Building an adventure career is lonely.
Most careers, whether in sports or business, have structured paths to follow. They have people in charge, whether bosses or coaches, who tell you what you need to do and whether you're doing it correctly. They have peers and colleagues, who can share your confusion or your excitement, and can spur you on to greater achievement through competition or mutual motivation. And they offer markers of status - titles, rankings, promotions. These let you know that you are succeeding.
An adventure career offers none of this. You can follow any path you like, and most likely, you'll have to blaze your own path. There is no boss or coach to tell you what to do, no colleagues to share the work, no titles to be won, no promotions to spur you on. That freedom is liberating, but it can also be confusing, and overwhelming.
And in all likelihood, few of your friends and family will really understand what you are trying to do with your life. Being an adventurer is not met with the same nod of approval as being a doctor or a lawyer, or even a professional athlete. Many people in your normal support group will be waiting for you to 'get this out of your system' and move on to living a properly adult life.
Beyond all of this is the tension inherent in declaring yourself to be 'an adventurer'. You are putting yourself out there as someone so special and so interesting that others will want to follow your story. But in truth many of us sit alone at home, working on an adventure plan, and feeling not-at-all interesting, second-guessing all our goals, feeling our confidence melting away in the intense heat of self-doubt.
"Very quickly it becomes obvious that the actual jumping on your bike or climbing that big mountain aspect is a very small part of professional adventuring. Depending on your style of adventuring, there’s a good chance you find yourself spending your days sending hundreds of emails, doing research, sending more emails – there’s sponsorship, fundraising, PR, events, logistics planning and hundreds of things more.
And there’s no way to know exactly what you should do each day, what to prioritise, what to ignore. No way to tell if you’re doing well or badly, or working too hard or not hard enough. Personally, although I love the liberation this offers, I find this aspect of working for oneself very overwhelming, and, at times, lonely." - Tegan Phillips
South African adventurer and cartoonist Tegan Phillips - who won the 2016 Altumate Challenge Adventure grant - wrote a brutally honest guest post for us about how hard it is set yourself up as a professional adventurer.
How do you overcome this? Build a Team You.
Add this to your 2018 Resolutions.
The idea of Team You is taken with gratitude from the Captain Awkward blog. This is not about finding a team to do the adventure with you. This is about building a community of people around you who will support you in building your Business of Adventure.
They need to do two things for you.
1. Believe in Your Vision
If most of your friends and family give you a sceptical look when you talk about your adventure vision, and possibly then deliver a lecture about how you are throwing your future away - find a new group of friends.
You need people who will hear your plans and say "Sounds amazing! Tell me more."
However, they need to do more than that. This is not about finding people to join you in a delightful daydream that will never be realised.
2. Hold You Accountable
You need a Team You who will believe in your goals.... and then check in with you to find out what progress you've made. If the answer is "not much", they'll ask you why, and help you work out what's holding you back.
You need people who will ask "That amazing plan... how are you getting on?"
Your Team You should ideally consist of several people. Some may be cheer leaders, other accountability buddies. Ideally they'll be people you can spend face-to-face time with, get outdoors together, share your hopes, confess your fears. But you can also find great support through building an on-line community.
They don't have to be in the adventure field. Having neutral people on your team can challenge you to pitch your purpose clearly to people who haven't drunk the Adventure Kool-Aid. But it is great if some of them are following a similar path to you - colleagues on the inspiring, bewildering journey of building your Adventure Career.
Grab a piece of paper. answer these questions.
- Who do you already have on Team You?
- What skills do they bring - cheer leaders, accountability, adventure experience, neutral outlook?
- What gaps do you have in your team? What kind of friend do you wish you had at your side?
- How are you going to go about finding those missing team members?
Where can you find recruits for Team You?
- The many on-line adventure groups.
- Local outdoor clubs / groups / activity centres.
- Adventure festivals / symposiums / lecture nights.
British adventurer Hannah Cox @betternotstop (who is currently travelling overland between the UK and Bhutan) has complied The Ultimate Comprehensive 2018 Calendar to UK Adventure Festivals & Events. It's an excellent starting point for expanding Team You.
Do you have other ideas for how to find and build Team You? Share them with us in the comments.