Lessons Learned

2012 was a massive year of learning, and preparing for 2013’s year of adventure. I started the year as an amateur expedition planner and by the end of the year I was a slighty more knowledgeable expedition planner. The width and breathe of the preparation has been a staggering learning curve.

I thought I’d share a few of the key reflections and lessons I’ve learned.

The good times

Finding Boris my expedition vehicle was a great moment. It had been a long search which started first with trying to figure out what car I needed, and searching for months without much joy. I made a bit of a panic purchase in September as I was worried time was running out to prepare. This came back to bite me when I received the bill for the work required. Fortunately Boris came available at the same time and new friendship was instantly made. Luckily I was able to sell my original purchase quickly to a wrecker at a small loss.

Finally after 18 months work I’ve managed to create a team of people who have either offered their help or decided to join me on the expedition because they want to be part of the expedition. While I haven’t filled the all the seats in the vehicle I’ve found it’s an amazing feeling when a stranger wants to get involved, purely because they can see something in your project for themselves.

1. Lesson

Sometimes things just fall into place after many struggles. Keep working towards your goal, no matter how small the steps and you will find many pleasant surprises along the way.

The challenging times

Defining the approach to the trip has been an evolutionary process which has had its ups and downs. I tried to design this with a team of potential team mates. In reality this proved to difficult and unrealistic, as there were too many views and personal agendas to form a consistent approach that suited all.

I had no idea how difficult and costly it would be to drive a car through China when I started. As a result I decided I needed to find other travellers to share the costs for the China leg. After several months of talking to people on the HUBB (online overlanders) forum I managed to join a group of like-minded souls. We then had to find a tour operator to support our trip. We have chosen a local company that comes recommended. However like many things in China it doesn’t quite operate on the same service levels that we have become used to in the western world. I’m now meeting a colourful bunch of nations at the border with Kyrgyzstan and China on June 20th 2013.

Once I found my car I was keen to begin the preparation and overhaul to get Boris back to expedition standards. My mechanic though is a busy guy, so I’ve had to wait patiently to make progress. Sometimes waiting for responses proved a little frustrating when combined with my eagerness to proceed.

2. Lesson

Challenging times teach you to be resourceful and creative when faced with the many obstacles, you will find in your way.

The tough times

Developing the trip when I was under severe work pressure between March and October 2012 really started to take its toll. My work affords me the ability to take significant breaks to travel. However it means I need to work massive hours with major deadlines. This isn’t a very compatible approach when trying to plan a major overseas expedition. I knew this would be a challenge when I decided to commit to the trip but I still found it incredibly tough to manage both. In reality I couldn’t manage both and the expedition struggled to progress during this time. A big turning point for me was after a visit to the RGS outdoor team in September where I put my underdeveloped ideas to the head of the department, Shane Winser. I left that session feeling bruised after facing a number of tough questions, and realised I was in need of a major rethink to get the expedition back on track.

Finding team mates proved to be incredibly difficult. While there was plenty of interest in the trip getting anybody to commit was tough. I’m sure the lack of a clear approach hampered this. I’m not surprised that only recently have I managed to find a team mate as I’ve clearly defined the approach, objectives and deadlines for the trip. It has taken me 18 months to get to this point and taught me an important lesson in terms of the need to define your plans clearly as early as possible. This then gives others the opportunity to plan and commit themselves.

3. Lesson

You learn the most about yourself during the tough times and they do help you shape your objectives and goals for the better.

The sad times

Relationships can suffer with big, time-consuming adventures. Especially when one member of the relationship doesn’t share the same goals and passions as you. I broke up with my girlfriend in the last year unfortunately. She is a fantastic lass and we still get on great but ultimately we have different passions and goals in life.

I’ve also not spent a lot of time with many of my friends, due to my commitment to the expedition. With many of them heading in a different direction with families I’ve begun to lose touch with some of them.

4. Lesson

It can be difficult to following your passions. Sacrifices sometimes need to be made, to achieve your goals and stay true to your beliefs.

The helpful times

In the last 18 months I’ve made numerous new friends and received help from complete strangers. Many have been other overlanders that have happily shared their knowledge. Most are happy to pass on any information that was passed on to them, and I suspect many just love to reminisce about their own adventures.

Julian and Dave at Overland Cruisers along with the rest of the owners from the Landcruiser forums have been very helpful and patient as I’ve done my best to learn about my vehicle of choice called Boris.

The best source by far though has been the Royal Geographic Society. I can’t stress what a fantastic organisation this is for anybody looking for adventure. They are a one stop shop of resources and inspiration. The contacts I’ve been able to main with professionals in the world of expedition planning has been phenomenal. Nothing can beat speaking to somebody who has already done what you are trying to do. The RGS experts got me back on track with one evening on the beers when I was struggling.

5. Lesson

There are so many people out there that are prepared to help you out. All you have to do is ask.

The shared times

I’ve set out from the beginning to share my adventure and to see where this would get me. Sharing my experiences via blogging was something that I’d had previously experience of. It has been challenging to maintain my blogging amongst all the other activities, but it’s rewarding to look back on how the adventure has developed.

The rest of the social media activities have been a pleasant surprise and a benefit to the expedition. While my Big O’s Adventures facebook page, wordpress blog, instagram and youtube channel have a small following which I’ve been happy to see grow slowly, its been twitter that has surprised me. It has my fastest growing social media channel with other like-minded people following me, and has allowed me to follow them in return. There are many inspiring people to follow and I have been able to learn some of the tricks of the adventure trade. I’ve also found out about events, other adventures and many tips on planning and technology that have helped me prepare.

6. Lesson

Social media may be time-consuming but it’s worth it, especially if you want to grow an audience and share your plans. You will be pleasantly surprised of the benefits, and the new friends you’ll make.

5 Responses to “6 Lessons I Learned from a Year of Adventure Planning”

  1. I agree! Utilize social media. If you want to build visibility for your company, you must go where the people are. In days gone by, people gathered in the marketplace at the center of the city. Today, they gather online in places like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

  2. So what did Shane Winser say to you? Was he the one that gave you photographic advice? Would love to know what he said that you felt you hadn’t done?

    • Shane runs the outdoor explore department at the RGS. She is one knowledgeable lady, having been involved with the RGS for years. Shane pointed out that I hadn’t done enough planning in detail. At the time I went to her with a rough outside that hadn’t moved very far. It was clear after the meeting that I had a lot of work to do. You could say that it was the wake up call I need to refocus my efforts.

  3. Sounds like an amazing and at times frustrating journey but keep steering the course and it will all be worth it 🙂
    I love road trips and did a major trip in the late 90s but two big differences, we just took of without much of a plan and we stayed in Europe, mainly aiming for B roads or less in Eastern Europe and aiming for beaches and mountains.
    It was easy some of the best years 😉

    • Staying of the main roads are always a great way to travel when you aren’t in a rush to get anywhere. Unfortunately I’m travelling on the clock until I get to SE Asia.


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