that may or may not be reliable or damaged when you need it (you’ve seen The Lost World: Jurassic Park, right?)
Mobile phones– in 2020, you can get phone signal in almost every place on Earth including mountain tops. Cheap and easy
Satellite phones- Because they use satelites (duh) instead of phone lines, you can get a signal anywhere in the world with a clear line of site to the sky. Clunky, heavy and expensive to use (about £1-1.50 per minute) they are an extremely valuable connection to the world, if you’re venturing far and remote. They cost about £500-1000 new, or can be hired.
VHF- Very High Frequency Radio, normally used at sea on boats they are basically a walkie-talkie with a longer range. Limited by line-of-sight, they can be a good option on mountains assuming there is someone within range, with another VHF to receive your call.
Emergency beacon- does 2 things, relays a distress signal and tells help your GPS coordinates. The signals are monitored by various groups, and it is crucial that these are only used in dire situations when all other means to communicate have failed. Once used, you would have to remain in position for help to be able to find you, and if you’re seen to be improperly using one then there are significant fines for doing so. Only for use in life threatening situations.
Adventure first aid
The whole point of expeditions is to be up against challenge, danger and the unknown. As such it is very important that you have at least basic first aid knowledge. Even if you’re travelling with an extremely well seasoned expedition company, first aid should be something that you own and know about. If something happens, and it might, you should be able to take care of the basics at least. Luckily, there are tonnes of articles and videos available online, as well as professional courses in outdoor first aid, and advanced expedition qualifications that you can do for a reasonable fee.
Most expeditions require a good level of both physical and mental fitness. All expeditions will challenge your mental toughness, whether it be problem solving, navigation, loneliness or other, your mind will be tested and you should be prepared for that. You can prepare your mind 1 of two ways, generally. First, you can try to expose yourself to similar situations of increasing difficulty in a linearly progressive manner, either by starting on an easier expedition and working your way up, or by practicing things at home, like going a week without your phone, fasting, or pushing yourself harder in physical work outs.
The physical side is very varied, as some expeditions have very niche skills required that will challenge new muscle groups. Pulling a 50-100kg pula along ice works a whole set of walking muscles you never thought you had… Climbing with ice picks will destroy your forearms and hands, for example. In general, you need to prepare yourself by working on your all round cardio vascular and sustained strength endurance as much as you can, and then deliberately practicing some sport/expedition specific exercises. There are many training plans available, but for example, you could train to pull a sled by pulling old tyres tied to your waist with rope. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s cheap and gives you good exposure.
Food and supplies for an Expedition
When it comes to fuelling your expedition, you really don’t need to use any specialist supplies. What it comes down to is
- Do I have enough calories and nutrients to meet my bodies requirements
- Is the food I am taking light weight and small enough to be carried as far as I need to carry it
Expeditions have been fuelled almost entirely by chocolate cake and pasta, it’s really down to you. However, if you’re on a driving expedition then you’re unlikely to require calorie dense foods and can save a lot of weight and money by eating normal foods you’d eat at home. For more calorie demanding expeditions, like trekking or mountaineering, many explorers opt for “ration packs”, which come in two forms:
- Dehydrated, needs hot water
- ‘Wet’, can be boiled in the bag, or eaten cold
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