You know when you're told that something might be useful, that you should take it 'just in case', yet you ignore the advice and assume it 'won't happen to me'? That's exactly what happened to me on my second SwimTrek tour to the Croatian Dalmatian Coast last week. Compared to other fellow SwimTrekkers, I'm a relative newby and still have a lot to learn, but equally there's something about taking a summer holiday that causes blinkers to appear and the belief that if, in my case, you're going to the Mediterranean, then the sun will be shining every day and why on earth would I want to take warm clothing and a jacket?
While I've heard that the majority of trips go without a hitch, there are some that are hampered by bad weather, itineraries change and yes, sometimes you'll get goosebumps in a country that should be bathed in 30 degree sunshine. With generous hand-baggage allowances too we're trying to fit as little as possible into a cabin-size bag at the expense of packing that pair of joggers.
On this basis, I thought it might be useful to offer some useful tips for SwimTrek novices, while those more experienced swimmers can perhaps add some of their own in the comments section below?
Pack everything on 'The List'
SwimTrek provides a lengthy list of items that it advises you take with you. I read through it and scoffed at the rain jacket, and while I did pack a long-sleeve top, it was thin and I only had one of them. Trousers? Don’t be silly - IT'S CROATIA IN AUGUST! I got caught out and got very wet, and when the weather is damp it’s obviously hard to dry anything. Other items that some other swimmers forgot to pack that would have been useful were a second pair of swimming goggles; more than two costumes (to cover those impromptu jumps in the water in between swims); a bikini also comes in handy for the ladies as it's easier to change into if, on occasion, there's little privacy.
Be prepared to have a great time, whatever the weather
Continuing with the weather theme, if it doesn’t turn out how you expect, or the forecasts predict, don’t worry. I got wet and cold on our trip, along with others in the group, but the laughter didn't stop and the swimming was just as good as the last trip I went on (in fact, it was warmer being in the water than on the boat - which wasn't the case for our poor guides, Ricky and Kelly).
Be prepared for the itinerary to change
Itineraries are useful and we all like to know what we're doing to a certain extent, it adds to the excitement as you prepare for your trip. At the end of our tour I asked Ricky, one of our guides, how much of the itinerary they had to change because of the weather we had, and he said most of it. Did I notice? No. Did I mind? Not at all. I think SwimTrek and open-water swimming generally attracts people who don't necessarily care too much about structure, at least when they're on holiday, so just go with the flow, get in, and swim. The guides and pilot know what they're doing and will find great places for you to swim.
Don't be surprised if you get tired
This might seem obvious, but I'm reasonably fit, not too old and I like to work hard when I'm swimming. By the middle of the week you will get tired. A mixture of long swims, temperature (hot or cold) and, in our case, church bells ringing at various times of the night next to our hotel, can all really drain you. The best ways to deal with this are to obviously try and get plenty of sleep; fuel up (I had an electrolyte drink every morning at breakfast too); slow down (don't feel obliged to keep up with the swimmers you've been swimming with all week, they'll probably feel tired on another day); have a snooze on the boat (I did this after lunch one day and had a great swim in the afternoon off the back of it).
Don't forget to look up
I’m not talking about sighting here. Would you be able to give a friend back home a detailed description of the landscape, the colours and the sounds when you got home? You're on a swimming holiday, of course, but make sure you take it all in as well - there's no clock on the wall in the middle of the ocean.
This is no doubt obvious stuff and is what SwimTrek and the guides will tell you anyway. But to get the most out of your trip, don’t be a fool like me, go prepared. We all know if we take an umbrella or jacket ‘just in case’, that we will never need it; but if we don’t have it, you can guarantee it’ll rain.
Have a great trip!
Read about our Croatian swim here.