Leader Spotlight


Leader Spotlight: Aaron Harrison

By British Exploring Society,

Meet Aaron Harrison.

He’s a Senior Social Leader with British Exploring Society.

Aaron grew up in a very disadvantaged area of Cardiff, Wales. He had the opportunity to take part in adventures and residential activities with a youth group that offered accessible trips around the world. This built his passion to travel and explore. Since these early days, he has now travelled to over 40 countries and spent months at a time in Ghana helping in a rural orphanage and working with local organisations there over several years.

Aaron has also gained funding, organised and facilitated youth exchange programmes in Wales and around Europe after setting up a youth charity. Aaron has completed a youth and community Education Degree and has worked as a youth worker and mentor for young people in Cardiff and Norwich.

Aaron has previously led for us on two expeditions to Scotland, and this summer he is currently out leading for us in the Canadian Yukon. Before the expedition set off, we sat down with him to find out a bit more about why he got involved, and what it means to him to be a Leader with British Exploring Society.

Why did you become a Leader with British Exploring Society?

“I found out about British Exploring Society Leader because I work as the Outdoor Education Lead in a School that specialises in supporting people with autism. The school really wanted to get our students involved in a British Exploring Society expedition, so we worked together to make that happen. I joined the expedition too because I wanted an opportunity to develop my skills in supporting young people in an expedition environment, and this felt like the perfect fit.

I’ve stayed involved since because I believe in the British Exploring Society mission. Challenging experiences like expeditions are really good at helping young people build confidence and relationships with others which then enable them to go on to bigger and better things that they never would have thought they could do otherwise.”

What is one of your fondest memories on expedition?

“One of my fondest memories was from when a young person was really struggling with trekking in the mountains in Scotland. He didn’t really see what the point of it was or why people did this kind of thing.

As we got to just within reach of a summit this young person stopped and said he couldn’t make it to the peak. He sat down and when he looked at the environment around him he said ‘I didn’t realise any of this was real. It feels like I’m in a movie’.

He explained to me that he never thought he’d get to see something like this. He wasn’t bothered about getting to the ‘top’ even though he wasn’t sat far from it. He was quite happy where he was because he realised he had achieved something. That environment and his personal achievement boosted him on for the rest of the expedition.

Just the day before that experience he’d given me a handwritten letter saying he wanted to go home. After that day he asked me for the letter back. He then proceeded to rip it up at the end of the expedition.”

What does being a leader mean to you?

“Being a Leader to me is about understanding the young people that you’re with. It’s about realising what they might need and want from the expedition, and helping them to gain that. Whether that’s simply camping, cooking in the wild or going for those peaks that they really want to go for.

Everyone has their own little goals. As a Leader, I always like to think that if you can help someone achieve a little goal (like climbing a mountain), the bigger goals will start to become clearer to them too. Maybe while you’re there on expedition, or maybe after the fact when they’ve returned home.”

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking of leading with British Exploring Society?

“Always carry a back up roll of toilet paper. That aside – Just jump in. If you’re not sure you can do it, you’ll be surprised. If you’re still worried while making your way through training, just talk to the people around you. You’re surrounded by a team who can really help you and will want to help you succeed. You’ll get there and you’ll love it. And once you’re out on expedition, you’ll wonder why you doubted yourself in the first place.”

British Exploring Society’s community of volunteer Leaders come from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. With the support of our office, they work together as a team to deliver a challenging and fulfilling experience and personal development opportunity for Young Explorers on expedition.

While some roles require specific qualifications, we welcome people from all walks of life who can lead, inspire, teach and coach, and who recognise the role exploration and adventure can play in self-development.

There are all kinds of ways you can get involved in 2023. Click below to find out more.

Become a Leader in 2024