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Personal development - a Leader's observations

Adventure, Company News, Expedition News | 11th November 2014

During our summer season just gone, I had the opportunity to lead a month long expedition to Peru. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to see the culmination of the personal development programme which I run with all my school teams as an Expedition Manager and a true pleasure to see the progression of the team during our time away.

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Needless to say it took a few learning curves for the team to become fully functional! This began on their training weekend when they arrived with 50 servings of pasta… with 3 jars of pasta sauce… plain pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner it is!

We also had a little map reading mishap on our first day and took a walking tour of Lima whilst trying to find the museum we were headed for. At this point I could see the team were slowly beginning to realise they had to take responsibility of the itinerary and make decisions as a team.

It was during our project phase however when the team really began to come together, realising that working as a team made the job a lot easier and more fun! Plans were made at the start of the day, a schedule for working was enforced and our evening reviews became more productive with changes put in place by the next day’s student leader.

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By the time we started our first trek over the Salkantay Pass to Machu Picchu, I was pleased to see the team were supporting each other through the challenges of high altitude trekking. On a particularly long day of trekking, instead of shying away, the team rose to the challenge and replaced complaints with laughing and joking in order to keep the whole teams spirit up. Watching them build empathy for one another and forge lasting friendships with those they may not have expected was truly a sight to see in itself – helped with the backdrop of Machu Picchu!

After some well-earned R&R on Lake Titicaca, we headed off on our final trek in the Colca Canyon. This trek however posed added challenges of heat and dust, dust, dust! Much to the leadership teams pride, by now the team were a well-oiled machine and took everything in their stride. Our final few days were spent enjoying the South American culture and sights of Arequipa and Lima.

I think an informal awards ceremony is a great way to end an expedition and celebrate every team member’s individual achievements over the month. All young people tend to have a goal to achieve during an overseas expedition whether that be to experience a new culture, summit a mountain or help a needy community, which should always be celebrated. Even if their goal may not have been achieved, the mere act of setting one and trying to work towards it is a testimony of their character!

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Overall, I believe the expedition provided countless opportunities for the team to learn useful new skills, perhaps most importantly the ability to effectively support a team as a team member and leader. Managing their own budget over a month certainly provided plenty of lessons about personal money management… especially after some shopped a bit too enthusiastically in the first couple of weeks!

The trip was life changing, not just for the students but also the leadership team who were given the opportunity to facilitate and observe the true benefits a True Adventure expedition can have on the personal development of young people.

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