Dave Jacka


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Thoughts on planning a small or large adventure

Some say to feel the true sense of adventure it needs to be spontaneous or with minimal planning allowing the uncertainty of how it might turn out, resembling a leaf’s unpredictable journey in the wind.

I have to be honest, I do like the idea of taking off and letting the universe dictate how the experience unfolds, never knowing what exciting or potentially regretful outcome my decisions may bring, and with a bit of luck it will make a great story to tell my mates over a few beers at the end.

I think it comes down to the type of adventure you want, what you are comfortable with and how important is it to reach the final goal you have been dreaming of for so long.

I am going to generalise here, but I see that there are three groups of people who do adventures. There are the ones who get out and have a crack, not thinking too much about it, and seeing what unfolds, usually done solo for the most freedom. There are the generalists, who do a moderate amount of planning so they can at least get themselves to the start of their adventure with gear, albeit most likely untested.  At the end of the spectrum are the full on planners who relish the detail and seeing their visions come to life. We all sit somewhere in between at different times in our life depending upon our personality, needs and circumstances.

In my situation, being in a wheelchair with limited physical function, I am a full on planner. Detailed planning with plenty of support from people allows me to overcome impossible challenges or obstacles and successfully complete small and large adventures.   Out of my home environment, I’m like a turtle on my back, seemingly small obstacles become big ones, such as finding moderately accessible accommodation, planning helps me manage this.  On flying trips, unable to carry much weight in the plane, I need a level of certainty and book most of the motels ahead; I always make sure I can cancel the booking if we get delayed with weather or have mechanical problems. During the Paddle Wheel Murray River Expedition having a Land and Water Support Crew allowed us to be more flexible and carry lots of gear so a tent with a cot on the banks of the river did the trick. However, I did bring a generator to power the blow-heater when it was cold!

I need a support team no matter what I do, whether it’s one carer or twenty volunteers such as on the Paddle Wheel Murray River Expedition.  If you’re organising or leading the adventure, it’s your responsibility to look after your team and I believe good planning is critical to develop a well functioning and happy team. Just winging it to see how it goes, may turn your volunteers from dedicated to frustrated and likely to quit.  I find by planning as much as I can that is practicable and in my control such as how to feed the team, transport logistics or making sure each person understands and fulfils their role, puts the team on a path for success and a better chance of completing your goal.

But we also need to be realistic and willing to change the plans if necessary. No matter how much planning you do, things will go wrong and unforeseen events will happen, flexibility is the key. On the Paddle Wheel Murray River Expedition, as with most adventures, there were a lot of unknowns, and realistically we could only take one day at a time. With simple strategies we could handle most unforeseen challenges and risks. It was likely that the Support Kayaker, Support Boats and myself would get separated from the Land Crew at some point. By ensuring we had enough equipment and emergency food to be self-sufficient, when it did eventuate in a very remote section of the Murray River we happily sat in front of the fire, bellies full from our emergency supplies, ready to curl up in our tents as the sun set.

My life has been about planning from the time my carers come in the morning to the time I go to bed. Even going shopping requires planning, whether it’s making sure I can push my wheelchair along a path, sourcing resources such as people if I need assistance, or managing risks like dodgy weather; if it’s raining I can’t get in or out of the car without someone holding an umbrella or undercover parking.

I have by necessity developed a process which is the basis of how I plan my life and adventures, The Adventure Process.   Let me explain with this example:

The Adventure Process


The Adventure Cycle

Undertaking an adventure large or small is no different from getting a coffee.

First you need THE IDEA.

“Hmm…I need a coffee, badly!” That’s normally me in the morning.

The Second stage; which I really enjoy with the anticipation and dreaming of what could be, is the PLANNING. 

“It’s past 8am, yep, my favourite café is open. Grouse!”  You think to yourself, then decide to put on a rain coat as the weather is looking slightly dodgy out the window.

The third stage that you have been waiting so long for as your caffeine levels are dangerously low, the EXECUTION.

You head off to get your takeaway coffee.  “Large takeaway Soy flat white, mate.”  You’ve decided to go a little hippy because your wife is now vegan, and you’re trying to do your bit, hopefully get a pat on the back when you tell her.

The clouds burst, and the rain buckets down like a cascading waterfall. Muttering to yourself “That sucks!” and decide to revise your plan.

“I’ll have it here now, mate!” you say to the balled-headed, hipster barista, secretly admiring his very impressive beard that would challenge Ned Kelly’s manly growth.

The friendly waiter with more tattoos than Melbourne’s Hosier Lane has street art, brings you your coffee, interrupting your focus as you laugh at the hilarious video of a dog sliding on ice on Facebook.

Taking a slurp, the hot liquid swirls, and the creamy bitterness bites a little, slumping back in your seat with pure contentment as the drug enters your system.

Finally after all that you have been through, COMPLETION.

Looking at the coffee grains in the bottom of the empty cup you decide it wasn’t the best coffee you’ve had.  Analysing your learnings, you conclude that dodgy sugar laden Vitasoy milk must have been used, and decide to make a mental note “Bonsoy milk next time.”

The process of having a coffee is no different to an adventure large or small, an adventure is just a little more involved. Click on this link for full explanation of the Adventure Process.

From my experience there is no right or wrong way to have an adventure. It doesn’t matter whether you want to throw caution to the wind, plan a little or a lot.  Unexpected things will happen no matter what you do, which all adds to the experience making it an adventure.

It really comes down to what you want your experience to be and what you are comfortable with. But I like to keep in mind that although an adventure is about the experience, by stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself a little, it can be so much more rewarding.

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