1. Take Less Stuff. Right after the problem of bad weather I’d rate our stuff as being our single biggest liability. The less stuff thing is kind of a no-brainer but in this mission we empirically put it to the test. Example: We finished 7 days of biking the Western Loop of Lake Superior with nothing more than one change of clothes each plus our bike shorts, rain jackets, and toiletries. That’s an entire week with nothing much more than the clothes on our back. We neither missed nor needed anything that was left behind. And ditching all our stuff freed us from pulling a bike trailer which changed the entire dynamic and let us ride fast and free like wild Indians.

2. You Don’t Need the Best (to do the best). This is contrary to what every last lifestyle magazine out there says but the truth is most things like bicycles are pretty simple things. I pedaled a heavy forty year old Schwinn Varsity 10 speed picked up used in bike store in St. Cloud, Minnesota for a hundred bucks and rode it for over two weeks without a problem. The ride was even better knowing that I was going to give it away at the end of our trip.

3. Plan, But Don’t Marry the Plan. We started our 30 day trip intending to run 1000 km. in a west, northwest direction but circumstances made that choice untenable so we traded in our tricked out baby jogging stroller for 2 used bikes and a trailer and headed east. The trailer broke down after a couple of hundred miles so we trimmed down to panniers and shed a bunch of stuff and kept going. We gave away the bikes after we acquired a canoe and paddled for 60 miles before we had to change plans again.

4. If Something Breaks, Improvise. Fix it. Replace it. Change, adjust, shift, and align with the new reality. But keep going.

5. Recycle – Give Back. Why not, right? My original plan was to buy used and then either donate or give it away. If you don’t like the economics of that then amortize the cost of the gear you need for a given mission across the projected life of your trip and do the math. You might find that leaving something behind wasn’t such a costly proposition after all and you get the feel-good feeling of giving it all away kicked into the deal for free. I did what I did because I am personally not interested in acquiring anymore stuff. Everything we used to self-power our way around Minnesota, N. Michigan, and N. Wisconsin got returned if it was borrowed or donated if acquired otherwise. We bought used where we could but every single thing used to carry out the mission ended up getting folded back into the local area in the end. The new camping gear, including 2 nice little summer weight sleeping bags ended up at a community relief organization at the end of our trip.

6. Do Local. Seek out what the region has offer. When we got the canoe I bought a fishing license and a cheap pole with an open face reel. I didn’t catch anything but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Do I fish in Mexico? No. Why? Because here in Mexico where I live it ain’t a local thing. Did I go to Minnesota planning to fish? No, I went there to eat fish but I am certainly not opposed to catching my own.

7. Free Your Mind (and your ass will follow). I need to always remind myself not to default to the most comfortable path while traveling. As uncomfortable as it might sound, sometimes a person just needs to get in touch with their dirty self. Why? Because it is so liberating. Partially it’s a scheduling thing that you just unbound yourself from when you decided you could skip some of the wash rituals. And partially the wear it another day mentality decouples you from worrying about keeping your clothes in the rather unnecessary presentation ready format. I mean you’re not going to a meeting, you’re biking or hiking for crying out loud so who cares anyway? But learning to live with being somewhat dirty while traveling is more an internal attitude kind of thing. It’s finding and reacquainting yourself with that long lost little kid like indifference to dirt and things like wiping your nose on your sleeve and not thinking twice about it. Example: I learned this lesson back in the early ‘90s from 2 guys half my age. I met a Brit by the name of Michael and Italian guy by the name of Simon where we were all traveling solo in Guatemala. We met on the boat while crossing Lake Atitlan and we ended up hanging out for the weekend, sharing a room because they both were tight on money. They saw me sluicing the dirt off in the courtyard fountain of the amenity-free $3/night cinderblock hotel we just checked into. They looked at each other, shook their heads and said, ‘He hasn’t learned yet’. I asked, ‘Learned what’? Michael replied, ‘That being dirty is liberating’. Oh, yeah, how true. And I’ll never forget either of those guys just because of that invaluable lesson.

8. Nothing Lasts Forever. Not pain, suffering, or even the good times for that matter. So in the worst part of your adventure learn to suck it up because somewhere not too far out in front of you are a couple of cold beers.

9. Try Something New. I am not a bicyclist. And heaven knows I am not a paddler either. But I did both. To keep the mission going you sometimes have to do things that weren’t part of the original plan.

10. Find Out What You’re Capable Of. This was our original mission, to find out what we were physically capable of. That and have a good time of course. The mission wasn’t running per se. Running was the original method through which we intended to test what we were physically capable of. When the plan shifted, we adapted. And when it shifted again, we adapted again. We never did hit that physical threshold like we intended but we did learn an awful lot about our adaptive abilities and in the doing also discovered that problem solving that came to be part of our day to day mission, when embraced, was very empowering.

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