What do you think are the outcomes for students embarking on a World Challenge?
Everyone should return home safe, well and have no long term illnesses. Students should feel like they have completed something which, before they left, they didn't know if they could achieve. They appreciate that the world really is all out there for them and they have a new confidence to visit adventurous locations.
Why is travel to the developing world important for young people?
The world is a massive classroom and an extension of the world of learning that teenagers spend most of their daily lives in. It therefore makes it easy for them to use enquiring minds and explore new places away from the traditional destinations. If we can agree that travel broadens the mind, then the more diverse and less predictable the location, then the more diverse and interesting we can become.
How do you ensure there is a balance between challenge and safety for the Challengers?
My philosophy is that 98% of people in the world are warm-hearted, curious, friendly, generous individuals just like you and I. So, it stands to reason that if students take just a tiny bit of risk, e.g. making the first move in speaking to a stranger whilst buying something from them in a local market, they will be rewarded disproportionately in return, just as you or I might if this happened to us in our backyard.
Common sense prevails. We can never blend in to the background as a tourist in deprived regions. However, we can minimise our presence and look less like a walking ATM. Carry nothing of value and try to look confident and the 2% will look for someone else.
How important is it to you that students prepare physically prior to expedition?
This is very important. In my experience many are unprepared for the physical and mental rigours of trekking and travelling in challenging environments. As a group, they frequently overestimate their collective capabilities. The result can be illness, injury, impatience and frustration. They frequently fail to realise that from the start safety is top priority and we move at the pace of the slowest.
What is personally most important to you whilst on expedition with the students?
Safety and security is the number one priority. However I try to delegate all daily decision-making to the 'Leader for the day'. Only by accepting responsibility with full accountability, including that of safety will they understand the importance of their action/inactions.
I also try to make every day a little adventure within the bigger expedition adventure. I try to instil the law of 'Firsts', i.e. every day must be full of firsts: the first time you have ever done something, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, etc.
What sums up a beneficial expedition for you?
I don't think the full benefits of a World Challenge expedition hit home until a few years after the event. An example: following the experience of a World Challenge expedition the students go on to university. It's my view that those with World Challenge experience are more likely to take a year out (before or after uni) to remote and adventurous places.