Planning the Next Expedition

posted: Friday, 04 March 2016


What better on a snowy winter morning than to plan your next expedition.


The planning is such a large part of the expedition, and can be almost as rewarding. For me it starts rather like the bidding process for the World Cup or Olympics. Several options are out on the table, quite literally if you have the space. For my own experience this coming summer, it was Utah and Idaho, Germany and Switzerland, or Scandinavia. Over a period of time the pros and cons of each are considered, and on a particular set date the options are gradually narrowed down until just one remains. Now, more in depth planning can be undertaken. This is perfect entertainment for the long winter evenings.


For those lucky enough to get the experience, the expedition is one the most memorable experiences of school life. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is particularly memorable as that element of adventure: age consideration is so much greater. Young people are engrossed by the idea of being remotely supervised. Externally organised (and planned) school excursions and holidays with parents have become less challenging and exciting.


This is nothing new, nor unique to our society. The importance and significance of the expedition is a rites of passage cultural experience in many societies. In 1990 the psychologist Eric Maddern wrote of a 5 stage model of rites of passage that is based around a journey, or expedition:

  1. A symbolic journey which takes place in a real and symbolic way – departure from home, problems met during the journey and the return of the successful voyager.

2. The Challenge – that includes support and guidance from older people as the key factor.

3. Opening the door to ambition and dreams.

4. Responsibility – with new adult knowledge comes responsibility.

5. Community Participation – a celebration on return involving all the community, many of whom may have been sad at the original departure.


Maddern’s work was very much influenced by Joseph Campbell’s The 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey, from 1949, so nothing very new.


The first few chapters of Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Shaman’ are well worth reading if this interest’s you, as are many other primitive society’s coming of age rituals.


Introducing the idea of a 'journey' in primary school, and the preparation for it, is sewing those seeds for a lifetime of travelling. The OEAP outdoor learning cards suggest initially a journey for part of a day, then building over a number of experiences to an overnight experience.


The learning outcomes are of course quite evident, and hugely wide-ranging. From the background reading and research required, learnt, physical, social, emotional and personal.


It's a great weekend to get planning therefore, whether it is for your school trips that are soon to start, or your own next personal adventure. I've narrowed mine to Scandinavia, Tromso to Czech to Hull; time to get the maps out.