Meet Keira Lockie, a volunteer Leader with British Exploring Society.
Keira is a jack-of-all trades with a background in inclusion, support work, environmental engagement and conservation. She likes to seek out projects that bring her to different communities and which at their core help people to connect with one another and the world around them. When she’s not on expedition, she spends her time working as a climbing instructor and is about to start a Masters in Paramedicine.
Keira joined us as a Social Leader on our 2022 Canadian Yukon expedition. Social Leaders are there to ensure all young people can develop and thrive on expedition. It’s one of the most important roles in what we do.
How did you become a Leader with British Exploring Society?
“I first heard about British Exploring Society through a kayaking friend at university a few years ago now. It sounded like a really great adventure, but at the time I knew I didn’t have the necessary experience to be a Leader, or at least the kind of Leader I wanted to be. So I took some time to go and work elsewhere and then came back to it a few years later when I felt better prepared.
The main reason I wanted to Lead was because on a personal level, the outdoors has given me so much for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Building that connection with nature is really what got me into environmentalism. Knowing that, I wanted to encourage more people to connect with nature in the same way. I thought that what British Exploring Society offers is a unique opportunity for folks like me to help young people experience and get inspired by the natural world, as well as connect and want to protect it – so I went for it and applied.”
How was it being a Leader on expedition?
“Being on expedition was tough at times, but amazing. All of the Leadership roles are what you make of them – and that’s what’s special about leading with British Exploring Society. My career path has taken me down all sorts of different avenues, as a Social Leader on expedition I was able to combine and hone that portfolio of experience and channel it into one thing with clear impact, and have fun along the way.
Seeing the Young Explorers form their friendships, open up to each other and build their independence was incredibly rewarding. There is something unique about youth-development in an expedition environment. Being in each other’s company all day, every day, in the middle of nowhere without easy distractions… It can be an intense experience, but that also means you can get a lot out of it. It’s a privilege to facilitate that process and ensure positive and authentic connections are a key part of the culture for Young Explorers while on expedition. This kind of impact is unique to what British Exploring Society does, and it’s hard to replicate in day-to-day environments like a classroom.
Another thing I really enjoyed about expedition life was getting to know the other Leaders, both during the training phase before heading out to the Yukon and of course on the expedition itself. Everyone has different experiences and comes from different backgrounds. They’re all doing really cool stuff at all stages of life, and it’s reassuring to know that you can continue to do crazy things (like going on expedition) at any point in life. And now you’re a part of that community too!
In terms of challenges – being able to take time out as a Leader on expedition wasn’t always possible because you have to be there for your Fire. That said, the joy of being part of a Leadership team is that you can lean on each other and take a step back when you need a little downtime.
There was one moment towards the end of the expedition after a couple of very rainy days when my boots got singed while drying next to a campfire. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me but as a Fire we had all gone through a lot leading up to that moment, and I was feeling tired so I took myself aside for a few minutes to sew up my shoes and have a breather. What happened next is actually one of my favourite memories and made me proud to be a Leader.
At the very start of the expedition I had led an exercise with my Fire about coping strategies when dealing with stress or feeling upset. At the time I mentioned to the Young Explorers that when I’m down what I really need is a cup of tea. So, when my shoes were burnt and I took myself off to the side, I had three different Young Explorers come up to me independently and offer me a cup of tea. It was so nice to know that they had remembered that activity and took it upon themselves to support me when I needed it. We really were all part of a team.”
Any advice for prospective Leaders looking to join an expedition?
“I think joining as a Leader on expedition is a great thing to do. It allows you to prove to yourself that your skills really are transferable and you can apply them no matter the environment. Joining as a Social Leader especially. It’s worth doing – without question. You can see the positive impact of your actions in a short period of time, something which you don’t usually get to see in the same way in the ‘real world’.
As a Social Leader, I could really feel the value of my input on expedition – if you can develop a team which trusts each other, they can and will overcome the challenges and push themselves further and be able to explore more. Many of the young people won’t have met people from other walks of life and it’s nice to be a part of building those bridges and facilitating those kinds of conversations.
For me, British Exploring Society is a big community of people who love the outdoors and want to engage young people by fostering a love of adventure and life. It’s great to have seen that British Exploring Society expeditions have become more accessible in the last few years. I’d encourage anyone with the love of adventure to try being a Leader at least once. Because either you will love it and want to return, or you will come away having learned a lot about yourself and what you can achieve.”
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.