One of the hardest things about going on an adventure is making the adventure happen. When you start to take your daydream and really look into the logistics, the cost and the planning of the unknown (which is when doubt, uncertainty, lack of confidence comes in) ultimately kill your idea. Or it could also be your mom or dad saying NO, hahaha. I don’t blame you, either. It is scary going out into the unknown. Before all of my trips I am nervous, as well; I still feel a bit of uncertainty. But what helps is that once you get one adventure under your belt, you have a better understanding of things.
Very tan and crazy, Skate USA
Chris, Skate USA
When I first skated across the US, I had no idea what I was doing and naturally over complicated things. I made things so complicated. Once on the journey I was in such a rush, as well; it was like I was on some imaginary stressful itinerary that I created for the team. After doing a bunch of trips with support vehicles, I decided that for me support vehicles added more complications. And you know what, skating self-supported is way more fun for me. It feels rawer and like an adventure: just you and your bag on your back, that is it. And it is a lot cheaper, as well. I am not a fan anymore of having a strict itinerary. When on a trip there are so many variables throughout the day, and who knows what is going to happen? You could wake up one morning and feel under the weather, you could stop at a cool town and want to explore a bit, you might feel like taking it a bit easier, or the food at the restaurant is just too good to leave. You can have an idea of making it to a town in your head, but if you don’t make it there then no big deal. Why create stress and have a deadline? Go with the flow of the travel; take each day as it comes. I still have to work on this, personally; sometimes I still get into the GO GO GO mode and don’t stop to enjoy the things I should. Obviously, if you have to make it somewhere to get water and food and if you don’t you will die, then make that happen. Also, ask yourself what your main goal is. Are you here to really push it and do a lot of distance so that when you are done you can say that you did “x” amount of miles and have people be like, “Damn, that is a lot”? Or do you just want to travel and wander at your own pace?
SKATE USA – 2.5 months, 3,000 miles
Skate New Zealand, 1.5 months, 1,500 miles
LONG TREKS PERU y BOLIVIA – 2months, 1,500 miles
LONG TREKS MOROCCO – 40 days, 1,240 miles
Team or Solo. Having done 5 trips with a team and now 2 solo, I feel both are rewarding and amazing. If you are going to a semi-sketchy place, having a team is nice. When we were in South America, Paul, Aaron and I looked like a rough crew, and I think that helped a bit. But there are plenty of solo bikers that have biked all of South America. With a team you can have a lot of laughs, and you can have a lot of headaches. With a team it is a bit more of an unknown. With yourself solo you know it is just you, it is you making the decisions, and if you want to do something you can do it. You’ve got to remember: when with a team, you have to be good about not always getting your way. With a team there are a number of people making each decision, and when you are cold and tired simple decisions can be hard with a team. So, solo or team is up to you. One downfall of having a team is just that it is that much more complicated to get a trip in action. I hear too many stories of people having this amazing adventure planned out with their friend and then the friend backs out and they end up not going. I think the secret is if you have a friend or friends that want to go, and you really want to go, know that in your head if your friends back out you still will go. Approach it as: I am going to go on an adventure, and you want to join. And don’t try to invite 5 friends, hahaha. I honestly think 2 or 3 people in the group works best; a smaller group is more simple, but who am I to say that it couldn’t work out with 10 people in the group.
Setting up camp in China
SOLO 3 week, 800 miles trip in Western China
SOLO 1 month, 1,165 mile solo trip down the Murray River in Australia
My 14′ foot Surftech Paddle board will all my gear and food strapped to it.
Over-Complication. Try to make your trip as simple as possible. Really, all you need is a bit of money to fly you somewhere and bam, that is it. You could just land somewhere with the clothes on your back and you could make something happen, haha. I like to plan a little more than that, though.
If you have an idea, there is a good chance someone has done it or something close to it. Long distance skating, for example, is pretty rare still, so if you have an idea of skating across Russia, Google “bike across Russia.” A lot of people have biked places, and there is a good chance something will come up and provide some helpful information about your idea. If there is a site “Bike across Russia”, you can see what part they did and email them some questions.
Another good resource is YouTube. Looking at a map, it is hard to get a feeling for the surroundings and such. Type “bike across Russia” in YouTube and see what you find. If there is no bike across Russia, then type in “motorbike across Russia.” Once you find something promising, email the maker of the video to get some info.
Having a good map is key. I get all my maps from Omnimaps.com. The site is a bit outdated and old school, but they pretty much have any map you are looking for. I am a fan of the Reise “Know-How” maps. They are made out of a waterproof stretchy kind of paper. Get your map and start planning a route. Find the road and then go on Google Maps or Google Earth and zoom in on the road and see if you can see its condition. Again, go on the web, type the road name in on Google and in YouTube, and see if you can get some more info on it. Be creative.
Once you’ve got your route and your map, it really all comes down to the question: do you have enough money for the plane ticket? How many days can you afford to be on the road? I know money is tight most of the time, so opt for a shorter trip. There is no need to go on a 2-month-long journey. I honestly feel 2-3 weeks will give you a good taste of adventure, and it will be long enough to miss home. Really, though, even 2 days could work. For me I personally like to be gone 3 weeks or more, but it used to be 2 months back in the day.
GEAR. Having the right gear helps, but it is not crucial. I mean, people traveled across the world hundreds of years ago with the heaviest gear possible. So even today, heavy gear could work. If you want to save weight, try focusing on 3 areas: tent, sleeping bag, and backpack. If you can save weight on these 3 things, it will pay off. If you can afford it, get Merino wool clothes. All you need is 2 shirts, 2 underwear and 2 pairs of socks. If the popular brands like Smartwool or Icebreaker are too expensive for you, go for the REI brand or some no-name Merino wool brands. Or go for some synthetic clothes; they will work and be cheaper, but they will also smell a lot faster.
If you can afford it, get a nice mid-layer down jacket. MontBell makes some of the lightest. If you can’t afford that, then try to find a comparable jacket that is hopefully less than 1 lb.
Rain jacket: depending on where you go and if it is going to rain a lot, find some cheap thin rain jacket to bring along. You could even make a trash bag work, hahaha. As for pants, don’t bring jeans. Hahah, don’t do it! Get some cheap REI Nylon pants. If you can afford it, Arc’teryx Palisade pants are amazing, and all you need on your trip is just 1 pair of pants. Patagonia and Marmot make some great pants, as well.
If you want to document your trip, no need to buy some fancy pants camera; take a GoPro with you or some nice point-and-shoot camera that you can throw in your pocket and easily bust out to get some shots. Self-shooting on trips is hard because you are going to be working your butt off and the idea of turning on a camera might seem like the hardest thing in the world at times. That leads me to this… you are going to be tired on your trip. When I first skated the USA, before the trip I had this notion I was going to workout on the side, do pushups, pull-ups everyday on the trip, come back really strong… Hahah, boy was I wrong. At the end of the day all I wanted to do was eat and sleep.
Language. Don’t let language barriers hold you back from your trip. Knowing the language will help you communicate with people, and if you are fascinated by learning other languages, by all means learn some of it. Knowing the language will enrich your cultural experience and get you around easier, but it is not necessary. For example, I spent 3 weeks in China and did not speak any Mandarin / Tibetan tongue, and I survived. You will be fascinated how hand signals and gestures can help. If you walk into a restaurant chances are you are not going to understand the menu; looking at what other people are eating around you can help. Just find something delicious looking in front of someone, point at it, and there you go. If there is no one in the restaurant you can chance ordering something or go to another restaurant where people are. But just know that you will be misunderstood all the time, and if you do get lost it might be a bit harder to get back on track. Learn a couple key phrases before you go such as restaurant, grocery store, hotel, road, airport, water, police station… You can even write down these key phrases on a flash card to bring along; this way you can refer to them. Bringing along a heavy translation book might make you sad when pushing up hills. Also know that people are going to talk to you in their native tongue all the time, you will look dumb and confused, and they might laugh at you and such, but hey—don’t let it get to ya. This is an adventure.
Eating a typical flat noodle dish in China
Sponsorship . Do not have the notion that you are going to get thousands of dollars from sponsors to help support you and your adventure. You probably won’t get a dime. If you are doing your first adventure sorry to say but don’t think sponsors are going to be shelling out money or even equipment. It is hard to trust people, honestly. To them, you are just someone over the internet who is just talk, and they get tons and tons of sponsorship emails everyday. How are they going to trust that you are going to even go on this adventure and come back with this amazing video and pictures you promise when you have not even created any media to show them? Sure, you might be able to swing it if you got facts and proof to back things up. That is why it is best to go on your first adventure financially supporting it yourself and then build up a nice media piece about your adventure (i.e. a write up, video, pics, etc.) so that for your next one you can show sponsors and such. Even then, don’t be all upset if you still don’t get some kind of sponsorship. Don’t be greedy, either; start off small for sponsorship requests. Start out with equipment, perhaps; even if they just give you a discount on the gear, that is something. A lot of companies have something called a pro deal that is intended for professionals or people in the industry that thrash gear. That could be something to go after down the line. Slowly work your way up and develop a relationship with these companies. Earn their trust, and keep working at it. If you are really into a certain product, make sure on your first trip you bring it with you and showcase the product. And when you return, you got something to show that company. Remember, though, when you get seriously into sponsorship and money is involved that just makes things more complicated, as well. So think about what you really want and need.
State of Mind. So now you got your location, your proposed route, your ticket, and your gear; you are just counting down the days to begin. It is normal to get nervous when the trip is just a few days away. Don’t worry; we are human, we are animals (remember that), we were designed to roam the land and be outside in nature. Don’t let horror movies scare you. In fact, don’t watch any horror movies of people getting eaten by animals before you leave, hahaha.
Aaron flying the sporting sail in Morocco
Paul pushing up Tizi N’Tischka, Morocco’s highest pass.
You arrive at your destination; it is time to begin. You get nervous but once you are in action, trust me: human nature makes you calm down. It almost becomes natural after a while on the road—it makes sense; we are animals. Sure, the first week is a bit rough, getting used to your gear, how to organize things, and you are overly nervous. But after a week, you start to relax more. You calm down, you have been there done that, you are in a routine now. Skating all day, waking up and doing it again you are use to this; this is your life. You are like a scavenger finding food, hahaha. Though you could perhaps be just a clumsy person and nothing comes easy; well, in that case it will just suck a bit more, hahaha.
Be Realistic. Have your idea, do the research, save your money make it happen. DO IT, don’t over think. I am not telling you to do something foolish and get yourself killed. Have a realistic idea for your skill level and make it happen. For example, you say I want to climb K2 and you prepare to plan it, yet you have never climbed a mountain in your life. You say I want to skate the Andes in S. America, yet you don’t know how to footbrake or go over 15mph. In that case, think about skating Nebraska, haha. If you are extra nervous start out small do something in your own country that you are familiar with to gain some confidence. Then bring it over seas in some far off wild land.
Skating in China with 19,000 ft plus mtns looming in the distance.
Safety. If you are going somewhere crazy do research on the safety of the area. Look at what the US embassy has to say. Sure the info there will scare you, that is what it is intended for. Take that info and do some research of people that actually have been there and have done your route by bike or whatever; get their opinion. From all the places I have been and people saying it was dangerous and I was going to get robbed this and that, I have only meet the kindest, chillest people ever. That does not mean if I went out at night, down some rough neighborhood I would not get robbed, it just means I play it safe, don’t do anything stupid, and it is all good. Some of this is luck, but just keep your head about you and make good decisions.
Aaron and Paul Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
Experience. Anyways, once you go on your first trip haha you will understand a lot. And you will understand that it is not as glamorous as you thought. Most of the trip is going to be hard and it will suck. It is an experience you are after, an experience that will shape the rest of your life. Experiences shape who we are. It’s funny, the videos I bring back to show and inspire others usually only show a tiny fraction of the trip: the good parts, the nice scenery. What the camera can’t capture is the integral struggle and doubt you will go through. This is normal and you will be guaranteed days where you question what you are doing. If you got the will power you will push through it. Make fun of yourself, laugh about the situation, know that in x amount of days you are going to be back at your home sitting in a warm house bored and wish you were here right now suffering, hahaha.
Gorge De Daddies, Morocco
Nowhere ville Peru
Motivation. People have their own motives for going on a trip. For me, skating across the USA, perhaps I was a bit naive; I thought going on the trip would perhaps solve some of my problems. I would come back and life would just sort itself out for me. From doing 7 trips now, I can say that if you have trouble at home and you think going away is going to sort everything out, you will most likely be disappointed. If you think you are going to go away and will find yourself and the meaning of life, well, you might; but you could also come back home more confused. If you think going on a trip you are going to come home full of the wildest stories to tell, well, you could; or you could just come back home with the story of skating for 2 weeks, eating, sleeping and pooping, hahah. Movies we see are designed to be ridiculous and capture our imagination; sometimes they are not realistic portrayals of an average adventure. I mean, if you had an adventure like Bilbo Baggins then good for you. What is guaranteed is that you will come back home with an experience, an experience that will shape your life. Something that you will recall in your mind and smile about will make you feel a certain way looking back on it.
Sheldon Less pushing along the New Zealand coast.
Paul Kent, pushing through hot Morocco.
Hope this helps a bit; these are just some thoughts and ramblings. Remember, your adventure does not have to involve skating. I am actually a big fan of standup paddling boarding; it is a great way to travel. Think about it… by boat, bike, horse, foot, skis, paraglider….