Explorer, author, trail prospector & travel writer

8 Adventure & Travel Projects I’d Start Right Now (Given Unlimited Time, Money & Resources)

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.

Here goes:

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)

Forget the 1200 GS. Instead, jump on a budget airline to Iran. Then, for around $500, buy one of the millions of knock-off CG125s and set forth into this vast and fascinating country.

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…?


28 responses to “8 Adventure & Travel Projects I’d Start Right Now (Given Unlimited Time, Money & Resources)”

  1. 1) Buy a piece of land in Tuscany to build a ‘cosy but innovative village’ of wooden homes with a bunch of close friends, then turn this village into a community to share life, and also working experiences. An experiment in lifestyle design, a safe harbour for all members, travelling and permanent, and their extended families.

    2) Learn to home brew Real English Ales.

    3) Start a journey with my wife that could one day see us climbing the Kilimanjaro, so she can see that dream come true.

    1. I love the first idea, and dream regularly of something similar in the UK, before remembering that I’m still far too afraid of such a commitment…

  2. 1) Go on with the current journey – cycling from Australia to Poland.

    2) By doing this journey, i would like to figure out (at least in potential options) the way i want to carry on with my life and next travels

  3. Number 6 strikes a chord with me, in fact I was thinking on similar lines just today – but my vehicle of choice has so far been a Lada Niva. It wouldn’t take too much convincing to switch dream vehicles to one of those ‘bread loaf’ machines though. I wonder how much I could pick one up for…. I’m living in Moscow so ideally placed for such an adventure in the summer if anyone’s keen!?

    1. I’d love to hear how much you can find them for in Moscow. In Yerevan they tend to come in at roughly $2,000-$5,000 USD, depending on age and condition.

      (And yes, a Niva would be great if you didn’t need campervan functionality!)

      1. I will do some digging and let you know!

  4. jamierbw avatar

    I love all these ideas, but I see ‘Adventure Basecamp’ as one that could be very beneficial to like minded people. Cost for such people is always prohibitive, but there are still places where it could become a reality, such as in Bulgaria, where houses start from a couple of thousand euro. It’s something I looked into, but it would be a huge project for something of that price.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jamie. It’s one of those ideas that loads of people absolutely love (I know because I’ve had many conversations about it over the last couple of years), but would require leadership and connections that I don’t possess. If something like it did happen, even as a ‘minimum viable product’, I’m sure there’d be an immediate takeup.

      Something like this is already happening in ‘digital nomad’ circles, but AFAIK the crowd tends to be mainly tech freelancers. I might be wrong.

  5. In North America I’ve heard of old railroad tracks that are no longer in use being converted into long distance bike trails. The idea of designing our communities and regions to allow people to travel in different ways, and to see the places we live from different perspectives is very inspiring to me.

    1. That’s a great idea, and one that is also happening in many other countries, including the UK. Interestingly, there’s an old railway line through Armenia that used to run to Baku, though I suspect it’s not going to become a recreational trail any time soon…

  6. Travelling on foot through France for an undefinite period of time and talking to people. The aim would be for me to get to know my birth country again, forgetting my past experiences and pre-conceptions, and hopefully get reconcilied with France. Maybe one day I’ll be able to make it happen.

    1. Interesting – I get where you’re coming from as a walk through the UK appeals to me for similar reasons…

  7. The “adventure basecamp/nomad hub” is something we’ve been thinking about a lot. Would it have to be in an “adventure hotspot” (e.g. the Alps) or just anywhere in the countryside and more a space for creativity and retreat? There are so many advantages to co-living if it’s with the right people and I think there’s definitely demand for it. It’s just a question of finding a few like-minded founders and the right location I guess…

    1. My thinking was certainly more on the ‘retreat’ side of things, the idea being that it would make a semi-permanent home for people in between adventures… but I don’t think there’d be many complaints if it was in the Alps 🙂

  8. Regarding your bushcraft for adventurers (course)…you’re being modest – I’m not too sure how anyone could be any MORE qualified to teach this sort of thing! It’s the silly but practical details (like storing your scouring pad between your trangia pans to stop them rubbing/rattling) that people would be interested in.

    A lack of any formal teaching/instruction experience would probably be a benefit as it would allow you to do things in your own natural “voice”.

    Regarding demand…I hate marketing but I’m pretty sure that with the right marketing and energy you would turn this into something viable. Try a one of first. If that works do another…

    Sorry bud, that’s the objections dealt with….you’ve gotta get on with this one 😉

    1. Let me see what I can do 🙂

  9. skimmed thru your list and my mouth watered, I will revisit when my own life travel funding programme ends circa 1-2yrs!?
    however my next holiday ~ hitch from south wales to Belfast and turn right and hitch the coast road to Galway and fly back! camping and just looking…. on your doorstep, close and amazing none the less J

  10. I have a list as substantial as your own Tom, however I consider all of mine to be dreams, therefore a target and something to work towards, although many of mine are interconnected and I shall be emailing you regarding one of them very shortly. I have downloaded your two guides to adventure cycling which have been ridiculously helpful, so thank you very much for taking the time to write them. Take care & I’ll be in touch soon.

    1. Intriguing, James 🙂 I await your email on tenterhooks!

  11. Steve Parry avatar
    Steve Parry

    A friend had the idea to convert a van/truck to run on recycled vegetable oil. Then tour across Europe/Asia blogging as they travelled to promote the concept and friendly donors/routes as they went. It didn’t happen but for personal not logistical reasons.

    1. I met someone planning something like that a long time ago – at RGS Explore 2006, if I recall correctly. But I can’t remember his name…

  12. 1) Kayaking around Madagascar with a surfboard to find all amazing waves.

    2) cycling thru south America with surf gear and setting up laughter yoga stations. Where people get together to play and laugh for the sake of it.

    3) next adventure : fixing a little 30ft Bristol channel cutter yacht in Kenya to explore the Indian ocean and hopefully round cape of Good hope to continue to explore Africa. Find the best surf and kite surfing spots in untouched sailing ground…

    I love following your adventures and look forward to the next one in Armenia.

    1. This is why I love the adventure community – those ideas all sound fantastic! Will you let me know when they happen? 🙂

  13. 1.) Buy a Kayak in northern or middle Europe and see whether you will make it to either Istanbul or Cairo.

    2.) Start at Pilos (Greece) and make it to Venice by windsurfing.

    3.) Set up a website where you sell highpriced desert-experiences to bankers/buisnessmen in a place in the middle of nowhere. Arrange their arrival, give them back all their money in cash and leave them alone to teach them a real desert-experience and show them that their money has no worth out there.

    4.) Encourage yourself or someone else to drink a cup of tea with the unknown old woman living next door.

    1. Lovely ideas, Ruben! 🙂

      For some reason, number 3 makes me think of one of my favourite films, The Game

  14. Bill Flagg avatar
    Bill Flagg

    Hey, love the idea about the adventure base camp Tom, and I see it attracting a pretty big following!

    I have an idea to start a business that offers adventure travel packages to corporations. The idea would be that companies pay for these packages to send their employees on and these trips would consist of games and adventurous activities that promote leadership, thinking outside of the box, and getting people out of their comfort zones. It seems that too many companies have stale corporate environments where creativity is discouraged (purposefully or not), and people just show up and go through the day to day drudgery. Not sure how feasible this is… companies generally don’t want to spend more money than they have to, but there might be some progressive smaller companies out there willing to g above and beyond regarding their employees growth.

  15. Another idea for a base camp could be something similar to couchsurfing. Create a forum for like-minded people (those of an adventurous nature) and make our homes (for those who still have them) available to others for when they are in a given place and allow them to stay for a while, use your Internet, knowledge of local customs (and of course the best bars). Next when you are in Wherever, you can connect with one of the brethren there and enjoy the pleasures of reciprocation.

    1. This is a great idea – a Couchsurfing-like network for digital nomads to share their living/working spaces. Very cool!

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