If you’re like me and like to get more out of a trip, you’ll want to go off the beaten path, experience more and come out the other end with a truly amazing story. Some people like to come up with rules that they always follow, like always pack a map and sun cream, but rules are meant to be broken. Here’s some things I like to do to put an edge on my adventures.
1. Don’t bring a map
I’m not saying don’t know your terrain, but having a map generally slows me down. Always checking and second guessing yourself makes you frustrated and unsure of yourself, and often wastes time and valuable daylight. Just follow your gut and use your senses, navigate by line of sight and digest some breadcrumbs to find your way home.
Some top tips on how to navigate on the fly:
- Pick a reference point on the horizon or up the hill and if you get turned around or have to go round an obstacle, you can always use this to get you back on track.
- If the sun is out, look at your shadow. Which direction is it pointing in with respect to where you want to go? If you’re headed north west and its 1pm, your shadow will be behind you and slightly on your left, about 7 O’Clock (in the northern hemisphere.) If you can’t use a reference point, just remember to keep your shadow at 7 O’clock and you’ll stay on track for a couple of hours.
- Path-finding. This can be a difficult skill to master, but there a a few simple ways to start. If you’re looking for a path, look for lines in the natural world. Paths often follow rivers, or natural depressions in the ground. The rocks might be slightly lighter where they’re exposed to more sun, or the grass or flora more down-trodden. You’ll get an eye for it eventually.
- Look behind you. When you’re on your way home you’ll be going in the opposite direction and things can look very different the other way round. Remember to periodically look behind you and memorise what the terrain looks like that way.
It’s an incredibly fulfilling feeling once you get the hang of it and will make you more confident and independent whilst travelling.
2. Have a time constraint
I’ve often found myself running home after a long days adventure because I’m trying to beat the light, or the last lifts in a ski resort, and it’s these times when you really dig deep and pull out all the stops. It encourages you to push harder and gives you a challenge at the end of the day to keep you pushing on. I’ve often had the most fun trying to beat the clock, running down a mountain and leaping through bushes. It just feels so much more adventurous.
3. Try out new things
Sometimes having too much gear can slow you down, but there are things you might never be able to do without specialist equipment. For example: I would not have been able to climb half the peaks I did last winter in Andorra without my trusty ice axe “Bertha.” She definitely saved my life a few times, but then again, I wouldn’t have been hanging off all those cliffs without her in the first place.
Bertha is now my favourite thing in the world and I never go climbing in the snow without her, but I’d been on many climbs barehanded before. Snow shoes and crampons are another two things for climbing in the snow that I’m less fond of, but I tried them all out and found out which one was best for me.
You may want to seek advice or get help from a guide on how to use things for the first time, but that’s up to you.
4. Go nuts
Don’t just stare longing at that tree, climb it! Many years ago my mother and I were hiking in the Himalayas and I leapt down from a tree in front of our group, having gone on ahead. A girl turned around to me and moaned, saying “err, why were you up there?” to which I replied “Why aren’t you?” If you’re going to spend lots of money travelling and exploring the world, don’t let what other people think kill your buzz. After all, isn’t that why you’re there?
If you feel like climbing something, do it. If you feel like dive rolling in the snow, do it. If you feel like skinny dipping in a lake, do it! It’s your damned life. Just don’t get frost bite.
5. Don’t just take pictures.
I hate people who just go somewhere, take a picture and then leave. First of all you’re not really experiencing it, and secondly, a picture is a poor representation of a moment. You have at least five senses and sight is just one of them.
Whenever I’m alone out on a precipice in the middle of the wilderness, or in some peaceful forest by a lake, I take some time to really soak it in and remember it.
Here’s how I do it:
- Sit in a comfortable spot surrounded by as much space as possible (I like precipices).
- Listen. Close your eyes and pick out all the specific sounds around you: the birds, the wind, the water. Try and visualise where they are around you.
- Notice the feelings: the warm sun, the cool wind, the feeling of the rough sand, the smooth stone, the tickle of the grass. all the things that make this place unique.
- Open your eyes and look all around you in a 180. Don’t try and remember everything you see, but pick specific things and solidify them in your mind. The way a rock formation looks like a face, the way the water swirls around a rock, the curve of a interesting tree.
- Using all of these things, you can build a sensory map of your environment far greater than just a picture. Meld the sounds, the feelings and the sights together, then close your eyes again and try to picture it without seeing it.
- This is the important part, because later on you won’t be able to see it. So imagine it, then open your eyes and check it, then close them and imagine it again.
Once you have a full map inside your head, you will be able to recall that specific moment and how it made you feel forever. Once you have some of these maps in your head, sit down at another time and repeat the process, going through each one and experiencing them again. This way you can revisit your adventures from anywhere in the world and draw from those experiences to super charge your life.