Meet Emma Plant, a volunteer Knowledge Leader with British Exploring Society.
Emma first joined us as a Wildestan Expert in 2020, and then as a Leader on expedition to Kyrgyzstan in 2022.
With a background in digital design and visual journalism for BBC News, Emma had a big impact on her expedition. Her skillset meant she could support arts and crafts, photography and film projects. She even facilitated the editing of a short film whilst out in the field using nothing but a smartphone.
In doing so, Emma opened up a world of possibility for the Young Explorers to learn and practice different ways to creatively communicate what they got up to whilst on expedition.
Why did you become a Leader with British Exploring Society?
“Due to my work, there are moments when I probably spend about 90% of my time indoors. Such is the case for a lot of media professionals, but especially people with post-production roles like me.
I did a lot of travelling in 2016; going around the world with a GoPro and spending my time learning the outdoor side of being a camera person. By taking the time to do that, I realised I might be able to combine those skills with my indoor skills like video editing or graphic design, and potentially turn that towards teaching and inspiring others to consider media careers.
With all that in mind – British Exploring Society provided the perfect opportunity to put it into practice.
Last year I went to Kyrgyzstan. It was the first time I had led with British Exploring Society, and the first time I had been to one of the stan countries, or that part of the world. It was also the first time I had been wild camping for that long.
Being outside in nature for five weeks consistently was something that has really stuck with me – I realised around three weeks into the expedition that I hadn’t been ‘inside’ since I arrived in Kyrgyzstan, and what a strange feeling that was. Living in a tent and not washing properly for that long; it was just something I hadn’t done before. It was all a great experience.”
The video above is one example of the many creative projects that Emma and her fellow Knowledge Leaders supported the Young Explorers to produce while in Kyrgyzstan.
What does being an expedition Leader mean to you?
“It’s an opportunity to work with young people. This is at the core of the role and was one of the biggest pulls for me. I don’t get a lot of mentoring opportunities at work, and when I do its very ‘work’ focused mentoring rather than life skills.
Being between the ages of 16 and 25 is an important time in a person’s life. A time some might call ‘transformative’; people are making choices about their career, about university and A-levels. I remember being at that point in my life, and how confusing it can be.
To me, being a Knowledge Leader is an opportunity to guide and support young people through what can be quite a difficult time in their life. To give them the sort of support that I wish I had.
As a creative person who comes from a very academic background, I really didn’t have a lot of inspiring role models who encouraged me towards careers in the outdoors or creative arts. Everyone always said how difficult it was, and that you shouldn’t do it. So it’s nice to be able to inspire people, but also to be surrounded by other like-minded people in the Leadership community who chose to pursue non-conventional career paths, and to see how successful and happy it can make them. Finding that joy and encouraging young people to consider a creative career path, if they want to, is something I want to pass on to the next generations.”
Any advice for prospective Leaders looking to join an expedition?
“Don’t worry too much about trying to do everything – there’s a lot of people in the Leadership team who can support you in picking up the bits that you’re less confident about or haven’t done before.
There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me in Kyrgyzstan, and it can be quite overwhelming to figure out how you’re going to do your best at something you’ve not necessarily done before.
You do feel a real sense of obligation to these young people. You want to give them an amazing experience. I think as a Knowledge Leader in particular it can feel like there’s lot of pressure on you to almost perform as this ‘knowledgeable person’ – you want to be this kind of ‘fountain of knowledge’. Despite those worries, I think I very much relaxed into the role when I was working with the other Knowledge Leader (John, who was the Knowledge Leader with a science background). The two of us together basically covered all the bases, and I realised ‘Oh, I don’t need to worry about being sciencey because that’s not my job’. My strength is in media, so I took that part of it and John took the science part of it and I think we made it work quite well with our division of labour.”
British Exploring Society’s vibrant community of volunteer Leaders come from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. With the support of the 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.