Preparing for a Successful Adventure

Most Bucket Lists are filled with adventure.

Rock climbing, hiking mountains, and running marathons are all common goals. And while these goals will make your list sexy, actually doing them can be intimidating. Often these kinds of goals require us to step outside of our comfort zones, and push the boundaries of what we thought possible, both physically and mentally. But don’t despair! Whether your adventure is climbing Mount Rainier in the dead of winter or backpacking across Southeast Asia, these tips will help make your journey a succesful one.

Get educated. There’s nothing worse than being ill-prepared. Trust me, I’ve found myself in some pretty bad situations. Nature is indifferent to your joy, comfort, distress, and pain. It’s critical that you plan accordingly. The first step of any successful adventure is research. You need to know what to expect. Study maps of the areas where you’ll be traveling, read blogs from others who’ve done what you’re planning to do, and find a good book on the subject (and read the reviews of the book on Amazon, they’re always filled with excellent advice and information.)

Have the right gear. When you’re buying gear, you’ll have to make trade-offs. Many of the questions you have to ask yourself (and answer) will depend on your personal preferences. Is comfort more important than weight? Is the added cost of something worth the extra features? Knowing the limitations of your gear and whether it’s suitable for the elements you might encounter are also things you’ll need to consider. Again, do your research.

Click here for a printable Backpacking Checklist from REI

Know your gear. Don’t wait until you’re on the trail just moments before sunset to figure out how to set up your tent. Spend a weekend doing a trial run at a state park to familiarize yourself with how to properly use all of your gear. Read the product information to learn how to troubleshoot in case you encounter problems on the trail.

Travel light. Less is more. Don’t bring a bunch of shit things you don’t need and won’t use. Going on an adventure is a chance to leave it all behind. The less you have to carry, the better your experience will be. Don’t drag it all with you. Leave everything but the essentials at home. You don’t need 60 pounds of gear.

Know your limits. And the limitations of everyone in your party. Don’t overestimate your ability, and be sure to condition yourself before striking out on the trail. When you’re training, do your best to simulate the types of environments and scenarios you could find yourself in so you know what to expect. Load up your pack with everything you plan to take and go for a hike…a long hike. Can you hack it? Adjust accordingly.

What adventures do you have planned for the summer? How are you preparing? Do you have any advice for others who are just starting out?

Just Do It: Five Steps to Create the Life of Your Dreams

Now that I’ve moved away from my hometown, I use Facebook to keep my friends and family up to date on what I’m doing.  Whenever I travel somewhere or do something exciting (like skydiving or rock climbing) I post pictures of my adventures on my profile.  Almost every time I post a new photo album, someone leaves a comment about how they wish they could do the things that I do, claiming they don’t have the time, the money or that their responsibilities as a parent or employee hold them back.

They’re wrong! And if you think you don’t have the time or money, or that your obligations are limiting your opportunities, you’re wrong, too!  The only thing preventing anyone, including you, from doing anything is the willingness to make it happen; to Just DO It! The doors are open and opportunity awaits anyone willing to reach out and grab it.  There are no gatekeepers preventing you from living the life of your dreams. You don’t have to ask anyone for permission.  The world is your oyster!

How!? How can you begin living the life of your dreams…RIGHT NOW?

Make a Choice: What do you want out of life?  Do you dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail or living in a foreign country?  Whatever your desires, if you ever hope to see them through to fruition you must make them your priority.  If you want to travel, choose to make it a priority.  Want to become a writer?  Choose to make it a priority.  Inside each of us there is an “on” switch that we must flip.  Make a choice, flip that switch, commit to your goal and pursue it ruthlessly, without hesitation or apologies.

Stop Dreaming: Dreams bring inspiration but dreams and inspiration will only get you so far.  If you ever want to accomplish anything, you must move beyond the visions in your head.  Dreaming, hoping and wishing don’t produce results.  Burgess Meredith in Grumpier Old Men said it best:

You can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which gets filled first.

Stop Making Excuses: There’s an excuse for everything and guess what, all of those excuses suck.  An excuse is just a way of justifying inaction due to fear.  It’s easy to say “I can’t” if you can blame it on some externality that you “aren’t able” to control.  It’s not easy to admit that you’re afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone.  It’s so much easier to blame your situation on money, time or the kids.  And since those excuses are so universally accepted in our culture, no one is going to call you out on any of them.  No one, that is, except me.  All of your excuses are bullshit. You know it and I know it.  Stop making excuses, you won’t live forever.  These guys aren’t making excuses.

Prepare: Want to quit your job?  Sit down, take an honest assessment of your financial situation and create a plan to shore up any weaknesses you find.  Create a budget, eliminate all extraneous expenses, get out of debt, build your savings.  Prepare yourself in real ways that will help you to succeed.  No matter how much you hate your job, hate alone isn’t going to set you up for success.  Do something positive each day with that emotional energy, then smile as you walk through the door because you know that you are one day closer to walking away for good.

Take Action: Preparation leads you in the right direction but, like dreams, can only take you so far.  Once you reach a point where all the preparations have been made, it is time to take action.  Action creates change.  Change brings about opportunity.  Don’t count on luck to bring you the life of your dreams.  “Luck” is just opportunity presenting itself to those people who are prepared to act upon it.  You can create your own luck by taking action towards accomplishing your goals.  Want to become an artist?  Paint.  Want to learn a foreign language?  Take a class.  Want to travel the world?  Buy a plane ticket.  Action is the only thing that separates dreaming from reality.

Creating the life of your dreams isn’t difficult, it just requires dedication, determination and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone to take calculated risks.  Success isn’t guaranteed, but failure only comes to those who quit. Turn your dreams into reality, make the choice to make it happen.  Give up the excuses and prepare for success.  Create a new reality; the reality of your dreams.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted?

We all have our ideas of what the “perfect life” would be like but often the images in our mind are a far cry from the reality we are living.  If you were able to travel back in time and ask a younger version of yourself if this is the future they’d choose for themselves, what would their answer be?  Twenty years ago, could you have envisioned the life you have today?  Is it everything you’d imagined or have your dreams evaporated into thin air?

Chances are, the life you are living today is nothing like the life you expected to have.  You sold your ideals for a dollar bill.  Why?  “Because that’s just what adults do.” We have to make a living to pay the bills.  There’s food to buy and television to watch.  How are we supposed to save the world when we’re up to our eyeballs in debt?  The mortgage isn’t going to pay for itself, is it?

“It is what it is.” There’s no time for dreams.  Dreams don’t pay the bills or put food on the table.  Our younger selves didn’t understand what it meant to be adults.  We have obligations now and we’ve built our lives around some idea of what it means to be a “responsible adult” in today’s world.  What we ended up with is a career that steals our time and energy, a mortgage that drains our income and debt from all the Stuff we bought to furnish and decorate our home.  We have many thousands of dollars in Student Loans and a couple of cars to pay for.  Oh yeah, and the credit cards…

It looks like being an adult isn’t all that we’ve been led to believe.  All of our lives we’ve been told that adults are “responsible”, implying that it’s somehow more virtuous to fall in line and follow the leader than it is to follow our youthful ambitions.  The “responsible” thing to do is find a job, get married and have children, buy a house and a couple of cars, then keep your nose to the grindstone until it’s finally time to retire.  When that day does come, we hope that our health will last long enough to enjoy the life of our dreams; the life we’ve been waiting our whole life to live.

And what has it all amounted to?  A garage full of Stuff we never really needed in the first place, kids that seem to resent our very existence unless we’re buying them something, a spouse that we barely seem to know anymore and a huge house we aren’t able to enjoy because we are at the office earning a paycheck to pay the mortgage.

Sure, we have all the Stuff we could ever imagine.  We drive nice cars and wear nice clothes.  Our home is decorated like a magazine cover and on the weekends we are able to relax with a cold beer in the backyard.  On the surface things seem wonderful.  A little deeper though and things don’t look as good anymore.

What are we sacrificing to create this image of the “perfect” life?  Our time, our energy, our sanity?  If the average person starts working fresh out of college at the age of 22 and retires at 67, that’s 45 years of life sold for a dollar bill.  We’re trading our life to fill our garage with junk, for a heap of metal to take us to a job so that we can pay for that same heap of metal.

What if there were a different way?  What if you didn’t have to spend your entire life working?  Would you do it?  If you knew that in 10 years you could be financially able to walk away from your job with enough money to pay for all your expenses, would you have the ambition to make it happen?

There is a way, it is possible!  The only problem – of course there’s a problem – is that to get there, you have to minimize your spending and save.  “But that’s Un-American!” Our entire lives we’ve been told to “get out there and boost the economy.”  After the attacks on September 11 we were told to go shopping as a way to stand up against terrorism.  Does that mean we’re supporting terrorism by saving money?  Of course not!

What I’m talking about isn’t a new concept.  It isn’t impossible.  It’s been done before and it’ll be done again.  And not just by a few outliers but by many thousands of people.  Will you be one of them???

What’s the secret?

Live Frugally: Cut your expenses to the bone.  Anything that doesn’t offer real value to your life is out.  That might mean going without a contracted cell phone, cable television, TiVo or Netflix.  Find alternatives or other ways to occupy your time.  It may seem impossible now but you can live without these things.

Get Out of Debt: You can’t be financially independent when you’re in debt.  Get out, get out, get out! By adopting a frugal lifestyle, the extra money you’re able to save can be applied towards eliminating your debt.  After you’ve saved up enough money to cover six months of living expenses, every penny should be thrown at your debt.

Save: Once you’ve paid off the last of your debt it’s time to save like never before.  It may take you a few years, maybe even ten or 15, to save enough money to become financially independent but that’s better than 45 years!

Invest: This is where the magic is!  With the money you’ve saved, you can invest it into conservative investment vehicles which will pay you interest in fixed intervals over a specific length of time.  If you’ve saved and invested enough, this interest will cover all of your monthly expenses.  Now your money is working for you, not the other way around!

If you’d like to learn more about the process outlined above, I recommend checking out the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.