If you’re like me, the final days leading up to your summer expedition will feel like a series of events put in motion that you can’t stop. It’s this edginess that reminds me I’m about to do something great, something hard. That I’m about to learn a lot. I’m about to pack a lot of living into the next 14 or 30 days.
Good preparation for your summer expedition can help alleviate some of the anxiety you feel while waiting for your expedition to begin. Not to mention that without the right preparation, you could spend the first three days distracted by the blisters on your feet from poorly-fitted boots, instead of on the beauty of your surroundings or getting to know your crewmates. So here are ten ways you can be well-prepared for your expedition, so you can make the most of your trip.
Tip #1. Wear your hiking boots at home to break them in. Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase new outdoor footwear. Purchase them a few weeks or even a month or so in advance. Wear them with the socks you plan to wear on your expedition too. Wear them while walking the dog or running errands to “break in” stiff, new boots and to learn what keeps your feet most comfortable before you hit the actual trail. This is true even if your trip is not strictly a hiking trip. The support of good footwear is crucial to many outdoor activities, and your feet will thank you.
Tip #2. Practice life without your screens. If you’re nervous about what it will be like to spend a few weeks without your phone or computer, give it a test run! Pick a part of the day, even for an hour or two, to turn your phone off. Increase the amount of time you unplug and see if you can work your way up to a whole weekend. You may even realize you enjoy time away from constant notifications.
Tip #3. Try new foods. You’ll likely eat something new during your summer expedition. Wilderness meals can be very different from the diet we maintain at home. Meals in the outdoors are meant to help your body refuel after a long day of calorie-burning adventure and may even be planned around specific activities, resources or pack weight. Be mentally ready to try new things and experience a change in appetite. Try learning to cook a new recipe at home or order something you’ve never had off the restaurant menu.
Tip #4. Exercise. Strenuous physical activity is a key part of every expedition. But that doesn’t mean it has to be work. Whatever you do now—whether it’s running, lifting weights, yoga or team sports—just do a bit more. Don’t currently have any physical activity in your weekly schedule? Perhaps you can start with some brisk walking around your neighborhood or park. Try simple exercises like sit-ups or push-ups that don’t require specialized equipment or memberships. Find an activity or exercise buddy. Play tennis together, meet up at the track for sprints or share a lap lane at the pool. Building your physical fitness for your summer expedition will not only help you have a more successful trip, it will also protect you from injuries.
Tip #5. Get comfortable with your gear. Make sure the clothing you buy fits in such a way that you can move freely. Check to make sure what you’re buying matches the specifications on your packing list provided by Outward Bound. If an item seems oddly specific, there’s likely a good reason why it has been placed on the list. For example, on a sea kayaking course you may be instructed to bring a type of water shoes without straps because they tend to create blisters. It is our intention for you to have the best experience possible on course, including making sure your gear is well suited for the expedition.
Tip #6. Familiarize yourself with your expedition area. Check out the materials you’ve been provided from your admissions staff with information about your course area. Be sure to check out these videos of expedition areas, whose landscapes can be drastically different from the coast of Maine to the alpine tundra of California’s North Cascade mountains. Do a bit of research, know what you’ve signed up for and build realistic expectations for your expedition. And of course, get excited!
Tip #7. Set some goals. Take some quiet time (maybe while you’re practicing leaving your phone in a drawer) and think about what it is that has led you to your Outward Bound course, and who you hope to be when you walk away from it. Maybe you want to become more confident in yourself, learn to be a leader or learn how to work better with others. Your team and Instructors will be there to support you in reaching your goals, so dream big! Your expedition will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime combination of inspiring people in a stunning place, accomplishing incredible things.
Tip #8. Fulfill your obligations to the “frontcountry” as you count down the days to the backcountry. Let your mind focus in on the challenges and rewards of each day without having to worry about your work calendar, the plants that need watering or your email inbox.
Tip #9. Find inspiration. Keep a record of motivational quotes in a journal or ask your friends and family to write you notes that you can open and read on your expedition. Print a photo of your dog—whatever it is that’s going to get you through a tough moment, or bring a smile to your face when you’re on your adventure and thinking of home.
Tip #10. Get some sleep. Show up to your course well-rested and ready to go! Too often, we short ourselves on quick turnarounds traveling, which results in the first few days of the expedition being spent in a funk while your body sorts out a new time zone and tries to catch up on sleep. Help your body make the most of your trip by taking good care of it as your Outward Bound course approaches.
Congratulate yourself because you’ve boldly put the wheels in motion for your summer expedition, and it will be here sooner than you think! Take the time to prepare mentally and physically so you’ll make the most of your summer expedition. Happy trails!
About the Author
Renee Igo was an Outward Bound student at age 15, and has been instructing wilderness expeditions for the Voyageur Outward Bound School for the past eight years. When not instructing, she holds a variety of other teaching positions and raises sheep in Maine.
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