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What does one, or how does one prepare for a backpacking journey? Are there some 'need to know' basics to keep in mind?


The e-mail questions about my sojourn have been many; ranging from the physical aspects of the trip to equipment, to handling the different languages, to possible Visa problems, safety, security and finances. In speaking to groups; students and faculties, business or civic groups; one of the questions often asked; "How long did you prepare for your "Walk around the World"? And a related enquiry as to my choice of specific routes and destination, before embarking on my odyssey?

In a sense my preparation started formulating at seven years of age with a dream of someday "walking around the World". And the holding on of that dream along with the accompanying desire, up until the day that I left for the 'Open Road'.
Before leaving for "The Walk" I vowed to keep the journey as flexible and as unencumbered from details as possible. Since walking in its' purest form is 'unparalleled freedom' it is of paramount importance to protect this freedom if at all possible. Of course as the time came for the dream to become a reality a certain amount of preparation became essential.
About three months prior to my departure date, I began to prepare and implement a plan of action. As usual when faced with an unknown or a lack of facts about something I am interested in. A little research became appropriate. So I begin visiting all the "Outdoor and Camping" Stores in the Dallas and Fort Worth area; asking questions,collecting equipment brochures and catalogues. Soon I began to understand the language and the terminology of the "Camping world".

Allow me to make a (side note)

Whatever interest or endeavor one might choose to participate in; it is vital for one to learn the language; the terminology and the different nuances that are particularly related to the field of ones' choice. While at the same time, always remembering that knowledge needs to be supplemented by the experiencing of said choice. For in essence we do not really know until we have become part of that which we are interested in.

Well back to the "Camping World", after due consideration I finally chose a "Kelty" backpack with an external frame. The pack design would allow me to carry a hundred pounds, if I chose to do so. My second purchase was a pair of ankle top "Scarpa" hiking boots. After the purchase of the two above basic essential pieces of equipment. I started my training for the eventful day when I would begin "The Walk". D-day was to be August 28, 1983, on my 56th. birthday. Each day for a week I walked ten miles with thirty pounds {bags of sugar and flour} in the backpack. Increasing the distance and the weight each week for two months. By the end of the two month period the daily walking distance had become 25 miles a day, carrying 100 lbs. After which I reduced the distance to 20 miles per day and the carrying weight to 90 lbs. During that interval I purchased all the needed equipment and camped out for seven days and seven nights. Taking the tent down every morning after cooking breakfast and putting it back up each night.

Let's talk about the physical side of the journey. One needs to be in reasonable physical "shape" before undertaking a long "walkabout" as they do say in Australia. Also ones' mind-set must be flexible and adaptable to any and all conditions that might arrive along the way. Here it is important to learn; "to expect the unexpected". On any long extended walking trek the terrain and the climate will dictate to some extent the need to stay in shape. At the same time one needs to maintian a sensible diet, excercise and proper sleep. One should not assume that in just carrying a backpack and walking each day.That this wil be sufficient enough to keep the body in "top form". There is a vast difference between walking in and through developed Countries as opposed to walking in the less developed areas of the World. Add to this, the walking in and through all the different seasons of the year with the variable climatic change. Plus the "now and then" natural calamities that can come without warning. Testing ones' stamina and endurance level. Therefore it is very important that one stays in "good health" and in optimum physical condition. 

Walking each day with or without the backpack for at least five miles after one has reached a city or a rest period is vital. Along with a daily routine of stretching and flexibility exercises. Followed by adding some"stomach crunches" at least eighty with a couple of sets of push-ups at various times during the day. And should one find they are staying "put" for three days or more. It wouldn't be a bad idea to do some swimming or play some tennis or basketball. Or find a "Health Club" and push around some "iron". Maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit will pay dividends down the road. I can only suggest for all who read these words to give attention to the "care and maintenance" of their body, mind and spirit so their state of health will never hinder or impede their aspirations and dreams.

I have spoken elsewhere on the Website about finances and this journey. The monies needed; will depend upon ones' choice of transportation, type of accommodations, food and entertainment, repairs and replacement of equipment plus the miscellaneous expenses that occur from time to time. If you don't fly everywhere, or take a bus or a train. If you can live in a tent and cook your own food. And walk a set number of miles each day. You can see the world on $500.00 per. month, in the States or in the European Countries. In the less developed Countries you can live on much less. In relation to finances. I would suggest that one camps in a village or a small town just outside the larger cities if at all possible. Because everything is much cheaper than in the larger cities.. If one wants to do some sightseeing in the Metropolitan Cities. It is less expensive to travel in and out of instead of living in them. Of course if one is fortunate enough to meet someone who offers lodging or allows one to set up their tent on their property. "How sweet it is!"

Across the World I have met thousands mostly the younger travellers that work for a little while and save up enough money so they can visit the next Country on their itinerary. Of course this involves a risk of not finding work before the money runs out. One of the things that helps me to accomplish my journey on a small budget; I have no excesses or the need of outside stimulants. Over the years on this trek I have met to many people who have little or no control over their obsessive appetites and habits which in most cases costs money to maintain.

Another related question about the journey; is where do I camp? Of course the best place are those designated areas for campers with all the amenities; showers, laundry facilities, a small food store to buy some basic food supplies, etc., etc.,. But the most important; a good security system so you don't have to worry about your equipment. The latest camping site that fulfilled the above amenities plus a beach and Tennis Courts was just outside Macau on a small Peninsula called "Hac Sac". If you cannot find a protected area for your campsite be a light sleeper. While in Africa, I stayed in "Malawi" at a campsite and during the night several tents were robbed while the campers slept. The thieves used a razor blade to slit the tent and steal the equipment. A good rule to follow; is never leave your tent up and leave for the day unless you are sure that it is secure.

I have camped and slept on top of roofs, mountains, by streams, rivers and seas, forest and jungles, ravines and valleys. Also, I have stayed in Churches, Cathedrals, Schools, and Universities and on private property when there have been no campsites available in the Cities. There have been times when the Police allowed me to sleep in an empty cell when I arrived late at night in a town. But the number one priority, at all times in to feel secure in the place you choose to set up camp. Your equipment must be protected.

If you can prepare to enter a city or a town fairly early in the morning and find a safe place to leave your backpack. Possibly in a a locker or a luggage room or maybe with a friendly Storekeeper or a Restaurant owner. You can then scout around, asking about possible places in the city for camping. Let people know what you are doing and your needs. And probably before the day is out you will have found a safe place to put up your tent or someone has offered you a place to sleep. Be on the look out for fellow travellers and ask some questions. And don't forget to always be aware of what is going on around you. 

Should you find yourself in a very remote area in the middle of nowhere and evening is approaching, look for a good spot that will hide your tent. And if this is not available, then do a little camouflaging with some leaves and branches. So your tent cannot be easily spotted from the road. Don't light a fire or use a flashlight. One of the exceptions to this; is of course if you are in the Jungle where you know there are wild animals, light a fire a fairly large one and make as little noise as possible. Should an animal be curious enough to invade the campsite, make no sudden movement. What ever you have to do, do it slowly and deliberately. I have found four things to be effective deterrents when an attack seems inevitable; a fire, a bullwhip, excessive noise {beating pans together, a loud radio and firecrackers. Firecrackers are the quickest and the most effective. In most encounters just be still, just stand perfectly still. And while you are standing there; ask yourself; "what will you do if the animal decides to attack?"

While I was walking Africa and camping; my large "Bowie knife" was always on my belt, plus my steel tipped Staff and two large custom-made Machetes were always handy. In speaking to groups; always without fail, someone would  ask about being attacked by animals both the four-legged and the two-legged ones? I usually ended up by saying; " I promise not to bite the animals, if they promised not to bite me". As for the two-legged adversaries, I do whatever is necessary to protect "life and limb.". Most of our fears are unfounded. But this does not mean we become "pollyannaish" as I have said "we must be alert and aware". Much can be avoided if we just use a little common sense. Was it F.D.R. who said; "the only fear we have to fear, is fear itself".

My equipment and supplies:

There are five top priorities to start with:

Number One:
A perfect fitted pair of "waterproof" hiking boots
Personal preference: An ankle high "Scarpa" Boot.

Number Two
A lightweight two person, all season tent; double walled
Personal preference: Dana Design {"Garda" Tent} called a "Jana" And a good drop cloth.

Number Three
A lightweight dependable Camp Stove
Personal preference: MSR "Whisperlite" and two 33 oz. Fuel bottles and a quality cooking kit.

Number Four
Sleeping bag or Bags
Personal preference: "Marmot" I carry two sleeping bags {Medium and Lightweight goosedown}. In below Zero weather, I put the lightweight inside the Medium.

Number Five
A professional Expeditionary Backpack
Personal preference: "Dana" Design {"Astroplane" or "Terraplane"} Make sure it is fitted to your physical makeup.

Additional Gear:

"Thermarest" Air mattress
"Gortex" rain gear {jacket and pants}
First Aid Kit
Camera and film
Two 36 oz. Water bottles

Mini Maglite
Digital Radio {Short-wave, Am.& Fm.}
Small alarm clock
Tennis racquet and shoes
12 ft. Bullwhip
Two custom machetes
Large "Bowie" knife
Two custom "throwing knives"
Two steel ball bearings (1lb. each)

A boot knife
A Six foot Steel tipped "Walking Staff" { 5 lbs.}
Small hatchet axe
Backpack rain cover
Zip-lock plastic storage bags

Four Hiking shorts
Five tee shirts
Four pairs of Woollen Hiking socks
One "Levis" jacket and pants
Five bandanas
Five briefs

Winter Wear
Goose down jacket
"Therma" underwear
Flannel Shirt
Long sleeve fleece jumper

Basic Food Supply (seven days)
Peanut butter
Salt and Pepper
Powdered milk
Cooking oil
Baking powder
Five spice mix
Trail Mix

I hope this answers some of the e-mail questions about the journey, equipment, etc., etc. Should one decide to 'Backpack the World', I would suggest they have an overriding passionate desire to do so; along with an ample supply of discipline and determination. And from that first step never look back. And know in your mind, body and spirit that you can and will finish the "Quest".

... Happy trails ...

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