Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Outback 2014 - planning phase

Nine days to go before I depart for the Australian outback.  In this blog post, I summarise ten activities I do prior to a trip starting.  Preparing for a trans-continental overland travel only involves more preparation than a weekend or work-holiday trip based on the fact that you have to rent out your home and store your furniture.
Planning a route

The same intense preparation is required for the shorter trips.

My trip to the outback has involved hours of planning, route mapping, vehicle checks and equipment lists.
The unique aspect of all preparation is the way different individuals approach the planning phase...

Here's my top10 list on planning:

1. Establishing the vision:
What do I want to do and where do I want to go and what are the timelines.
Like many people, my mind wanders and very quickly comes up with quirky ideas that often don't result in much. But that's half the fun of trip planning.  An example was a planned trip from Sydney to Melbourne on a Postie motorcylce (it might still happen).  The document can be viewed via dropbox: The Postie

2. The Budget:
 A simple spreadsheet sanitizes my plans and quickly brings it back to reality. Balancing work, family, sport and desire for overland travel makes me time poor. Time poor means trips are expensive as every day involves money in contrast to an extended trip where the daily budget is stretched over time.
Planning Budget (Example)
3. Selling the plan:
Individual travel is easy. It's only you. Travelling as a couple is simple but adding a kids to the equation and the permission levels and sell-ability takes weeks. My wife does not like surprises so best approach is to seed ideas over a long period. Enough planting of seeds will allow the plan to germinate and eventually bloom into permission.

4. The Itinerary: 
The next phase involves dates and activities and plenty of map reading. This is the favourite part of the journey. This phase extends the actual travel and focusses the day dreaming. I suffer from an active mind especially at 2am in the morning when my mind buzzes with ideas, destinations and end goals.
Itinerary Planning
5. The logistics: 
Family logistics are on top of my list. A week or two away is not a long time for the family to be alone but smooth logistics ensures that permission is given for the next trip.  I use the word permission in a light hearted way - it's more of encouragement rather than actual permission to go on a trip.

6. The team: 
Recruiting team members takes time. Generally, friends they have the same pre-trip tensions that I have, which include selling the idea, reviewing the budget and getting leave from work.  Similiar to the family, I seed the idea with friends and will send them an outline of the plan as often short trips involve intense amounts of driving to get to new parts of the country.

7. The route: 
Short overland trips require more emphasis on planning. I tend to spend time reviewing previous trips, tracing out a route using a mapping app (like Memory-Map) and reviewing relevant permit requirements.  To much planning can sometimes dilute the spontaneity of travel.
Memory-Map (Windows App)
8. The equipment: 
A weekend trip or an extended trip does involve a similiar level of equipment requirements. I do a quick review if the trip has any unique requirements based on the destination. i.e. the trip to the Australian outback requires a 3.5m safety flag attached to the bullbar of the vehicle. 
My vehicle falls within this category and I ensure that mechanically its in top condition.  Short trips don't allow for mechanical breakdowns.  Thankfully modern 4x4 are incredibly reliable.

9. Meal planner: 
Although kept basic, a few moments planning help me facilitate my shopping list.

10. The last week: 
The garage becomes the base for the first phase of the final vehicle pack. I spread every item on the garage floor to ensure that I don't leave an item behind and also use the opportunity to travel lighter by discarding duplicate items.

My excitement for overland travel can't be contained and I am careful not to abuse the family with my visions of red earth, sand dunes, big skies and mobile-free zones.

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