The exhilaration and pure joy I feel when I finally realize I, once again, can go on an Expedition is one of a kind. It is a bit like the process I went through, like most other parents, when the girls were born. All the way up until the birth, it was worrisome, scary, a time plagued by sleepless nights and I felt a great black hole inside that things might go wrong. Suddenly, the water breaks, one rushes off to the hospital and after hours of great angst, a miracle arrives! That is a bit how I feel when a new Expedition becomes reality!
Once it is on, the preparations under way and I know it will happen, I feel a great relief which just drives every single drop of energy out of my body. I am dead tired for days afterwards. I also feel genuinely privileged to be able to live a life were I actually can fulfill ideas I have. I take nothing for granted. For this reason, just after a couple of weeks of the “birth”, I start to worry about how on earth I am going to realize everything I have instilled in myself (and others) that I can do. For example, I will make hell of a good documentary which will give a positive perspective of everything. That is a bold statement. So, once again, instead of enjoying it all, I start to worry about everything that might go wrong. At times I wonder if these people who believe in me, if they´ve by a mistake have picked the wrong guy and I suddenly will wake up one morning and realize, they did. Or that I won´t find the right people who can give that perspective I want to give. Or get the permits I need. Or if I have enough money or the right equipment. Or how much I should bring. Suddenly, all the worries hit a wall and it is time to leave!
Oddly enough, so far, things have turned out very differently to what I first planned, but at the end, for the better. I think, to a certain degree, because once I am on the actual Expedition, the needed concentration arrives, which makes a difference. Planning helps, and is needed, but it is the ability to concentrate when needed which makes an Expedition into what you wanted and hoped for. So don´t worry too much, if the preparations are chaotic or just one big drama. Once on the Expedition, things will get better. So, just leave and do your thing!
Having said that, I do prepare. Pretty much all the time I am not a family man of choice. Of course I wish I could be with the girls much, much more, but at the moment it isn´t possible. However, maybe my preparations can be of help for someone who is trying to figure out the subject of preparations. My words above are to show that we are all human beings and different. Nobody is perfect. None has a recipe of how to do things perfectly fitting for everyone. . Thank God for that! I much prefer chaos and have very little positive to say for courses dealing with Expeditions, travels or adventures which are made to scare people. Like first help, health, safety and rubbish like that. Don´t worry, do not enroll in these silly things, just go!
It starts with an idea, lingering at the back of my head. First thing I do, I buy books on the subject. Since I have little interest in being an athlete claiming I am first in history to do this or self centered journey´s with full concentration on the self and the very personal and private experience, I acquire books only on current politics, social anthropology, behaviorism, history and religion. And books written by locals on their own area. Once this is under way, I get maps. First general overview followed by detailed one´s, if they exist.
Secondly I start contacting people who is specialized on this area. Scientists, journalists, authors, travelers and locals. I communicate with them for a prolonged period. Most of the time, I have contacts there already, since I have had the idea for awhile. Local connections is a must and makes a major difference. I avoid foreigners who live there, employed by some relief agency, since I know a lot of the time (not always), they have a lifestyle very different from the locals and live separate from locals, many times in overwhelming homes. A reality which makes it even more useless contacting them. Local fixers are a great help.
Thirdly, I start my physical reparations, which are exactly the same no matter where I am heading. I do weights to add bulk and I eat like its the end of time. It makes me grow in all directions, but I know from experience lots of trained fat is needed. At the end of the Expedition, it is gone, most of it anyway, and the loss of muscle is minimal. This becomes even more important the older you get. Train no more than 3 heavy sessions a week, the rest of the time do take it easier. And eat to keep healthy and get enough energy to work most day and night. Rest on the Expedition.
My fourth pillar of preparations is figuring out what equipment I need. And, for each Expedition, I try to do it lighter, but ends up heavier. mainly due to camera kit. As I said before, comfort is needed and that costs a bit extra in weight, but that is why I put on too much fat! But having said this, kit has changed a lot over the years. I will, for example, never, ever use boots again. Completely useless. thongs or trainers is enough. If you have done your weight training properly, like heavy duty workouts on the ankles and calves.
The fifth pillar, find a good partner. I see no reason at all anymore to travel solo. How boring! But finding a proper partner ain´t easy and needs a lot of gut feeling more than anything. I have had it all. The nightmare and the dream. You never know what you get until you actually are in the middle of your Expedition. Gut feeling is more important then being together a lot before the actual Expedition. If something just doesn´t feel right, look again. Having said that, they still could be perfect!
And, best not to take yourself to seriously…..