Expedition Planning Advice
I receive lots of emails asking for advice about expeditions. The only really useful thing I ever feel able to offer is to say, “Just go!”
If you don’t enjoy it you can quit, but you’ll never know unless you try and you don’t want to have regrets when you are old.
There is no secret formula to finding a sponsor. One thing that certainly does not work though is to ask people questions that Google could answer for you, to ask them questions that show you have not made any effort to find the answers for yourself, or to just ask “how can I get sponsorship?”
Having said that, here are a few tips.
- Big companies will ignore you unless you have a contact. Don’t speak to the secretary if you can get straight to the boss.
- Small companies will probably help you, if you can assure them of some return: try and get some local press to cover your trip. Make your requests personal and specific.
- You can buy so much cheap stuff on eBay- it’s easier than being rejected by hundreds of companies.
- You have to sell yourself: there are so many people doing trips now. How are you different? What can you offer them? What is your USP? You are doing an expedition? So what… You need to have an answer to this.
- Get a job. Buy the stuff you need on eBay. Ride. If you can’t afford it, do something cheaper. Don’t let budget issues stop your adventuring. See how much cash you have in your bank today, sell everything you don’t need (most things), get on your bike and pedal away into the sunset. Stop making excuses to delay.
- Read this advice from Alpkit, an equipment company.
- Make a short Press Release with a photo and map that explains concisely what you are doing.
- Aim small- National Geographic will not be interested until you have worked your way up the ladder beginning with your local papers.
- Make a website. Tell everyone about it. Blogger.com is great, and free. I used Rapidweaver to make my first website, WordPress to make this one. Anyone looking to promote their journeys should become familar with Flickr, Twitter, Vimeo, Facebook, and whatever latest craze has just taken off.
Read more detail about how I use the internet for my expedition life here.
- You have a choice- spend loads of cash and have a short trip, or eat cheap, sleep in fields and travel for a long time.
- I can think of nowhere on Earth that you could not cycle for less than $5 a day. Don’t eat in cafes, drink water, sleep in fields, eat the cheapest food every single meal, never buy treats, and then you can travel for a long time. Money should not prevent you travelling.
- A tent and cooker are heavy, but they liberate you and allow you to travel cheap.
- Good quality bikes are useful in poor countries with no bike shops, but in the rest of the world you can just set off and ride on whatever you have lying around. Don’t wait 10 years saving up, because then you will never start. Gear is really over-rated, unless you are somewhere really hardcore.
- www.lonelyplanet.com has a section called the Thorn Tree. It is a gem and will solve all your problems. For every question you ask, try to answer one for somebody else.
- Visas are generally not a big deal. Just go to the Embassy of the country you want to visit, fill out a few forms and pay some cash. There are hardly any countries that are more complicated than that.
- Because I was away for more than a year it was difficult to find an insurance company that would renew my policy when overseas. More expensive then than many travel insurance options, but I was covered at different times of the trip by Harrison Beaumont and by Campbell Irvine.
Basically I would encourage you to just leap on your bike and ride- you will figure it out very quickly! Stop making excuses. Go.
Good luck! Send me a postcard!
For more serious, professional advice, visit these pages
- My notes from the Cycling Forum at the Royal Geographical Society’s Explore conference
- Writing in the blogosphere
- Paul Deegan, Everest climber
- Ben Saunders, Polar adventurer
- The Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook
- Cyclists can learn loads here
- Producing audio slideshows to document your expedition.
MY ROUND THE WORLD KIT LIST
Here is a blend of what I actually took and what I would have taken if I had had the money.
Bike – Two steel Rockhoppers which were great and finally a wonderful steel mountain bike with downhill rims (I was sick of breaking wheels) made by a company who wouldn�t give me even a tiny discount so I childishly taped over their logos, 4 large waterproof panniers, 2 large �Ark� dry-bags, bungees, granny-style shopping basket (so much better than a bar bag), 2 water bottles, Brooks saddle, Jandd Extreme front rack, Blackburn Expedition rear rack, Schwalbe Marathon tyres (1.9s), DT spokes, SPD pedals (one sided), bike odometer (wish I had the Cateye with altimeter), bar ends, horn for amusing kids and easily amused adults, Topeak Alien multi tool, adjustable spanner, Leatherman Wave, freewheel remover, tyre levers, 2 pumps, puncture kit, 2 spare tubes, spare tyre, spare chain (switched them every 3000km), duck tape, superglue, zip ties, string, oil, spare nuts and bolts, strip of sidewall of old tyre to wrap round inner tube in case of split tyre, free-standing Coleman tent, Therm-a-rest, sleeping bag, LED head torch, MSR Whisperlite, pan, spoon, cigarette lighters, mug, 10 litre water bag, iodine for water purifying, 2 zip-off trousers, 1 long-sleeved cycling top, 2 t-shirts, SPD sandals, 2 socks, lots of warm clothes in Siberia and nonein Sudan, Karrimor rain jacket, rain trousers, thin gloves, waterproof mitts, thin balaclava, multi-purpose cotton tube thing for hat, scarf, sandstorm face mask etc, baseball cap, helmet (occasionally worn), suncream, Oakley sunglasses (worth the cash), cycling mitts, rechargeable AA batteries and charger, little First Aid and needle kit, insurance and photocopy of all papers, blood group info, dollars cash, lots of credit cards, passport photos, maps, books, diary, camera (dream: tiny digital and big juicy SLR), iPod, passport. Oh, and my toothbrush.