Bushcraft for many is an excuse to get outside and into the woods, or something to do while on a hiking or canoeing trip. Either way, those that practise this multidisciplinary skill will at some point or another end up on an expedition.
I arrived at this point several years ago, I had been teaching Bushcraft for a few years and been on many organised expeditions but never set out solo to ‘explore’ (whatever that means). So, I did the first thing many people do and looked up other people who have done what I was planning; the west highland way, canoe through Sweden and walk the south downs way to name a few. I watched YouTube videos and their trips looked amazing; none stop laughs, drama and the raw exploration that I wanted.
I set a date, a weekend to walk the length of the south downs way the goal. To set off on the Friday straight after work. To walk and just find a camp site, what an adventure and how hard could it be?
Now, I am yet to mention the total lack of planning that I had put in place for this trip. I knew the route, had the relevant mapping and had told friends and family where I was going and when I would be back, the basic safety was in place. But I hadn’t thought about how far I would need to go to find a suitable camp site, where I would go to get fresh water and how tiered I would be after a week at work.
Alongside all of this I realised I wasn’t having the high octane adventure moments or the big dramatic events that I had seen on the YouTube videos.
I was deflated, it was getting dark, the only areas where I could have slept were on the side of very steep hills and full of sheep which my dog likes to chase.
However, this trip, although a total failure, schooled me in many aspects of expedition organisation. I’m not going to detail how to plan your own trip down to kit lists and to do lists. This is about how the trip should make you feel, and why that is the most important thing.
The trips we watch on screen or read about in books are snapshots. Easy to say but this is one of the most important messages when viewing someone else’s life through their social media. My Instagram is full of images of what seems like, a permanent outdoor living, bushcrafter. It is true, I spend a lot of time outdoors; teaching, walking and camping. I also spend a lot of time at my full time job, cooking and cleaning and studying for my Uni degree, not the stuff you tune in to find out about which is why it doesn’t feature. To be blunt, the trip you’re planning won’t be laugh a minute or dramatic event every second of the trip. I dare say some will occur, but don’t go out expecting them.
When planning your first solo or joint trip start small. If you want to climb Everest great! But maybe spend a weekend doing Snowdon or Ben Nevis first. Those first ‘easy’ trips won’t only get you use to your equipment, but they will get you into your own routine. On expeditions run by a company you will be marching to the beat of their drum, their routine. There is no issue with this, but when you’re in charge then everything is your choice, and your fault.
Finally, I would say that it is ok to sack it off, go home early or quit. However you want to put it, if you’re not having fun then leave. To confront the obvious, if you are having an unenjoyable time but growing as a person then of course you should continue, I’m not saying to head home at the first sign of rain. But, when a trip has failed then have the confidence to call it, note down why it has failed and rectify that for the next time.
To conclude, every trip you see online or read about has had its boring moments so accept yours will too. Plan your trips well but start small and build it up. And finally, if you’re not having fun then leave. Life is too short to pursue endeavours that don’t bring you pleasure.
Since then I have completed many of my own incredibly successful expeditions, which have had their dramatic events, funny stories and poignant moments. I have also led expeditions for others with many of the same moments. I think back to that failed trip often and understand now why it was never going to be enjoyable.
For more information or if you want assistance in planning your own expeditions or adventures feel free to get in touch.