After a challenging 2015, I’m taking a one-month break to assess my direction for the coming year. And the outlook is pleasantly clear, thanks to the trail-building project I wrote about in my last post.
It’s not just the idea to build Armenia’s first long-distance hiking route that’s got me excited. A good measure of an idea’s timeliness is when it aligns naturally with similar ideas. And as soon as I began to talk about it, other hiking projects surfaced within Yerevan’s more forward-thinking circles. There’s even a group of people planning exactly the same thing in neighbouring Georgia.
In November, I floated the idea to the British adventure community at RGS Explore. The response was unanimously supportive. (“Can I come and help?!?” was a much-heard refrain.)
And when I published the idea here, there was interest from the community not just in hearing more about it, but in getting involved too!
There are a few things to figure out, of course. Two of the biggest are where the funding is going to come from, and how organising groups of volunteers is going to work. These are good problems to have. The funding is out there somewhere, and many hands make light work.
But it’ll be such an all-consuming task that there’s little chance any other major project or journey will be viable this year. (It wouldn’t surprise me if next year was eaten up too.)
This is part of a bigger problem.
As a self-unemployed creative weirdo, I suffer from always having far too many ridiculous ideas. But rather than wallow in self-pity at the tragedy of all that lost potential, I thought it would be fun to instead list them all here in detail.
So I’d like to invite you to borrow, steal, change, develop, use, abuse, comment on, critique, or simply mock the following 8 adventure and travel ideas I’d do right now given unlimited time, money and resources, which of course I do not have.
1. Adventure Basecamp (project)
The Problem: The life of an adventurer (defined as someone who goes on lots of adventures) is incompatible with a stable home, a productive workplace, and a supportive and present community. These are things that many adventurers wish they could have. But low income and self-employment makes renting difficult and buying impossible. Co-working spaces and coffee shops are sub-optimal for creative work such as writing and video editing. And it’s rare to meet like-minded people at more than a small handful of usually annual events.
The Solution: Create a not-for-profit bricks-and-mortar space for adventurers to live, work and socialise. It would incorporate accommodation, communal hangouts and co-working areas, and private working spaces. There’d also be kitchens, storage, workshops, map rooms, outdoor areas, and other specialist facilities. It would run on a flexible membership model, with clear benefits for long-term membership. It might be supported by extra revenue via an events programme, patronage, and/or government arts funding. Such a venue would be in a secluded and rural location within easy reach of London by public transport.
The Result: Well, it’d just be an awesome thing to have, wouldn’t it? Think a cross between the RGS and a relaxed hostel-commune based in an old farm in the middle of nowhere. It’d support the lifestyle choices and work of an increasing number of people, operating for the public good. It would encourage the cross-pollination of ideas between previously disparate circles, encourage blue-skies thinking, and lead to… well, who knows what?
Why I’m Not Doing It: Because I’ve moved my own ‘basecamp’ to Armenia, and I’m too wedded to my freedom to take on a commitment this big right now.
2. Promoting the rite-of-passage adventure (project)
The Problem: Commercialism has encroached on the gap-year’s function as a time for self-discovery, experimentation and maturation. Independent travel as a tool for personal development is increasingly crowded out. For a young person, the barriers seem high in comparison with commercial programmes.
The Solution: Develop a platform, manifesto, grant, school speaking tour, or combination thereof to promote long, personal, meaningful journeys.
The Result: More well-rounded, compassionate people to rally against the age of competitive self-interest.
Why I’m Not Doing It: I’m not sure. Perhaps I should?
3. Bushcraft For Adventurers (course)
The Problem: Many people who would embark on adventures lack the confidence to operate in an outdoor environment. This stems from a lack of practical skills and knowledge of basic bushcraft/survival techniques.
The Solution: Develop and run a hands-on course teaching bushcraft skills that will be of genuine use on an adventure. Alternatively, create a self-study video training course to achieve similar ends.
The Result: More people who feel able to tackle outdoor adventures and can operate efficiently once their journey has begun.
Why I’m Not Doing It: I’m not qualified to teach the subject, and I’m yet to be convinced that the demand is actually there (do feel free to prove me wrong).
4. Filmmaking For Adventurers (course)
The Problem: More and more adventurers are packing cameras capable of shooting professional films. However, most lack the skills that would make the difference between useless footage and the building blocks of an engaging video.
The Solution: Develop and run a hands-on course teaching the basics of adventure filmmaking. Alternatively, create a self-study video training course to achieve similar ends.
The Result: More well-told stories of travel and adventure. I believe that the more such stories there are out there, the better for all.
Why I’m Not Doing It: Such a course would require months of uninterrupted focus and a team of willing collaborators. Filmmaking encompasses a vast array of skills and modes of thinking and can’t be done by halves. I really love the idea but simply won’t have the resources to work on it in the foreseeable future.
5. Travel Blogging For Beginners (ebook)
The Problem: Lots of people start travel blogs. Most of them are never read by anyone and fade into oblivion. The internet is awash with their faintly embarrassed detritus. Why? For many easily identifiable and solvable reasons.
The Solution: Compile a selection of tips to help the traveller effectively share their journey online. Publish as an ebook. (Note: this would not be a guide to ‘making a living from travel blogging’, which has already been done to death.)
The Result: More stories worth following. A widening of the ripple effect that travellers’ tales have on people who normally would not take an interest in the subject.
Why I’m Not Doing It: This is something I could thrash out in a few weeks (I do it for a living), but again I lack the time and resources.
6. USSR By UAZ (adventure)
Anyone who’s done any travelling in the former Soviet bloc will be familiar with the bread loaf, or UAZ-452.
I’ve spotted these four-wheel-drive vans in the most unlikely and remote places. Their design is unchanged in half a century, and with more than a passing resemblance to the VW Type 2, they’d surely make great campervan conversions.
Their ubiquity and mechanical simplicity is why a former-USSR road trip in one of these babies is an idea that just won’t let go. Strapping a mountain bike or kayak to the roof would make it even more fun…
7. Caribbean Hitch-Bike (adventure)
When I was about 10 years old, my parents saved their modest teachers’ salaries for a family holiday on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Then, in my pre-university gap-year, I blagged a cheap flight to the British Virgin Islands, where a schoolfriend was spending his own year out.
(Ostensibly he was working for his uncle’s yachting business, but he seemed to spend more time racking up unpaid bar tabs.)
It’s occurred to me what a one-dimensional view I’d had of this island chain. Before becoming a dream holiday destination for Brits, the Caribbean was a staging post for the so-called discovery of the New World. It was a microcosm of the imperial age that would follow and whose repercussions have shaped the islands today.
How best to explore all of this? I long thought that the bicycle would be perfect, lashed to the bows of the yachts I would hitch between islands. But with my interests broadening, it seems that acquiring a boat of my own might be a better way to do it. I’d then explore each island on foot, rigging my hammock each night beneath swaying coconut palms…
8. Iran By 125cc Motorbike (adventure)
The explorations I did in Iran a couple of years ago (watch the film) were some of the most rewarding of my life. But the region is so huge, varied and endlessly hospitable that I can’t avoid it sparking my desire to make a longer-term road trip.
There’d be few better vehicles than the cheap little motorbikes that the country seems to run on. They’re barely more complicated than a bicycle, and with petrol costing about 10p a litre, it’d not be much more expensive either.
* * *
Here’s another idea (for we all have too many):
Why not add, in the comments section below, one or two of your own projects or adventure ideas that are, realistically, unlikely to come to fruition?
Perhaps you’ll find that putting them out there quells the ‘fear of missing out’ that drives us to conceive of more than we can ever do.
Or perhaps you’ll ignite the spark of imagination in another reader – and who knows what fires may be started as a result…?