When I think about a particular trip I’d like to experience, three stages come to mind: dreaming about what the trip could be, planning the details, and – having committed! – thinking apprehensively about the situation for one typically agonizing night, almost immediately before heading out.
When I fantasize about these things, I typically focus on what I’d like to learn and what I’d like to experience. Will this be more about seeing a particular culture or looking at a particular conflict, or will this be about a stunning sliver of nature, and a physical challenge? It’s natural, then, to think about the geography and history of some of these places, which makes it all the richer when I finally see them first-hand. It’s eye-opening reading the history of some of these places, and understanding how some thing repeat themselves, and how some dynamics emerge systematically.
When the dreaming’s done, reality sets in. I decide and go, and pour myself into planning. If I have all the details, and if I pack my metaphorical bag of tricks well, when the time inevitably comes to improvise, there’s all the more latitude to do so, and to do so well. I look at weather, pack clothes and read guidebooks almost compulsively.
Finally, there’s a night of deep anxiety, almost always the night before leaving. I worry about what I have packed and what I’ve set out to do, and am very apprehensive about whether or not I’ll have what it takes to do it. This fear, so early in the game, has always been a good reminder to start out easy and let the trip build up.
Then, the morning after, I grab my gear, lace up and am gone.