Adventure travel often conjures thoughts of bucket list experiences and must-see destinations. And in many cases, adventure travel does live up to the hype. But what some travellers forget about is that in some cases, these types of journeys require a degree of planning and preparation to make sure that the adventure runs as smoothly as possible. Sure, you can jet off without any gear, expertise or prior knowledge but a wee bit of forethought can go a long way to set yourself up for success.
The way I see it, readying yourself for any new adventure requires three different types of preparation: Mental readiness, physical strengthening and equipping yourself with the right gear.
Now you might be wondering? Do you have to have a foundation and all the right gear to enjoy adventure? No. Of course not. And while you cannot prepare for every eventual outcome and need, I figure that a little bit of advance leg work can’t hurt (maybe this is me just being a “mom”). Because when you find yourself on the side of a volcano, climbing higher and higher in 60 mph winds and icy snow whipping across your face, maybe just maybe, you’ll be thankful to have a few extra tools in your toolbox.
10 Essentials to Get Ready for Adventure Travel
Ok, fine. Not everyone is going to set off to climb to the summit of a volcano. But you get my drift. Set yourself up for success with these tips whether you are setting out to hike, bike, ski, kayak, surf, run or just take long walks on the beach.
Prepare your physical body for adventure
I used to think that my long distance running was the ultimate preparatory tool for any trip. If I could run 13 miles (or more), I should be able to do anything, right? Wrong. While running may have boosted my cardiovascular system, my body needed more.
I found my more in yoga. Little did I know when I started showing up on my mat several times a week that my body would feel as strong as it did. Yoga fosters balance, strength, flexibility and focus – all of which are necessary in almost every adventure you can dream of. Ever tried to pop up on a surfboard? Hello yoga “chaturanga” (high plank to low plank to upward facing dog). Ever find yourself on a rock scramble not sure how to proceed? Or traversing a high ropes course and in need of a bit of balance? Think yoga. In all seriousness, you don’t have to transform yourself into a yogi – even short but consistent practice on the mat will foster a strong foundation.
Wondering where to start? Yoga studios have cropped up everywhere, so it is just a matter of trying out a few to see what you like. (I’d highly recommend Core Power Yoga if you have one nearby which is likely since there are studios in 20 states around the country.) Want to keep your practice to yourself? Try the KinoYoga, LiveStrongWomen or Yoga by Candace YouTube channels.
Strengthen your muscles
If you are anything like me, strength training ranks at the very bottom of your to-do list even if you know it is good for you. I’ve even been known to say (to myself) “I’m getting stronger in yoga, so do I really need strength training?” The answer is yes. Luckily, you don’t need to go to a gym or buy an entire room full of weight machines to get results.
The TRX Suspension System is my go-to full-body strength training workout tool. Trust me, you might think that using your own body weight would make things easy, but planks, squats and lunges with the TRX will tell you differently. The system hangs on a doorframe or sturdy bar to work muscles you did not even realize you had and engages the core in every move. Plus, you can increase (or decrease) the intensity by changing your stance.
Another easy tool (that you can bring with you anywhere and everywhere) is yourself. A regular routine of wall squats (or just squats in general), planks, lunges, pushups and step ups (on a step or bench) will go a long way to strengthen and tone.
Prepare for altitude to stay healthy up high
Altitude sickness is a real thing even for seasoned travelers and adventurers especially when your sea level accustomed body travels to elevations of over 8,00 feet. The biggest key to prepare is to give your body time to acclimatize, which can take several days. Next up, drink plenty of water (a minimum of 2 liters/day). You might also limit your alcohol intake as it causes dehydration. Traveling to South America? Consider chewing on coca leaves or (drinking them as tea) or asking your doctor for a prescription of acetazolamide (Diamox) to facilitate how your body adjusts to the higher altitude a bit more quickly.
Prepare mentally for adventure
Expect the unexpected.
I will never forget the deep disappointment I felt when I opened an email from the guides at Huella Andina Expeditions saying that we would not be able to summit the Osorno Volcano in Chile due to weather. Although our Plan B to climb as high as we could (which turned out to be the base of the glacier) proved to be an epic challenge of its own right due to wind and snow, my heart sank. I knew that there was no messing with Mother Nature and respected the decision…but still. I had invested so much mental energy in reaching what would be my first volcano summit that my heart sank in disappointment. You simply cannot predict what might happen especially when it comes to weather (or injuries). Maybe this means adding a few extra days of “just in case” cushion to an itinerary. But maybe it means embracing flexibility and the unexpected.
Meditation is another mental tool that has gotten me through a few harrowing moments. I only learned to meditate a few years ago when I realized that I’d trained my body to run a marathon, but had ignored my mind. And since most endurance and high adrenaline activities rely heavily on a strong mental focus, this was a serious omission that needed to be remedied. What I learned (after several weeks of feeling like I would never really be able to clear my mind) is that there do not have to be rules when it comes to meditation. Only have three minutes? Start there. Not able to ignore the thoughts that come into your mind? Don’t. Acknowledge them and allow them to float past you.
New to meditation? Join the club. So was I. My learning started with an app to help guide me through the process. Since then, I’ve tried various apps, mantras and even music in the background. I particularly enjoy the Headspace and OMG I Can Meditate apps especially if you are just getting started. (What I love about OMG I Can Meditate is that you can download the meditations for later/offline use if you are using an iOS device.) Your meditation practice is about you – so once you find something that works for you, go with it.
Prepare with the right gear to protect yourself from the elements
Just like you want to build a physical and mental foundation to make the most of your adventure, the right gear will protect you from the elements so that you don’t ruin the rest of your trip thanks to sunburns, rashes, headaches or who knows what else. You should know that I travel carry on only as much as possible, so anytime I think about gear my brain starts to visualize what will and won’t fit. And while you can go crazy at your local REI store (maybe that is just me?) shopping for all the newest gear, there are a few essentials that rise to the tippy top of my list.
Hike with trekking poles
I started using trekking poles during my hiking and weight loss retreat at Mountain Trek in British Columbia. Not only do these poles help you add an upper body workout to a hike, but they also reduce the impact on your legs, knees, ankles and feet especially when going down hill. The biggest complication is that trekking poles are not permissible carry on items. So they must be packed in a checked bag or you can inquire about rental possibilities at your destination. During our most recent trip to Zion National Park I opted not to bring my trekking poles since we were traveling carry on because I knew I could rent them at a local outfitter for longer hikes where they’d come in handy.
Use a rashguard for surfing and SUP
Rashguards protect your skin and are key pieces of gear especially for new surfers (or stand up paddleboarders). I learned this lesson the hard way in Mexico a few years ago when I attempted my first ocean SUP session during an excursion to Las Marietas. Although I’d paddled on lakes with no problem, the constant waves and my lack of core strength had me falling off my board more than I was paddling. By the time we returned to our resort, my stomach and arms were decorated with scrapes and bruises.
So when it came time to set off for my first surfing experience during a SwellWomen surf retreat in Panama, there was no way I was going to let that happen again. Although I knew we’d be given a Carve Designs rashguard as part of our retreat, I went ahead and bought an extra one just in case. Not only did I not chafe (because trust me, I spent most of the week perfecting my belly flops), but I also did not need to worry about my arms, back or chest burning thanks to the extra layer.
Enjoy the fresh air but apply sunscreen
Confession time. Growing up, I spent most of my summer days outside. On the tennis court and at the swimming pool, I rarely applied sunscreen. And it showed on my constantly peeling nose. Fast forward all these years later, I know that my upper chest and neck are even more sensitive to sun thanks to the radiation treatment that helped me obliterate my Hodgkin’s Disease. And my face? I am no longer a fan of peeling noses. Having said all that…my carry-on only travel habits have led me to leave sunscreen as something I pick up once I arrive at my destination. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Or rather, sometimes I find quality products at reasonable prices and other times – I find chemical-laden sunscreens at exorbitant rates.
Suffice it to say, I’ve learned that sunscreen is a must-pack in my TSA compliant toiletry bag. So when it came time to find a brand that was both the right size and had the best ingredients, I was thrilled to find Blue Lizard Sunscreen – a pharmaceutical-grade product ranked in the top sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Thankfully, Blue Lizard Sunscreen comes in a 3 oz. BPA-free Smart Bottle™ (in addition to various other sizes). And as a bonus, the bottle cap changes color from white to blue when it is exposed to harmful UV rays as a reminder to apply and reapply when in the sun. In particular, I like that the Sensitive formulation is paraben-free, chemical-free and fragrance-free and all the formulations are easy to apply given that they contain Zinc Oxide which I’ve found difficult to spread in the past.
Wear a hat
Regardless of the activity, I’ve learned to let go of my childhood aversion to hats. Hats provide obvious protection from extreme temperatures in the cold, but do an equally important job in the sun and heat to shield your head and eyes. I think of hats (baseball caps or wide brimmed adventure styles) as my anti-headache, sweat-catching and bonus sun protection gear. Look for breathable wide-brimmed hats with a chin strap (for windy days) as the best choice to pack when space and weight are at a premium. Going skiing? Wear a thin hat under your helmet (also a must as far as gear!) for extra warmth.
Protect your eyes with polarized sunglasses
Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement. Yes, I’ve had my pair of trendy shades but as I’ve gotten older, my eyes have become more sensitive. I swear by my Maui Jim sunglasses (I may or may not have multiple pairs for different activities) for their comfort, durability and quality protection from the sun’s rays. Plus, sunglasses shield your eyes from the elements depending on your activity. Mine have protected me from ice, snow, sand, wind and yes… the sun.
Just for you!
And…best of all…Blue Lizard Sunscreen wants to help you get ready for adventure travel. You can take advantage of a coupon code for 20% off your order of over $35. Use P20GROW at http://www.bluelizard.net/ (expires 12/31/16) to stock up for your next adventure.
*This post was sponsored by Blue Lizard Sunscreen. I received compensation and samples but all opinions are my own and based on my personal experiences. (And trust me, my sensitive and now burn-prone skin is very picky.)