Officially defined as “an unusual and exciting or daring experience”, adventure means something different to everyone. At different times in our lives, it can also mean something different again. However, as frivolous as it may seem sometimes, I think adventure is important. Busy lives and well defined routines might be more efficient but they are rarely more memorable.
It doesn’t need to be an endurance challenge spanning several weeks/months, there’s lots to be said for squeezing in some mini adventures, too – especially these days! Anything unexpected, anything that causes you to think differently, anything that interrupts the rhythm of life – all of these are how we grow, rather than stagnate, and they give us valuable perspective – perspective that often gets drowned out in the monotony of life. In a world dominated by screens of various sizes, adventures interrupt the noise and remind us to pay attention to where we are, right now – not the seemingly amazing location where someone else is posting from on Instagram.
Sleeping in a church – an overnight mini adventure!
We might not be able to travel as far as we might like at the moment but for those planning bigger adventures in the future, here are some things to consider that I hope will give you an encouraging nudge in the right direction. I always deal with self-propelled adventures so this is predictably the focus here, but much of it would apply to other kinds of journeys, too!
Where to start? An intimidating question in its own right, but this is the fun bit! Are there any themes that call to you? For example: anyone following my adventures for a while might have noticed that I love coastal routes!
Can you think up an adventurous way to get somewhere – ride to a friend’s house rather than get the train? Can you take the scenic route to an event? Looking at the world through adventurous eyes opens up infinite possibilities. Point A to Point B is all you need – the in between is full of potential!
A mini adventure centered around my love of piers and bridges… Any excuse!
Practical parameters: How long do you have? What is a realistic daily distance to cover? A note for those of you joining me in using your body as an engine: if you’re intimidated by the thought of your physical endeavour, allow some extra time in the first 2 weeks for your body to train into the challenge – you’ll be amazed how quickly your body adapts! I like to give myself a set daily distance target because I find it helpful having a goal to strive for. I also like to plan where I’ll be for my rest days but I adjust when needed on the road, too. What is your budget? This will of course determine your accommodation and food options along the way. Any language barriers / visas you need to consider?
Staying flexible is important, too. This incredible wild camping spot was found by accident!
Route Planning: When looking at a route, these are the main things I try to work out by looking at the map: Where can I resupply food/water? Where can I charge things if needed? Where would be a good place to camp or where is there accommodation? Anything of interest on the way? There’s an app called Komoot that I love for planning – not least of all because it shows highlighted features (added by other users) on the map. It also helps you select the best terrain for your activity (i.e. if you’re a road cyclist it will aim to keep you on tarmac!).
Your body will thank you for packing light!
Lighten up: For the most part, if you’re being self-sufficient then packing light is something your body will really thank you for. I find it helpful to approach my packing in rounds – weeding items out as I go. These days, I’m much better at packing light and I find that I can happily get along without much at all when I need to. One of the many reasons I love BAM clothing is that you can wear it for days on end without it getting too stinky – thus making it much easier to go with a reduced wardrobe! However, it’s also good to know the small things that will make a big difference to your morale – one of those things for me is an inflatable pillow. Of course I *could* just shove stuff into a dry bag to produce a makeshift headrest but I’ve happily concluded that for the weight/space it takes up, and the happiness it brings me, I’d rather just have a proper pillow. Absolutely no regrets! Conversely, I used to think it was absolutely unthinkable to go without a camping stove but I often find that I value the lighter set up much more these days. Different priorities = different packing strategy!
Maintenance: This usually covers 2 different areas for me – maintenance of my bike if I’m cycling and maintenance of me. I bring bike spares to cover any basic mechanical issues that I might (but hopefully won’t!) face and I also bring a first aid kit to address any minor medical issues that I might (but hopefully won’t’!) have to deal with. In the medical kit are things like plasters, hydration sachets, bandages and a tick removal tool, etc. I also carry a water filtration bottle with me if I’m travelling through some more remote areas. Just in case!
All hail the mighty peanut butter and jam sandwich!
Snacks: Again, especially relevant for the self-propelled group here but let’s face it – snacks make everything better in general. Not only will consistently nibbling away keep up your energy levels, my snacks have saved the day too many times to count when the cafe/petrol station/local shop I’d been expecting to find has been unexpectedly closed or a mechanical issue has delayed my progress. The morale boost from chocolate when you’re having an emotional wobble is also priceless!
Embrace the learning curve: For many of us, going on an adventure will lead us to develop new skills. That seems like an extremely obvious thing to say but I think it’s important to embrace being a beginner. Don’t know how to read a map? Don’t know how to fix a bike? Don’t know any first aid skills? Rubbish at packing light? Not feeling very fit? Everyone has to start somewhere! All of those things can be fixed given a bit of time and patience – time is going to pass anyway, where we invest our time has a huge influence on the experiences we have.
My kind of binge watching!
Laura Kennington is a British adventure athlete, author and speaker with a passion for the endurance capability of the human body. Previous adventures include solo cycling all 1600 miles of the world’s longest coastal route in Ireland, solo cycling Scotland’s North Coast 500 route, running the length of Fuerteventura (100 miles) in 4 days and circumnavigating three of the Channel Islands using three different sporting disciplines as part of a rather extreme triathlon! She has most recently returned from solo cycling 3700 miles along the North Sea-facing coasts of 8 countries, from Scotland to Norway!
A strong believer in the positive impact that adventure and sport can have on children and adults alike, Laura uses her human powered journeys as a platform to inspire and encourage others to get outside. She has been a proud BAMbassador since 2015.