How To

On a quiet Monday in 2012, cooking dinner one autumn evening, an idea popped into my head. I had just traveled 1,000 miles down the Missouri River on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), and was on the lookout for another adventure. It suddenly occurred to me, completely at random, “Why don’t I continue on and journey my way across the USA?” A short 30 minutes later the idea of a 2,000 mile solo cycle west to California had formed, plans were being drafted, and a to-do list put in place. It was as simple as that.

A short 30 minutes later the idea of a 2,000 mile solo cycle west to California had formed, plans were being drafted, and a to-do list put in place.

There is a misconception that adventures are these huge undertakings that are years in the making, predominantly made up of thickly-bearded, sun-hardened explorers spending months cooped up pouring over maps and minute details. This may be true for some expeditions, but certainly not all! My solo cycle across the USA was conceived, planned and underway in a mere five days. And really, I could have squeezed it all into just three had I not decided to build my own website, make (and edit) a film, and hum and haw over which secondhand bike to buy.

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©Ness Knight

If there is one thing my bike trip taught me, it’s that you don’t have to spend a year meticulously planning out an adventure. Within a few days I had pulled together most of what I would need; a Cannondale touring bike, cycling gear, warm winter clothing and camping equipment. My shoes were borrowed and two sizes too big, my bike was secondhand, and I stocked up on old plastic bags to line my socks as homemade waterproofing (note to self and the world, make sure you have the right shoes for expeditions – happy feet equals a happy adventurer)!

Those five days of preparation were filled with planning the trip: designing and building my website, organizing route maps, press, photo shoots, filming, editing, collecting gear, setting up social media and planning my journey out from start to finish. Sure, it was hard work, very hard work. And perhaps getting to the starting line of any expedition is the toughest part. But on the chilly, fresh morning of 28th October, I left St. Louis and began pedaling my way west to California. And boy was it worth it! 2,000 miles of cycling lay ahead, and I had ants in my pants, rearing to go and discover the wilderness.

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©Ness Knight

Within days my planned route went out the window, and I realized that sometimes the best adventures are the spontaneous ones, where you follow your nose and let the journey sweep you off to weird and wonderful places. So here are my top tips for how to plan an adventure (big or small) on the fly:

Get social and get inspired

Those we keep in our social circles inspire much of what we do and experience in life. And there is no better way to get inspired and motivated for spontaneous adventures than to open up your social circle. Listen to the plethora fascinating talks and lectures given by all manner of adventurous folk across the country and get ideas and tips for planning a trip.

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©Ness Knight

The online adventure and sports communities across social media are really quite brilliant, and people are always willing to give advice, ideas and tips from their own experience. Don’t be shy, just get connected and get inspired. You’ll learn how to plan an adventure in no time!

Leave the sofa!

Perhaps the hardest part for most is in committing to actually get off the sofa and into the great outdoors! We all have brilliant ideas and journeys we’d love to do running through our heads – now is the time to make it happen. I live by this quote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” – Mark Twain


Life is short in the grand scheme of things, so make sure you enrich yours with experiences that challenge you, open your world up, and make you beam from ear to ear!

Make it real

Get a list going of all the stuff you would like to have ticked off by the end of the year. Split them into summer and winter adventures if you like, close your eyes, point to a random spot on the page, open your eyes, and voilà you have your next adventure!

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©Ness Knight

Now how to plan your adventure? What do you need to include in your all-important gear list? Just because you’re prepping for an adventure on the fly, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared with all the gear you’ll need. I am super forgetful, so creating a checklist is essential for me whether I’m planning a two-month long solo expedition or an awesome overnight micro-adventure with friends. Knowing what you need and where it is helps you be ready for adventure at a moment’s notice. Have your tent, hiking boots and camp stove ready to go whenever you are and planning a trip is a lot easier. It’s also helpful to know who to call when you need something specific – like a used bike or the shoes to go with it.

Taking these first steps will help you gain momentum, so go and get that mini first aid kit together, lay your gear out on your lounge floor, and check the weather report (there is nothing fun about hypothermia!).

Go with the flow

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©Ness Knight

One of the most incredible things about adventures on the fly is that you learn to love the fact that they are not meticulously planned. Sure, there are some tips for planning a trip you can follow to be ready, but the best tip is to expect the unexpected. Revel in the unknown. You’ll meet people along the way that become friends for life. You’ll have stunning little moments that will imprint themselves on your memory forever. And you will overcome challenges that will see you come out the far side of an adventure standing a few inches taller than when you started. So go with the flow and surprise yourself. Because adventure is about the journey, not just the destination.

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