What planning did you do for your trip? How could you leave your home, your family and your friends? What about your dog and the cat? Isn't it dangerous? Aren't you afraid? What will you do for money? What about your pension? What if you get ill? The doubters, scaremongers as well as friends and family who were simply concerned, bombarded us with these and many other questions. Not that we hadn't asked ourselves the same questions, but when someone else keeps asking it seems to be more pressured somehow.

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'said Alice to the Cheshire Puss.

'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

I don't much care where....' said Alice.

Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat. long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.

Oh, you're sure to do that...' said the Cat, '...if you only walk long enough.'

(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll)

Some might argue that the best form of travel should have no planning. Go where the fancy takes you. No route or direction. No regard for security, safety or good health.

Karen and I have both sat quietly giggling away, reading "A Narrow Dog to Carcasonne" by Terry Darlington and his second book "A Narrow Dog to Indian River". On his narrow boat tours with their whippet dog Jim, Terry portrays himself as an "artiste", a poet with little in the way of practical skills and leaves the planning to his wife Monica. He says that a trip cannot develop into an adventure if it is too well planned.

In one way he is right, but in truth they spent a long time planning and researching both of their trips beforehand. We share a similar view. We hate to commit ourselves too strongly to a specific route or destination. We are spontaneous, often doing things last minute, but equally we enjoy planning routes, pouring over maps and reading about places to see and wild country to visit.

We were also planning for a number of years before we jumped out of the comfort of our cosy jobs and home. The amount of planning you do can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a disaster.. At one end of the scale a trip could be foolhardy, dangerous and all risk. At the other end of the scale a trip planned in every minute detail can be too predictable, safe and ...well, quite simply unchallenging. Our two eldest sons have both done "the gap year" and both warned us not to plan to rigidly and to be ready to change our plans as we travel.

Terry Darlington writes "On an adventure, much of the time you feel rather as you would do at home, perhaps a bit happier at times a bit more bored at others. But sometimes you are scared - jolted and empty and cold and tasting metal in your mouth. It is not a nice feeling and you don't forget it." And this is how we see adventure. This feeling is like a drug. The more you get the more you want.

So think of planning as you would of climbing a rock face. Place some good secure safety ropes, but leave plenty of room for maneuvering from one hold to another. There are a number of things that need careful consideration even if they do not require in depth planning. How much consideration you give to these things will depend on your own attitude towards them and to risk in general. The main thing is that you are comfortable with the feelings and emotions that different levels of risk create.

Planning - Why am I doing this?

Perhaps a good place to start is to ask “why do I want to travel and what do I expect to get out of it?” The answers to which will determine how much planning you do. You will find, as we did, that you continue to ask yourselves these questions throughout your travels as circumstances change or when you simply need to reassure yourself.

We hadn't always harboured a desire to travel the World. When we were in our twenties and fresh out of training, very few people took "gap years". The term hadn't even been invented. Some students did VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) or went "grape picking" or such, but their numbers were few and most people though it was a "bit weird". It was taken for granted that you studied, qualified and went to work. It never occurred to us " to go travelling". And then before you know it you're married or following careers, renovating houses and settling into a cosy village life. You live in a nice house and raise your kids. They go to school and some to university. You give 'em a secure and loving upbringing. You have good jobs, pay your taxes, pay into your pension fund and try as best you can to build wealth. You buy lots of "stuff" and climb the career ladder to earn more money to maintain the stuff and to buy even more stuff. You buy the flat screen television, have two cars and underfloor heating, walk in showers, golf clubs, mountain bikes, running shoes and you continue buying more stuff to maintain the stuff that you’ve already accumulated.

The trouble with climbing a hill of course is that whilst you are climbing it you are focused on the top, working hard and developing. Sometimes there are false summits and then you climb again. When you reach the top do you reach a plateau, climb the next hill or slip down the other side? And all along the way there are roots, rocks, ruts and ledges designed to throw you off.

I guess in our case we decided that we had spent enough time climbing and wanted to reap the rewards before we got too old or unfit to enjoy it. Yes, we could have tried to get our bosses to agree to us taking a sabbatical, but that didn’t really appeal to us. We felt we had both reached a pinnacle in our careers and didn’t really want to embark on climbing another hill. We wanted to see all the places we had read and heard about.

It was Steve that suggested going travelling around the World. It was Karen that laid down the condition of doing it by bike.

We are not out to break the round the World cycle touring record a la Mark Beaumont or cycle from London to Bejing within a year a la Christopher Smith. Neither are we the archetypical road cyclists intent on racking up as many miles in a day as possible. We are not the intrepid explorers prepared to brave any environment rain, shine, frost, snow or storm. On the converse we are not the Conde Naste traveler staying in boutique hotels and travelling on luxury liners. We are just ordinary fifty somethings looking for adventure.

To us what we are doing is ……all about the journey…. and this has become our motto. The journey means……

  • experiencing difficulty and hardship, but not fearing for our lives
  • discovering new places, cultures and foods
  • meeting new people and forming lasting friendships around the World
  • accummulating unforgettable experiences that we can recount to our friends, children and grandchildren
  • living life to the full

Planning - The Security of a Good Job, Nice Home, Great Friends and Love of Family

A huge hurdle - how do you feel about leaving a secure job, your home where you may have lived for many years, your friends, pets and of course your family?

There is no getting away from it and those who say otherwise are not facing reality, to leave your family and friends you have to be selfish. You have to block out those emotions that keep pulling you back. At least on a day to day basis, you have to be able to put them out of your mind. This is easier said than done and for some it is an impossibility that they couldn't even consider, but hey, we didn't just pack it all in and leave. We couldn't have. We had the same ties and emotional issues that anyone else would have. The planning for our departure took years and in the early years we were not really even conscious of it being planning in the real sense of the word.

It was precipitated when Steve’s firm relocated its operations from North Yorkshire to Sterling. Steve took the opportunity of a severance package and left the company. After a couple of months he got a new job as Sales Director of a Sheffield based company. Travelling daily to and from North Yorkshire and monthly to the south coast coupled with the pressures of the job took their toll and Steve decided to leave after 6 months. At this time he suffered a life threatening head injury, which he fortunately recovered from quickly, but it did make us re-evaluate our lives and what was important to us.

Steve had drunk his fill of the corporate world and needed to do something different. He had an ambition to build our own house and suggested that we sell the house where we had raised our children and had lived for 20 years. We moved into a rented apartment whilst he built the house. Not only would he achieve his ambition, but we would hopefully pay off our mortgage. This was a big step for both of us, but Karen also fancied the idea of building our own place. So it was decided. 2 ½ years later we moved into our new house.

During this time Karen’s job also became difficult due to a disruptive staff member and she became quite depressed by it. It only lasted about two or three months, but the result was the love that she had held for her job didn’t have the same luster anymore.

We were both getting itchy feet again. While he was building the house, Steve had done some part time work for an ex boss and once the house was complete this had helped him secure a job with an Aberdeen based oil and gas services company. After a year or so Steve was promoted to Sales Director and after a further year trying to do the job remotely we decided that a move to Aberdeen was on the cards. Coupled with the possibility of a managing director’s position for Steve, we took the plunge and moved lock stock and barrel to Inverurie in Scotland. We moved with next to no mortgage into a traditional lodge style bungalow on 3 acres of landscaped gardens and trout pond. It would be a lot of work for Karen who would give up her job and concentrate on the house and Garden.

The result of this series of events is that we had, somewhat subconsciously, gradually been severing the ties that held is to the UK and our cosy, secure existence. We had sold the family home, we had moved a long way from all of the friends and family that we held dear. Our youngest son Joe, was starting at Liverpool university and Ben his elder brother was buying a house in Liverpool that Joe and his friends could rent from him. So as the last dependent one, he was getting closer to becoming independent.

That doesn’t mean to say that Steve was not committed to his new job in Aberdeen. There was a good possibility of promotion to managing director and if he was successful we agreed to give it five years in Scotland before going travelling. If not then we could leave earlier. The move was good for us. It made us de-clutter and get rid of a lot of stuff. We had always wanted to see more of Scotland and Inverurie is a lovely market town with everything close at hand. We made the most of our time there, cycling and walking around the area as well as undertaking some longer tours of the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides (featured on Our Tours pages). We made some good friends. Karen got a part time practice nurses job, which suited her and Steve really enjoyed his work too.

However when the recession hit and Steve’s boss decided he needed to stay on longer than he had planned, we had some decisions to make. We realized that unless we set a date for our departure we may never go so we decided that we would leave on 1st May 2009.

We put the house on the market in September 2008 and in November Steve told his fellow directors of our plan. They were remarkably understanding although a little shocked.

Planning- Planning started in earnest.

However, by May 1st we still did not have a buyer for the house. We stuck with it and suddenly at the beginning of July 2009 we struck gold. We then had to move fast. We both handed in our notice. Fortunately, Steve only had to work 2 of his 6 month contractual notice period, which meant that we would leave on 28th August 2009.

The next two months were manic. Fortunately Ben’s house purchase in Liverpool was also going through and his completion date was planned to be the same as our leaving date. We agreed a price with Ben for him to buy a large part of our furniture and belongings from us with which to furnish his new place. Most items would be packed and shipped to Liverpool the day before we would leave.

This still left a lot of other things that he didn’t want. We set up accounts with Ebay for general sales and Amazon for book sales. Every day Steve would take items to work and pack them and ship them from his office. We raised about £1500 from the sale of our goods. Things that we couldn’t sell through Ebay or Amazon we took to car boot sales and made a few more hundred pounds. We didn’t like this bit much. It was disheartening that the things we felt had real value, people only wanted to pay pennies for.

What we couldn’t sell was finally dropped off at various charity shops during the last few days of our departure.

We had to find new homes for Sam and Delilah. Joe said he would keep Sam with him in Liverpool, but we had to advertise for someone to take care of Delilah. Time drew on and still we had no takers for Delilah. Delilah was old and failing. Few people want to take on an old cat. We reached a point of making an appointment to have her put to sleep. The day of the appointment and a friend at work said they would have her, so she was reprieved at the 11th hour. Thanks Chris.

There are a number of specific areas of planning that warrant their own pages as follows:

or link back to our Home Page from Planning

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