What’s stopping you from going on a (big) adventure?

Van Life Adventure

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Once you’ve done it, you cannot stop asking “Why haven’t I done it sooner?”

When we started telling people that we were going to leave everything behind for a few months, and go cycle from France to Romania, the one thing that we heard over and over again was: “I wish I could do something like that!”. All we could reply was to ask them why do you wish instead of just doing it?

What is holding them back?

What makes them think that we can do it and them not?

The most common answer was “I simply cannot!”, followed with a variety of reasons: I cannot afford it, I cannot leave my job, I cannot leave the children, I cannot leave my house with a not yet repaid mortgage and no revenue, I don’t have the equipment, I’m not fit enough, etc.

All reasons to just fend off the thought of going into the unknown. Those excuses are not valid, we can all do it. With a bit of planning and creativity, we can make our big dreams come true, and this applies to anything in life, not just adventures.

Because at the end of any journey, lies the most valuable treasure of them all: Feeling like you’ve lived!

In this article, my goal is to

  • Guide you through some of the benefits of a long adventure and why these experiences are so rich. It doesn’t matter what kind of adventure you choose, it has to be yours, what resonates most with you. Whether it’s backpacking, bikepacking, sailing, living off nature for a while, trying the van life, and so on. The possibilities are endless.
  • List you additional reasons and benefits for you to absorb and leverage to choose an adventure that you’ve long been craving for.
  • Guide you through the planning of such an adventure and help you find solutions for all these “I cannot”s that keep you stuck.
  • Introduce you to an amazing and thought-provoking exercise, which is designed to help you overcome your fears, whether it’s adventure-related or any other aspects of your life.

And finally, I’ll give you some tips and tricks to start your life of adventures today, through daily/weekly microadventures and build momentum, which in turn builds confidence and then opens the gate to vast possibilities.

Daily setbacks

In today’s busy/chaotic livelihood, we’re rushing for everything.

Rushing to leave early so we can catch the train or drive to avoid the traffic to get to the office in the morning so nobody looks funny at us for being 5 minutes late. Already stressed by traffic or a packed train, we then rush to have lunch before the next meeting starts, rush to go to the gym as the last meeting finished late, and rush to get back home to our family waiting for us, to have a rushed dinner in a somewhat enjoyable evening. Finally, we sleep, rinse and repeat.

Then we have some holiday and all these travel destination ideas that won’t fit in our two or three weeks off. But somehow we manage to squeeze them all in. We go, only to come back from our holiday more exhausted than before. And then we go back to the daily traffic (office, gym, dinner, sleep) rush.

And our calendars are always full! Full of meetings, full of activities, full of weekend plans, full of social demands.

This is where a long adventure comes in as a helping hand for us to disconnect for more than the usual two or three weeks. To get rid of the work and social pressure for a while, and learn to enjoy little and simple things. To disconnect with society and reconnect with ourselves.

Benefits of a long adventure

“It is the journey that matters, not the destination.”

The beauty of travelling slowly and spending in each place you visit as much time as you feel like spending (not being restricted by a flight or a train booked in advance), is that it enables you to become part of these places.

You have the time to connect with their people, culture, habits, cuisine and nature. You have the time to assimilate all aspects of these places rather than just look at them as a stage setting for your short holiday.

Spending more time in these places, and probably in more basic living conditions than if you were just on a holiday with a higher budget, will also enable you to develop relationships with locals. During our bike trip through Europe, we noticed the kindness and hospitality of people, everywhere, in each country, no matter what they do, where they live, which God they believe in or how much money they earn. People are incredibly kind, helpful and generous, and I believe that a long adventure is one of the best ways to interact with these different aspects and understand human kindness through shared experiences. 

Long term travelling will also make you realise how much you value your own country and the people you left behind. While spending all your time amongst other cultures and civilizations is amazing, you will surely miss home, familiar faces, smells, habits, etc. However, once you go back, you will be able to see things differently and value everything and everyone important to you like never before. 

In a nutshell, big and long adventures have a tremendous positive impact on your life. They will make you grow and teach you so much about you and others. They will open your mind and help you become a better version of yourself.

How to sort out your life and plan for the big adventure?

Let’s get back to some of the most common excuses that you might find to postpone or give in your dream of a long adventure.

I cannot afford it!” – Not true

Long adventures are often much cheaper than your current busy life: no rent, no bills, no accommodation (as long as you have a tent, a vehicle to sleep in or kind people to offer you hospitality), and for most of us, food is in many countries much cheaper than where we live.

Just to give you an example, Alastair Humphreys, author of The Boy Who Biked The World, cycled around the world for four years, a journey of 46,000 miles across 5 continents, which cost him only £7,500.

Probably the equivalent of what most people spend in one to three months living in central London.

In a nutshell, if you want to travel for a long time, you don’t need that much money! And you can already start saving some money to make it happen.

Here are some tips to easily save money without drastically changing your lifestyle:

Have a piggy bank

This might sound childish, but it works! Replace a couple of drinks or a meal out each week by putting a banknote in a box (if you save 25 a week, in one year you will have saved 1,300; which is already a great start). Or when you pay, save the spare cash (i.e. anything under 5).

Start organising free activities in your area at the weekend

There is so much you can do: go for a walk or run in the park, go for a picnic, organise a board games evening, etc. These activities will keep you busy doing something interesting while not spending any money on non-essential things. If you start doing this every week, you should notice that your bank account will be less empty at the end of the month. You can also start volunteering for something dear to you in your town. There are plenty of options!

Track your expenses

If you don’t know what your money is spent on, you can’t make the most sensible choices about spending and allocating it for maximum benefit. Create a complete budget, break it down into categories and attribute a certain monthly amount to spend in each one of them. At the end of each month, review your budget, see what you have spent and where you could reduce the allocated budget. And you can use anything from notes, to excel sheets to software like YNAB

Eat more at home

Cooking can be an absolute delight, in addition to being incredibly cheap and saving you loads of money. Apps like Yummly, BBC Good Food, and books that make it easy to get started Joy of Cooking and 5 Ingredients Quick and Easy Food

Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol is incredibly expensive for what it is, and it adds up to high expenses. It’s nice to enjoy it, but more so on special/rare occasions, instead of the daily go-to, saving tons of money on the go.

The most important is to have enough money for your trip, but also to cover the monthly bills that you won’t be able to cancel during the adventure (e.g. mobile phone subscription, travel insurance…) and to have a bit of untouched and untouchable savings for your return. This will enable you to leave relaxed, without the anxiety of coming back and not having anything left.

You need to consider that, when you come back, you might have no job for a few weeks, you might need to find a new place to live. As long as you plan these things, it should not be an issue and no financial worry will spoil the amazingness of your adventure!

With all this, anyone should be able to put their busy life aside for a few months to live their dream! If despite all this, you still believe that you cannot afford it, you can also consider raising funds to help finance your adventure. Your friends and family would probably be very happy to support your project and you can decide from the beginning to transfer a part of the money received to a charity that resonates with you.

If you have a property of yours, you can rent it out and have a considerable amount of revenue during your much cheaper travels which can help you save more money and enjoy more your life at the same time.

Adventures Piggy Bank
Adventures Piggy Bank

“Even if I can find the money, I don’t have the time!” – Create it!

You impose this boundary upon yourself. Your life belongs to you, and so does your time. What do you really want to spend all your time doing? 

Working from Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 and being too exhausted to properly enjoy your time with your beloved ones in the evenings and at weekends? Having 2 to 5 weeks of vacation per year?

Or follow your heart and your dreams, and create incredible stories to tell your children, grandchildren and inspire your peers and future generations?

“Okay but I need my job!” – There will always be a job available for you.

How long have you been working for your company? Is your job the job of your life? If you believe so, why don’t you ask your employer to give you a sabbatical leave?

Many firms accept these long unpaid leaves nowadays, and if they value your work, most of them will understand and allow you to take your time off.

If you already know that your job is not the job of your life, then what holds you back? It’s relatively easy to find a job with a bit of motivation, and there will always be employers looking for people like you when you return.

“What about my house? I can’t leave it from one day to the other” – Why not?

First of all, this is not from one day to the other. You don’t need to plan this adventure for many years in advance, but a little bit of planning is still required. In a few months, there is nothing difficult in finding a solution for your home.

If you own your place and haven’t finished paying back your mortgage, you can rent it out furnished during your adventure. This will pay the mortgage back and maybe even give you some passive revenue on top of it.

If you’ve already paid back the mortgage, you can either just leave your place and have it ready for your return, or rent it out and enjoy the monthly passive revenue!

If you are a tenant and cannot sublet your flat or house, don’t worry too much about it, you will find another one when you come back, there are plenty of empty places out there! And you surely have some friends or relatives with some extra space for a few boxes in their garage or cellar.

“A few boxes? I have much more than that!” – It’s the perfect time to declutter your life.

We all have cupboards and drawers filled with things that we don’t need. Some scientific studies, like the one from Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., have shown that we tend to value things that we own more than we would if we didn’t own them. This is called the endowment effect, and this is one of the reasons why it’s sometimes hard to throw or give away things that belong to us even if we don’t use and need them.

If you leave for a few months, you will anyway take less than 10% of your belongings with you, and you won’t miss the rest. You will surely even forget about most of the items left behind.

So what’s stopping you to start clearing out now? Start with your wardrobe. Take all your clothes out and only put back the ones that you often wear, and the ones that you absolutely love. For all the remaining clothes, you would probably not even notice it if one was to disappear from one day to the other. As you don’t want to end up in a situation where you could get robbed without even noticing it, I suggest that you put all these clothes that you never wear and don’t even really like in a big bag, and bring the bag to the nearest charity.

Next time, do the same with your kitchen. Empty all cupboards and drawers and only keep the plates, tools, pots and cutlery that you need, use and love. Get rid of all these things that you could get stolen without realising it.

Then move on to the next room, and continue this process with your whole house.

You don’t have to do it all at once, do one room after the other, and see how you feel once you only have the essentials there. Less cleaning, less packing for the day you move or leave, more freedom.

Decluttering
Decluttering

“And what about the kids? They have to be in school almost all year. And the dog?” – They will have the time of their life and see places, experience adventures that otherwise they might not.

The whole family can travel, including your children! Spending a few months discovering the world while being homeschooled (or not, depending on how long you plan to travel for!) will teach them so much more than another boring year at school.

Take for example the lives of  Riley, Elayna and their son Lenny who have been sailing for 7 years. You can follow their inspiring adventures on Instagram and YouTube

As for the dog, you can also take it with you. Many people go on long adventures with their dog and it works out very well! If you don’t want to or if you have other animals that are less travel-friendly, I’m sure that you have some friends who would be more than happy to look after your amazing pet for a while.

Have a look at Florian Bassfeld’s Facebook page, who cycled for 200 days through Europe with his husky and without any money! 

I have a horse and managed to find a cheap solution to leave for a few months, so no excuse here!

Overcome your fear

If after reading the above, you are still unsure whether you’d be able to do it or not, then you must be scared of something.

Fortunately, Tim Ferriss, a famous entrepreneur and author, and a great inspiration to us created a system called the Fear-Setting exercise. Watch his TED talk to learn more about it.

In a nutshell, whenever you try to make a decision and feel that something is holding you back, this exercise will do wonders. The idea is to ask yourself and answer the following questions in regards to the decision you are about to make:

  • What is the worst-case scenario if I did what I am considering?
  • What are all the things I could do to minimize that from happening?
  • If the worst-case scenario happened, what steps could I take to repair the damage?
  • What could be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?

Once you’ve answered these questions, write down the cost of inaction (what will your life be like if you do not attempt to do this thing that you are considering) in 3 months, 6 months and one year.

Finally, define the actions to take for your idea to happen.

Here is a Fear-Setting exercise template that I created. Feel free to copy it and use it whenever you feel stuck in your decision-making process!

Start with microadventures

Long adventures are indeed amazing and special. However, nothing stops you from making your whole life a series of constant adventures. Have you ever heard of the concept of microadventure?

“A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.” – Alastair Humphreys

Alastair Humphreys, who biked around the world for four years for only £7,500, is the pioneer of microadventures. Of course, getting into microadventures doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan the big adventures you’ve always been dreaming of, but they are a great way to keep your life awesome while you prepare for the big adventures, before, after and even during them.

Starting with microadventures, near home, short, easy to plan, will also get you started with planning in general, and might help you overcome your fears for the bigger things.

Also, as Alastair says “adventure is an attitude more than anything else”, so you don’t need to be in Alaska or Nepal to be adventurous. You can spontaneously on Friday night open Google Maps, find a forest, hill, lake or river close to home, and on Saturday morning take your backpack and a sleeping bag, walk or cycle to this place, discovering your area, and find a nice spot in the evening to wild camp.

This is cheap, easy, short and yet you will surely be the one colleague in the office on Monday with the best stories to tell about your weekend!

And if you like the idea of going on treasure hunts, have a look at GeoCaching.

I hope that after reading this article, instead of saying “I wish” and “I cannot”, you will just make your dreams come true, no matter how big they are! Everything is entirely up to you and well within your power.

Enjoy the video of our first long adventure, the first of many: our bikepacking trip from France to Romania. Three months on the road, 4,000 kilometres, nine countries crossed and wonderful memories for life.

Touring Monkeys – France to Romania Bikepacking
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