Originally published January 20, 2010.
If you read last week’s post about Rule #7 (Tell someone where you’ll be), you may be grumbling a little. I know, I know. You’re spontaneous. You can’t be held to a plan. You need adventure, and that means heading out into the great wide open with little more than a desire to explore.
This is fine, as an attitude. I actually encourage it, and embrace it myself. But a desire to be spontaneous, to let the east wind carry you to the door of your next unknown adventure, doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in at least some planning and preparation. Remember, when we set out on this journey together I said that solo hiking and camping can be safe — with a little preparation and precautions. With the preparation, you can stop worrying about danger and get on with the enjoyment…which is kind of the point, right?
Besides, planning is fun. When I was a kid, I would watch, fascinated, as my dad spent the better part of the year planning our annual vacation. He would pore over travel guides from AAA, send away for brochures and amusement park maps (this was pre-Internet), make lists and add up prices and plot courses and analyze maps. He had so much fun doing it, I sometimes wondered if he had more fun planning the vacation than actually being on it.
I inherited this planning fascination from him. When I took my long road trip, I spent a couple of months planning — researching equipment I would need, places I wanted to go, people with whom I could stay, sites to see, etc. I looked at driving times between parks, mapped out routes, looked at websites on American roadside kitsch. (Of course, I didn’t have this blog to help me…) It was scary — because I wasn’t certain I could do it — but it was also exciting.
Here are some good things about planning and not leaving everything to spontaneity:
- Anticipation: Planning lets you have fun with your trip before you go, because you can imagine yourself on the trip and get excited for it.
- Eliminating Potential Problems: No, you can’t foresee everything. (Unless you can, in which case you know what I’m going to say next.) You can anticipate potential issues that might arise and make provisions for them ahead of time. If you know you’re going to be in a place where the weather is cold, for example, you can pack warm clothing and avoid a) frostbite or b) maxing out a credit card buying new clothes. If you eliminate these issues before they happen, you don’t have to worry about them while you’re supposed to be having fun.
- Find stuff you never would have seen otherwise. Okay, this goes both ways. If you don’t plan at all, you might miss something unbelievable because you didn’t know to look for it. On the other hand, if you stick too hard and fast to your plan, you run the risk of missing something unbelievable because you didn’t take the time to notice it. Balance, my child, is the key. But the point here is that by planning, you might run across something truly interesting that you wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled across on your own.
- Know what you’re getting into. This is probably the most important benefit of planning, at least from a safety perspective — and is also connected to eliminating potential problems noted above. If you know that the hike you’re planning is 5 miles, and moderately strenuous, you can guage how much time you need. If you have the right map, you can figure out if you’re on the right trail or get yourself un-lost if you make a wrong turn. All of this makes for safer, and therefore more fun, solo hiking.
Finally, planning doesn’t have to mean you give up spontaneity entirely. Planning can provide merely a framework…and then you can decide to stick to the plan or not, depending on your whim. And if you do decide to switch it up at the last minute, you can text/facebook/call/leave a note like we talked about last time…
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.