We received the following from Richard, and loved it so much we asked permission to post it here. I’d call him a friend from work, which is technically true, but seems to diminish him, so we’ll just call him an all-around nifty guy. And kind of a hippy. ^_~ All told, I hope to grow up to be like Richard someday and I mean this in seriousness – it’s really easy to get an annoying sort of cooler-than-thou vibe from people who have done a lot of travelling and experienced a lot in their lifetime, but he is very laidback and accepting. Puts you at ease. I want to be that.
Two words I generally wouldn’t apply to myself at present!
Anyhow, here is the letter, for your enjoyment, agreement, contemplation, or dissension! I will comment that I find it funny that two people named Richard (REOIV and Rich, below) have provided us bulleted to-do lists – must be something in the name! (REOIV’s is in comments a few posts back).
Much luck to Rich on his upcoming climb of Mt. Rainier in 09! Needing icepicks to climb a mountain? Hardcore.
Rhys and Indi, I’ve been thinking about you two a lot since you told me about your upcoming adventure. I’m thrilled for you, proud of you, and highly impressed by the commitment you’ve demonstrated. You’re really going to do this crazy thing!
Whenever the rest of us discover someone in the grip of a mad quest such as yours we can’t stop ourselves from running up beside you to add to your burdens our offerings of water and advice, to toss leis over your heads, and to surreptitiously add a few of our own weightless dreams to your packs as we push you forward.
As a seasoned traveler myself, I have a few suggestions for your consideration.
- Footgear. Spare no expense in acquiring the best hiking boots you can find. Your feet will become your worst enemies, leaving you hobbled and in pain, if you don’t protect and support them. You want boots that are rugged, lightweight, durable and well-fitted. Waterproof boots aren’t necessary, in my opinion, as most good hiking boots are water-resistant enough, and waterproof boots aren’t likely to breathe as well –a problem in hot weather. Break them in prior to your departure. You’ll also want sandals. There will be times when your feet will be desperate to get out of your boots to cool and dry, but going barefoot will not be an option. You needn’t spend a lot on sandals, just get something lightweight, durable, comfortable and easy to pack.
- Water filter With a hiker’s lightweight portable water filter you can extract pure, safe H2O from any bacteria-infested, sludge-filled third world puddle in a matter of minutes. Katadyn is a good brand name for these amazing devices. They have one for $69.00 that is 6.5” high, weighs 11 oz., and can purify 1 quart per minute. Worth considering.
- Money There’s a well-known ratio that has served me well in foreign travels: 1/3 traveler’s checks, 1/3 cash, and 1/3 in an accessible bank account. Traveler’s checks are safe, and accepted throughout most of the civilized world, but there is no substitute for the flexibility of “the coin of the realm” in far-flung places. And the 1/3 still in the bank is an important security precaution. As your funds dwindle over the course of your travels, you can continue to adjust your funds to the 1/3 ratio. Also, as cliché as it may sound, a money belt sounds like a good idea if you can find one. That way, when you accosted by highwaymen and pirates (and you know you will be), the money actually in your wallet will serve as a decoy away from your stash. Highwaymen and pirates are bold, but not too bright, usually.
- Fitness This is the most imperative and urgent responsibility you must assume as you prepare for your journey. Get thee to a gymnasium! You should both begin –now— a disciplined, guided fitness program oriented toward strength and endurance. Let’s forget most of the obvious reasons that fitness is good, (such as the moral body-is-a-temple reason, and the practical health benefits reason, and the ego-boosting “I’m lookin’ good!” reason), and consider the more relevant reason: you will enjoy your epic trek far more if you have physically prepared yourselves for the rigors you face.
We often use the words world and earth interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing. They do not. A world is not a physical place. A world is the sum total of a sentient being’s experiences and expectations. There are as many worlds as there are sentient beings, from humans to crocodiles to jumbo shrimp. And that’s just the animal kingdom. Every sentient being that’s ever been has had its world.
You do not travel in your world. You create your world as you travel –a crucial distinction if you are going to think properly about the challenge you’ve set for yourselves. If you refrain from thinking about your upcoming journey as “a trip around the world” and instead think of it as a journey over the surface of the earth, the physical reality of your challenge becomes clearer. The earth, unlike our worlds, is a physical place, whereupon we travel, and it’s as heartless as it is beautiful. It cares nothing for our worlds. How could it? And it’ll kill you without ever noticing if you are unfit for your physical encounter. This happens all the time. The earth turns over in its sleep and millions die and things go on without a pause.
Strength and endurance. You’re going to need these qualities to be in place when you head west. Sure, it’s a pain to start the process of getting into shape, but look at it this way: the pain and discipline you apply now to prepare yourselves will be much less than the pain and discipline the earth will inevitably impose on you if you face it unprepared. In either case, when you return from the east (with our dreams still secreted in your packs!) you’ll be thinner, wiser, sadder, and chastened by the experience. In other words, your worlds will have grown immensely. What more can we hope for?
I’ll be visiting your website to see how your preparations are going, and I hope to hear from you from time to time in your travels. I won’t wish you luck, which is famously unreliable. Instead, I wish you skill.