Expedition Training I – Setting the Itinerary and Expectations

Expedition Training I – Setting the Itinerary and Expectations

If you’re taking 14 girls – many of whom haven’t ventured outside of their home continent of Europe – out to Tanzania for three weeks, then you’d better make sure they’re prepared. You also have to ensure that they’re being looked after by someone who is suitably qualified and experienced to help them get the most out of the experience.

I may be a well-travelled person, and I may have years of experience of working with teenagers, but suitably qualified to lead 14 teenagers aged between 15 and 18 through a third world country I ain’t. So this is where Wilderness Expertise, the company we’re going to Tanzania with, come in.

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There is a lot of ground to cover in the build up to the expedition, and Wilderness have a structured program in place to ensure this can happen. The cornerstones of this are two training weekends they call ‘UK1’ and ‘UK2’. The latter consists of a weekend spent camping/trekking in remote, rural location. The former sees the team get together to plan out an itinerary, discuss kit and group roles, learn how to manage money, and so on.

Our expedition leader was Sarah, a seasoned lady who has an impressive set of credentials – including saving the life of a fellow mountaineer near the summit of a Himalayan peak no less. The first thing she did was get the girls to pick a leader for the day (they chose Emily*, as she was oldest), and then sat them down around a table to ask them what they were most looking forward to about the expedition.

To my pleasant surprise, the most common answer wasn’t something like “to go on a safari”, but their working on the library project and meeting the kids of the KYGN school. There was one notable exception though – Elena, one of the, shall we say, less conscientious girls at our school, said something along the lines of ‘well, I can’t wait to leave school so this is something to keep me going.’ Definitely a girl to keep an eye on, that one.

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A huge part of this expedition is developing the potential of the girls: it’s not a package holiday! They take on a lot of responsibility, and one of the main things is budget management. So one of the girls’ first tasks was, with a limited amount of money, head out to the local supermarket and buy food for 17 people. This they did well…although I could have done will a little less of the dips, personally!

Then it was on to the all-important itinerary planning. This was the first step in ensuring the girls took ownership of the expedition so that they, with guidance from us, determined not only where (provisionally) we would go and when, but also to educate themselves about Tanzania. After a unanimous decision was made that we go to the KYGN School first – it was the main reason for our trip after all – it was a case of getting them to research and explore our options.

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Seeing this up close was a chance to observe the group dynamics for the first time. Here’s a few early observations:

  • They were very reliant on the adults at first, me in particular because they knew I’d been there less than a year previously (Quote – “Why aren’t you allowed to help us?”).
  • Once they gradually relied on us less, the younger ones would then be reliant on the older ones to make decisions, hence them choosing Emily to be leader for the day.
  • Like many teenagers, they seem to think a Google search is always more efficient; this despite several guide books that Sarah had brought in for them being at their fingertips.
  • They sometimes did go down the route you might expect: e.g. keen to stay in Hostels rather than tents for the safari.
  • They sometimes took me by surprise with their choices: e.g. no one wanted to go for lazy loafing on the beach for a day or two.
  • Elena had to be told off for going off on her own to text when everyone else was busy researching the itinerary.
  • Natural leaders emerged – particular standouts were Ellie (collated and fed back research notes), Molly (excellent number crunching) and, especially, Mandy – who marshalled the sometimes disparate sub-groups so that they were on the same page.

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They only had a certain amount of time to put the itinerary together. It wasn’t, I should add, a simple case of picking a bunch of fun stuff to do. They had to factor in transport times (roads are bad in East Africa and travelling at night is a no-no), the limited budget and ‘admin days’ (to wash clothes and the like) as well. For seasoned adult travellers this can be time consuming stuff, never mind teenagers doing this sort of thing for the first time.

It wasn’t always easy, then, but that’s the way it should be. After finishing up with Sarah talking the group through kit required for both UK2 and the expedition itself, our provisional itinerary was finalised. Excitement was duly building! It was time for all and sundry to get their kit together, and reconvene a few months down the line for the next training weekend – camping and trekking in the wilds of Wales.

*Names of the girls have been changed

12 Comments

  • whereisnoodles

    April 11, 2016 at 7:50 pm Reply

    I’m so excited for you all! And equally jealous! I will be watching your updates very closely 😉

    • Joe

      April 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm Reply

      Cheers Nikki 🙂 You not heading out to TZ this summer then? I wouldn’t be jealous if you are, because you’ll get to experience the KYGN school for yourself!

      • whereisnoodles

        April 11, 2016 at 8:14 pm Reply

        I was hoping to, but it is looking more likely to be towards the end of the year. Maybe as part of a bigger African overland adventure – I haven’t quite made up my mind. Indecisive is my middle name!

        • Joe

          April 12, 2016 at 5:13 am Reply

          OK sure. Shame I won’t meet you out there, but if you do get to visit there later in the year instead and swing by the KYGN school then that would be pretty cool 🙂

  • Trippin' Turpins

    April 14, 2016 at 11:57 am Reply

    Very interesting!

    • Joe

      April 14, 2016 at 12:53 pm Reply

      Thanks 🙂

  • RoarLoud

    April 14, 2016 at 2:39 pm Reply

    Great to hear how it is coming together! Tanzania is a hard trip to organize with adults, very impressive the girls are doing it! I wish I was going back- I’d like to volunteer but I would want to do a safari again too!

    • Joe

      April 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply

      Thanks Cathy! Giving it to the girls – in a controlled way, naturally – has made things a little easier from my point of view, hahaha! Rest assured that we will be fitting in a safari on the agenda, you it’s a must do, especially if it’s your first time in Tanzania 🙂

  • Tatiana Bastos

    April 15, 2016 at 8:00 pm Reply

    I’ve been a tour guide for years and I know how hard is to be responsible not only for the people’s well being, but also for them to have their dreams and expectations fulfilled! Most especially if they are younger! It is a very interesting work you are doing, and I am sure also a great experience of life for you as well! It’s great how kids surprise us and we also learn so much with them. And Tanzania? That seems like an amazing place to be learning with differences. Keep up the good work!

    • Joe

      April 16, 2016 at 6:06 am Reply

      Thank you Tatiana. It will undoubtedly be challenging, for sure, but I’m confident that the girls will get so much out of the trip 🙂 It will definitely be a big learning experience for myself and the other adults in the team too, not least from the kids, as you say. Tanzania is a great place and I recommend it to anyone…who knows, perhaps you will be a tour guide there one day? Thanks for stopping by!

  • GOBeyondBounds Rashmi & Chalukya

    April 15, 2016 at 10:15 pm Reply

    wow… This sounds so exciting. We love travelling in groups and we have learnt that there is no adventure if everything gets done easy. There should be some ups and downs which is going to make great memories and the tour worthwhile. Isnt it Joe 😉

    • Joe

      April 16, 2016 at 6:08 am Reply

      Oh yeah absolutely, we certainly realise there will be adversity, and we certainly know that the girls will be making mistakes – and that’s the whole point, really. As you say, it’s an experience to reflect upon later and learn and grow from. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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