I’m five days out from a five-week expedition. I have eight lists. On a one-to-one completion rate, the odds are not leaning in my favor. Right now I’m supposed to be working on my connections. That right there, to the right, that’s all the draws and anchoring material I’m bringing to Namibia. Five weeks of connection.
It’s a pretty basic question: what do you need for the next step in your life? I have some idea. I have no idea. The lists make me feel better.
I’ve never been to Namibia. None of us (Chris Alstrin, Peter Doucette, Gabe Rogel, Kate Rutherford, and me) have. I’ve been the closest. I’m the leader. For now, this mainly means I send lists. This is what I sent this morning:
Things to know:
• It will get down to 40, maybe, and could be pretty cold in the shade.
• It will be hot, 80, in the full sun.
• You will want at least one nice outfit to wear in the city.
• Bring a lightweight raincoat—it might rain.
• It will probably not rain.
• There will be critters, but you will still want a pair of flip-flops.
• You will also want closed toe shoes (see above).
• P cord is helpful for your tent/for your general existence.
• We will be gone for a month. Plan accordingly.
• This is Africa not like you might imagine it, and exactly like you imagine it.
I hit send, and go back to my task at hand. There are some things you have to do before you leave on a big trip, and other things you do to make yourself feel better. I organized my toolbox this morning under the guise of searching for my Dremel tool. Now I’m etching my name into my gear, something that is not exactly tantamount to my trip. But it seems like a way to be better prepared.
I started expeditioning when I was six. I went to camp—for a month. Every year, a week before my departure, I had the same dream: I showed up only to find that camp was actually a floating city in the middle of the lake and I would have to swim to get there. The first time this would happen, I would circle swimsuit on the list, the second time, it went in my bags, by the forth time I would debate sleeping in my suit so as not to forget this clearly crucial piece of equipment.
Preparation is all about being organized in a singular part of your life. Maybe that’s why I plan trips. I don’t know what is happening next year, in two years, in ten. But I know what the plan is for next month. Namibia is surrounded by tasks and plans designed wholly for that one moment, when I lock my door behind me and step off into the trip. The moment when it’s the only thing that’s relevant. It’s the same thing that happens with a singular pitch of climbing. Expanded. I’m going back to racking up.