The Outside Explorer's Guide to the Brave New World of Trip Planning

…Or Just Go

Mar 1, 2006
Outside Magazine
Travel Resources

Illustration by 500gls   

. . . Or Just Go by Patrick Symmes
I once made a rather rash decision to ride my motorcycle across South America. Looking for last-minute advice, I cold-called other riders who were preparing for similar hemispheric jaunts. Some of them were so well organized, with so many "to do" lists, that ten years later they still haven't gotten out of the driveway.

If you wait until you have everything ready, every detail dialed, every piece of worst-case-scenario gear squared away, you'll never leave. Instead, learn to master the elusive art that makes adventure possible: the ill-planned, underfinanced departure.

First of all, unprepare. Unlearn all those rules about what not to do. Put your "ten essentials" checklist in a drawer, and lay down that gear catalog. Half the information I received about South America was wrong. Maps were wrong. People were wrong. Guidebooks were wrong. Learn to trust your own judgment. 

Unplan. Fill your schedule with blank spots, so that you can linger in one place or flee another. Improvise, and don't be afraid to screw up. I ran out of gas on Argentina's Valdez Peninsula once, was bitten by a dog, and ended up in the care of a rotund gaucho who still writes me letters nine years later. Adventure is almost entirely contiguous with misadventure, and the best travel memories come from these accidental moments.

Finally, unpack. The more you travel, the less you need. Start shedding pounds now. And then, at the very last second, as you are about to walk out the door, remove three things from your bag: The music player that will break down? The video camera with its rat's nest of cables? Maybe that fourth pair of pants? Stuff the freed-up space with $20 bills.

That's it. You're as ready as you ever will be.

Democracy Now // Travel the Wiki Way
Will the collective spirit behind—the Web encyclopedia written and edited by users—revolutionize the world of travel guides? Two-year-old, with free info on more than 6,000 destinations, is an experiment in progress. Continuously updated by a community of anonymous "wikitravelers," it's more objective than a blog, better organized than a forum: Everything fits neatly into a single collaborative page. One caveat: Inaccuracies can creep into any Wiki site, so double-check details before you go.—Megan Michelson

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