Choosing an Expedition

It is often asked of me, “How did it come about that you chose to walk the coast ?” When I first set out on this endeavour all I knew, was that I wanted to do an expedition. I had no idea what I was going to do or how to go about it. I just knew that I had a yearning to be “out there”, to do something different, something exciting, something real and worthwhile. So I set out to find something.

I spent tens of hours on Google looking for expeditions, reading up on other expeditions and book marking them for later reference. I marked and read everything I could from crossing the oceans on a kayak to climbing mountains. I read up on every type of expedition I could find; Arctic, polar, desert, jungle, river, mountains, sea and coastal journeys. After around 50 or so hours it became more apparent. I do not like the cold much, so that ruled out Arctic and polar expeditions. I do not like small spaces, so that ruled out oceans and sea crossings. The idea of being confined to a small craft for weeks on end is something I would find oppressive. I am not that fond of climbing mountains and I am not sure I am any good at at it. The more I looked, the more apparent it became. I kept coming back to the things that interested me most, river journeys, coastal journeys and desert crossings. Deserts fascinate me, where as most of the world sees them as barren harsh landscapes devoid of any features, I see them as huge canvases, full of contrast, life and stark beauty.

I looked at numerous river expeditions as a first choice, but found myself lacking a goal to achieve. I did not want to chalk up a string of firsts as that is contrary to my nature. I looked at deserts next but again I could not find purpose, beyond self achievement. I also looked at joining various expedition adventure companies, alas none of these filled me with any passion. In the end I had almost settled on walking down the skeleton coast, the only place where the desert meets the sea, an expanse of coast very few have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It is one thing to go off on a personal journey, just for the sake of it, but I needed a purpose that went beyond me. A friend of mine who is a marine biologist eventually gave me the direction I needed. Science is always looking for data, and environmental causes are something I believe in. It filled all the criteria. I would benefit on a personal journey of self discovery, I could gather some data that would be truly beneficial to marine research organisations and I could give back to nature through environmental awareness. That was the birth of an expedition.

The idea of an expedition had been conceived long ago, when I was still a teenager. It had been nurtured throughout my life. Finally it has came to fruition and has now been birthed. It had now manifested itself into a plan of action as opposed to an ideal, a dream. So begins the long road through research. Research evolved in much the same way, I went back to all the book marked journeys on the coast’s and rivers, this time with a view as to what kit they needed and what training they underwent. Research is a long slog and takes hundreds of hours for an expedition this long. I have found that it results in endless list’s of; kit, risks, tasks involved, training required, goals to achieve, routes, maps, nutrition requirements, water needs, safety issues, political instability issues, transport means, physical requirements, navigation issues, health risks. Permits required, visas needed, contact numbers, sponsorship requirements, budgets, marketing and media. Time and logistics, photography requirements, sample requirements……and so it goes on. Then you start to make lists about those lists. It may all seem daunting, but as the old saying goes “You eat an elephant one bite at a time”. You break each subject down and slog until you reach the end, then you take the next and slog to the end and so it goes on. Eventually you reach the stage where you have a good idea as to what needs to be done and then you start at the beginning again, refining it, dropping it to the bare essentials, reducing the kit, getting the training done and so on. Raising the funding can be the tough part, but don’t lose sight of the goal just because you don’t have the funding. Spend your own money to start with, remember this is a dream, a choice of lifestyle not a job. Do all the things that you can, that cost nothing, research, building contacts, getting fit and so on. If you are passionate about what you are doing and tell everyone about it, it becomes infectious and the people around you will be enthused by your passion and spirit. Eventually they will buy into your project and enthusiasm. Only ever promise that which you can deliver, and when the time comes deliver more than you promised. Above all be honest, realistic and genuine. People invest in people unless its a business transaction.

As your knowledge and certainty increase, so you will become more confident and it gets easier and easier with time, but as time runs out and “D-day” draws near, so the pressure to complete planning increases. We can all plan for a holiday, we know what we need, what we should take, what vaccinations we should obtain. The processes for an expedition are just the same, the trick is to break it down into smaller and smaller requirements and then chomp your way through it. There will come a day however when you finally set off. You could spend a life time planning and still miss a few things, the biggest threat we face is not to set the date for the expedition, to become bogged down in the planning. After the first 50 or 60 hours of research you will have a good idea of how long it will take to plan. Set the date in stone, tell everyone you’re doing it so that you will look like an idiot if you don’t and go for it!

If you have a dream, if you have a passion to do an expedition, it will happen. Don’t lose sight of the goal and just keep the momentum up. Dreams do not manifest themselves into reality by chance, we need to seize them, beat and bully them, coax and cajole them, until they come kicking and screaming into reality. The harder we have to work for their birth, the greater the value and pleasure we will derive from them. So go out, seize your dream and mould it into fruition.

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