In February 2014, I’m going to Myanmar and Thailand. I want to tell you how I plan this trip so that you can take your own Inspiring Adventures too.
Firstly, what is an Inspiring Adventure?
An Inspiring Adventure is anything you want it to be. Inspiring Adventures explore the world. Exotic new countries and the cities you live in. They are fun, unusual, exciting, and maybe a little outside your comfort zone. They might teach you a new skill, or introduce you to an amazing person, or a whole new way of life. They benefit the people you encounter, and probably enrich your life too.
So now you know what it is, how are you going to have one?
1. Have a purpose
Ask yourself why you are going. Perhaps an opportunity has come up right now, and you just have to take it and make the most of it. Perhaps you’ve been planning all the details for years. Either way, ask yourself what the purpose of this adventure is going to be.
For me, it’s to have an adventure with a healthy dose of social benefit. The adventure part just happens. You don’t have to plan that. In fact, my definition of adventure includes “an uncertain outcome…” What’s the point of going if you know everything that’ll happen to you?
The social benefit part is more challenging. I love to showcase the best examples of social enterprise and responsible tourism that I can find. That means step 2.
2. Do your research
Who’s doing what you want to do? Who’s already done it? And who can you ask? Google. Start typing in relevant search terms that align with your mission and see who pops up top. Read about them and organisations. Send them an email about yourself, your adventure and your purpose. Make it personal.
They might not all write back, but some of them will, and their connections will help you. For me, the British Council in Myanmar was especially responsive and has connected me with a responsible travel specialist. And of course, don’t forget to ask your friends.
3. Tell everyone you know
Use your social network. Don’t be shy. Ask your friends and colleagues. Get it on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe write a little blog post about your up and coming adventure (ahem – this post!). If you’ve got friends of friends in places you are visiting, you want to know. See number 4.
When I asked around, I found out that four friends have connections in Myanmar, and they have put me in touch with them. If you can’t meet up with your old friends next time you take an adventure, the next best thing is to meet up with someone’s old friends.
4. Value local experts
Every journey is filled with delightful pockets of serendipity. Jumping on a random bus, and connecting with the cute girl sitting next to you. Taking a plane and connecting with the cute girl sitting next to you. Catching a train and hey wait a minute it’s not just about cute girls! But connecting with amazing people of shared values while you travel is one of the best experiences. If you don’t happen to bump into someone on a bus, plane or train, there is another way to make the most of your adventure.
I’ve found real value in connecting with local, professional experts and guides that really know their environment. And yes, sometimes you will pay for their services. For independent backpackers, I know that doesn’t always appeal. It can take away some of the uncertainty, but if you are on a time-limited adventure, and looking to make the most of it, some times it pays to get a little expert help.
5. Check the details
If you’ve been on a few adventures, you’re probably getting a bit blasé about the whole thing. Borders. Visas. Vaccinations. Who cares? Check that stuff. Really. Border crossings close. Visa applications take weeks. Malaria can kill you. Buy a Lonely Planet and double-check online. Every new country still has it’s own idiosyncrasies. That’s part of the fun.
6. Leave some stuff to the last minute!
Don’t book all your internal flights and hotels years in advance. Sure it’s cheaper, but where’s the adventure? More than that, if you book online before you go, through one operator, most of your money will go to one company. That organisation might not even be based in the country you are visiting, and your tourist pounds and dollars won’t contribute to the local economy.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s socially responsible to be disorganised. Plan to be unplanned. Book your first night and make the rest up as you go.
Trust me. This is the way to an Inspiring Adventure.
How would you plan for an Inspiring Adventure? Do you have any tips to add to the list? Tell me in the comments.