Real Life Story: Young Explorer Eleanor
By British Exploring Society,
“I am extremely grateful for this life changing experience, that I simply would not have been able to do without the generosity of donors. Therefore, donors should seek comfort in knowing that the money they are giving is genuinely helping enrich lives, to an extent and in a way that I have not personally experienced through any other programme that I have been a part of.”
I am Eleanor, an 18-year-old from a small town in Herefordshire (a very rural county that is often forgotten about). Opportunities are limited in a rural area due to a lack of connectedness, which has resulted in a large amount of deprivation, that I have experienced first-hand. Therefore, I frequently turn to the outdoors to offer a sense of comfort and peace, with hobbies such as scouts, walking and playing a multitude of sports, including netball and badminton.
I heard about British Exploring Society (BES) through an email I received after completing NCS last summer. I could not believe that this opportunity was being offered to me and had to calm myself down and take a minute to process it.
I am now days away from going to Iceland for 3 weeks and I am feeling very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am extremely excited to visit Iceland and to see a part that tourists don’t usually visit, due to its remoteness.
However, I know it will be challenging physically, but especially emotionally, as I will have to regulate my emotions in an unusual environment, without any home comforts with me. In addition, it is daunting because I have never done anything like this before, so there is a sense of uncertainty, however I feel that British Exploring Society has made me feel at ease with the practical preparation I have experienced during induction and training and the communication and support over the phone and by email.
In the build up to expedition I have been fundraising for BES, which has taught me valuable skills, especially managing, and keeping track of sponsorship money, which is a skill that is not taught in schools.
Advice I would give to future young explorer fundraisers, is to use as many platforms as possible, from online (such as go fund me) to in person, by talking to as many people and businesses as possible. Another piece of advice I would give, is to use the network around you, which I did not think was as big or generous as it was until I started fundraising for this.
The UK based training has given me a glimpse of what life on expedition will be like, as well as giving me time to bond with my fire (team) and an understanding of how to take on the elements.
Some skills I will take on expedition from the training events, range from general skills, such as how to work as a team with people from all different backgrounds, to specialised skills, such as how to put up a tent in rainy and windy weather as fast as possible. In addition, I discovered packing light is key and can only be achieved by taking essential items, which I am making sure I do when going to Iceland very soon. I am a bit uncertain about what life on expedition will be like, but I am going to go with an open mind and hopefully I will have a great time!
My expedition was a life changing experience. It was challenging at times, especially when something unexpected would occur, such as the planned camping area having no water due to the river drying up and continuing walking when I was exhausted and still had a long walk ahead. However, all of the challenges were worth it for the spectacular scenery that we walked through (including Europe’s largest desert, lava fields and lush green pastures). In addition, another high of the expedition was the fun that my fire had, including playing games (such as riff offs and spoons tournaments) and bonding as a group, which meant we could joke with each other.
My top moment of the expedition was doing the macarena on top of a volcanic crater at dusk, which was a breath-taking moment that made me really realise how lucky I was to be on expedition.
On expedition, I learnt a lot about the landscape of Iceland, which was really interesting for me because I already had an interest in geology and geography, which was channelled during this expedition. During exploration days, we took many scientific measurements, such as the discharge of a river, air moisture, weather, and cloud cover, which we compared to other locations and showed the variation in environment and weather in just 3 weeks. I also learnt a lot about the history of Iceland, such as folklore and runes.
Before I heard of BES, I was at a stressful point in my life, with A levels approaching, which was causing lots of stress for me. I was also disappointed due to my A level Geology trip to Iceland being cancelled, due to COVID. In addition, I have always had a passion for travelling and the outdoors, but those passions can be expensive, so I was not able to properly explore them.
I have become far less wasteful after expedition; on expedition we used the bare minimum of everything and took great care to ‘leave no trace’, which I have adapted to life back home and encouraged others to do the same. Also, I have engaged with nature more, as this was an important part of expedition that arose by being constantly in nature, without the barrier of buildings, by going on more walks and doing more camping just for the fun of it.
Since the programme, my horizons have been expanded, through the sense of accomplishment after expedition, which has meant that I now would like to have a future involved in the outdoors; it nourishes me, and I enjoy it very much. My outlook has completely changed by taking me out of the ‘rat race’ and the expectation of education to live a simpler life without as much pressure.
I am going to university this year, which is a huge challenge, that I have confidence I will be able to tackle, considering I completed this expedition. In addition, I would definitely like to go on another expedition as a young person and even become a leader for BES in the future, as I have enjoyed the experience so much, that I would like to do it again and help others to get as much out of the experience as I did.
My leaders were very approachable, helpful, and felt part of our fire, rather than above us. They all brought different, but valuable expertise, such as imparting knowledge about the area and how to take scientific measurements; teaching us how to navigate and use a GPS and helping us to bond as a fire through activities and fun games.
BES is so special because it is a community of people who genuinely have a passion for the outdoors and enriching young people’s lives through pushing them out of their comfort zone. The Dangoor Next Generation expeditions are especially special because of the subsidised funding for young explorers, which means that people like me are able to take part, without worrying about money, which is a daily worry that I already encounter.
To someone who is undecided about going, I would say that at the moment you may not feel like you can do it, but you will surprise yourself and no one is an expert or has ever done anything like this before, so as a fire you will be able to support each other through it; everyone will struggle at some point, but it will be worth it for the bonds that are formed and the amazing things you get to see, that you would not be able to see unless you go on expedition.
I am extremely grateful for this life changing experience, that I simply would not have been able to do without the generosity of donors. Therefore, donors should seek comfort in knowing that the money they are giving is genuinely helping enrich lives, to an extent and in a way that I have not personally experienced through any other programme that I have been a part of.