Part 1 – The leader and her view on adventures
A bit of background
My name is Jo Bradshaw. I am a single 47-year-old who lives in Salisbury with my 2 Spaniels, Daisy and Lily. My life has changed beyond belief over the last 12 years and it all started with a simple act of putting my Brave Pants on and saying Yes to an adventure so far out of my comfort zone I wasn’t sure I was capable of completing it.
When I left school, I wanted to work with horses for the rest of my life, marry a farmer, have children, dogs, horses and lead the Good Life. Well, I have the dogs and now live a great outside life but fell out of love with my passion for horses in my mid 20s and, just needing to get a job, went to work in a department store. These days I’m a great believer that you are capable of doing whatever you put your mind to but back then I had lost my drive, direction, confidence and ambition. Horses were supposed to be my life, so what now?
Moving from retail into newspapers, then onto electronics and finally into business advice for local government, in every industry that I worked in I made my way up the management ladder, gaining valuable experience for the life I now lead as an Expedition Leader and Outdoor Instructor.
It took a gradual set of circumstances and finding a second passion to take me from suits and networking meetings to the great outdoors via an adventure company who believed that I had promise. Moving from my long-time home in Buckinghamshire down to a new way of life in Salisbury in 2008 then led to going freelance in 2010 and, as they say, life has never been the same since, in a very good way! I used to be a shy, risk averse no-sayer and now encourage others to put a lid on their fear, telling Negative Nelly to hop along, making friends with Positive Polly, and by saying Yes more and working it out as you go along.
Since 2010 I have climbed 2 x 8000m peaks including Everest, survived an earthquake, led over 30 expeditions on Kilimanjaro b and several on 6000m peaks, have led 5 expeditions with True Adventure and facilitated many an adventure all around the world all wrapped up in positive reinforcement for any client, no matter what their age, that they are capable. My drive is to help them to change the ‘Can I?’ into ‘I Can!’
When I was 16/17 years old, I was not confident enough to have applied to go on a school expedition so have the greatest respect for all of the students who even apply, let alone get onto an expedition. Adventure has enhanced the person I am but without champions behind me to gently push me along, I know that I could have achieved it on my own. That’s the beauty of schools’ expeditions, the students are certainly not alone. We, as Expedition/Technical Leaders, are there in so many guises for the students and I totally understand and empathise with how they are feeling. Their worries, their fears, their hopes and their excitement. Adventure needs to be adventurous in order to get anything out of it.
Can these adventures really make a difference?
It’s all very personal to the individual student and what they want to get out of their 2/3/4 weeks away from home but in essence, it’s a definite yes in my eyes. Some students will come on an adventure as a seasoned family traveller whilst others will never have been outside of the UK or even spent a night away from their families, but which ever category they fit into, they can’t help but have their eyes opened to other cultures, new experiences, different situations and their limitless personal abilities in the locations that we go to. These adventures are challenging but in a very positive and supportive way.
Each adventure is geared towards the students taking on roles of responsibility, from being the trip accountant to the leadership team, cooking, food shopping, accommodation, travel and the like. Each and every role is as important as the other as without good accountancy, the shoppers cannot shop and the those on travel cannot do their job either. Each student will have a turn to lead, usually in a team of 2, and will have all of the support they need from the technical leader (TA) and the school leaders.
There is no such thing as failure as it is all learning and this is the culture that we want them to adopt, you learn by doing but also by talking things through, trying different things and learning from your mistakes.
However, we always keep an eye on the health and safety of the group, encouraging the team to buddy up and take into account the environment we are in and the challenges that that environment can hold, highlighting areas to be considered by the students when they are in a position of responsibility.