We have entered a new phase

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In this article I explain our expedition phases and my experience in this new, challenging phase 4.

Plan and Prepare for an Expedition | 4x4electric

Preparing the expedition

we have entered a new phase

Written by Renske Cox

It is interesting to realize that preparing the expedition consists of different phases, 4 phases in total up until now. Every phase of preparing for the expedition has its own challenges, it’s a bumpy road. But I have to say, this last phase we have entered, is the most challenging for me. Before I share more about why this expedition phase is so challenging for me, I want to walk through the 3 previous phases. In addition, I will share some examples of how we check a box on our expedition checklist and share a box on our checklist we could use some help with. Will you be the one that helps us solve this puzzle?

bumpy road 4x4electric

Preparing the expedition

Expedition phases

Phase 1: Development of the idea

The longest phase of all for us, of several years. The idea of an expedition with a higher purpose was there for a very long time. Both of us wanted to do this, even before we knew each other. We just had not found the way of traveling and the route yet. This idea was born in 2021.

Phase 2: From idea to truly pull it off

This phase started in August 2021 and was completed in March 2022. To complete this phase, we challenged ourselves to try new things and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone. At some moments this was quite stressful. For example, preparing my TEDxTalk, or pitching our idea to the board of a company for the first time. However, we had not felt so alive in a long time!

We learned 4 tricks to complete this phase. Maybe they inspire you to start preparing for your expedition as well?

  1. Start sharing your idea with friends, family, and more. This way you hear yourself speak and notice potential improvements. Listen to the feedback you receive while doing so and use it to improve your idea even more. However, don’t loss the true core of your expedition!
  2. Start realizing the expedition step by step. Don’t want to take all the steps at once, as that makes it feel impossible. Accept that you cannot oversee it all.
  3. Celebrate every little success. As this gives you the energy to keep you going when you have had no success for a while.
  4. Start today! As we as humans are the best at finding excuses to start tomorrow.
Today is a Gift

Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery but today is a Gift, that is why it is called Present.

Watch my TEDxTalk for more on these tricks to plan and prepare an expedition: https://www.youtube.com/embed/DjO05iuP6IE

Phase 3: Finding the right partners to make it happen

This expedition phase has some overlap with the phase before and keeps continuing during the entire expedition preparations. We have truly learned to love this phase. Of course, receiving a ‘no’ from a potential partner is difficult, as the concept of the expedition lies very close to our hearts. However, we love being creative and forming a custom collaboration that leads to a ‘yes’. It is like a puzzle.

While doing so we meet new people that become ambassadors of our expedition. Some people have grown to be not only ambassadors but also a part of the expedition, by adding concepts or implementing improvements. That is such a special feeling. This way the expedition keeps growing, even bigger than we had imagined.

Phase 4: The phase of the details

In this expedition phase, all the details have to be arranged, to ensure we can depart in time. We have to arrange all the products we need, all the documents, a route, contact persons and more…

Expedition planning checklist

Phase 4, which we entered the past month, consists of making checklists with everything we still have to do. I have to say, it is a difficult phase for me. Why do you ask? Because in one day, we can check several boxes from the expedition checklist, while on the other hand even more new boxes are added. Things we also have to prepare for the expedition, that we had not thought of before. As a person, I love checking boxes on my to-do list. But because new to-do’s keep emerging, this expedition phase just makes me dazzle!

We have several checklists at this moment:

  • A checklist for products we have to arrange, including the weight as we have to stay below the max weight of the expedition car
  • A checklist of adjustments in and on the expedition car
  • A checklist of preparations to leave our home in the Netherlands
  • A checklist of documents, insurances, visas, medicine, vaccinations, and more that we have to arrange

Both of us have experience as project leaders professionally, so it is not new to us. However, this ‘project’ includes so much on so many levels, and we are not only project leaders but also operationally active.

In addition, we are not independent at all. We need the help of partners and experts. We depend on their expertise and skills, as we often need something else than the standard for an overland expedition. Therefore, we need to find experts that are interested in doing research for and with us and that have the time to do so as well.

Checking a box on the expedition checklist

Let me give you an example of how checking a box on our expedition checklist goes.

We need cooking pans to use on the induction stove, and they need to be lightweight and compact. Therefore, camping pans set would be ideal. However, it is not a common request that a camping pan set is suitable for induction cooking. This results in no information about this in the product description, and therefore I have to start calling and hope I find a person that knows this. Sometimes this goes quickly, but sometimes this can take quite some time.

Another example is arranging our international driver’s licenses. Soon I found out that we need 2 different ones per person because we cross so many countries. But since one of them is only valid for one year, I should not request them yet as the expedition might take us a year. And so, another reminder is added to my agenda for the last weeks before we depart.

The examples above are small details on the checklist. A bigger one is the storage system for the solar panels in the car. This system needs to be stable, durable, and easy to use. Luckily, we have found an amazing partner that builds it for us. However, as this is a custom solution that has never been built before, new challenges keep emerging.

After some brainstorming sessions, we decided to store the solar panels in a drawer system. 10 drawers with each 6 solar panels, stored as a cascade so that it is very compact. Once the drawer system was ready and we stored the first solar panels, we noticed the drawer was a bit stiff to get in the drawer system. So, a solution needed to be found. When a new challenge like this occurs, we always feel a bit hopeless in the beginning. Because where to start? Then we just start trying different options one by one:

  1. Sanding the metal; with a good impact but not good enough.
  2. Using a simple tape; with a better impact, but the tape was not strong and smooth enough.
  3. Buying a sample of the smoothest tape there is; this was perfect, but the tape was only available in big amounts.
  4. Calling several stores to ask if they sell single tape rolls; unfortunately, all did not.
  5. And so, we decided to buy bulk and take some spare tape with us on the expedition in case it gets worn out.

Will we make it?

When I take a step back, I see we have already come so far. This gives me the confidence we will make it all in time to depart on the 4th of November. However, looking at all the details we still have to prepare as well, it makes me feel uncomfortable as well. As we don’t know for sure how much time every detail will take and how many new to-do’s will be added. The challenging part is that every detail can have a massive impact on our expedition.

Preparing the expedition

Expedition planning checklist

Help us in checking a box

A box we still have to check on our expedition checklist is finding a technique to lift the flexible solar panels when it is hot outside. Something that will happen quite often in Africa. Hot air and a hot underground result in lower efficiency while charging. But how do we do this? It should be possible to do this quickly, as we need to do it often, and the needed products should be compact and lightweight as we don’t have a lot of space in the car.

Are you interested in helping us solve this puzzle? All the help is more than welcome!

My conclusion

To tell you the truth, I am just not good at details. They can take so unexpectedly long to organize, and then you have only fixed one of a very long expedition checklist! Often the detail is too small to search for a specialist that can help, and it is too big to just make a guess…

In addition, we do still have to find some extra financial partners for the expedition as well. We do not have the entire budget covered at the moment. You can imagine I am completely out of my comfort zone at the moment. This does not mean it is a negative thing. It is very educational, and as said before it makes me feel so truly alive.

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