Arctic Expedition 2019 Its not what we do, it’s the way we do it!

Arctic Expedition 2019. Husky dogs great their driver in the knee deep snow. The Really Wild Education banner stands in the snow.

Really Wild Educations Arctic Survival Training Expedition is like no other out there. Its not a trip, it’s an experience that has more depth to it that one would think.

First the locations are beautiful and diverse. Where we go one could sleep in a bivy under the heavens by an open fire, or you could have a top corporate experience with all the whistles and bells.

Second the training is brilliant. Your leaders and guides will teach you how to have the confidence of all the great explorers in history; learning how to set up and operate a full arctic base camp, stay comfortable at extreme temperatures and manage yourself and others so that you can be happy in places that most other people would never dare to venture. I often say that knowledge is power, and wow do our students become powerful!

Thirdly the students are not just tested physically. They don’t just learn to manage themselves and their equipment, they learn a way of thinking that will change them forever, bold statement but it’s true. We call this the Really Wild Method™. The Really Wild Method helps students to face their fears, assess themselves from the inside out and the outside in. It helps students to grow in ways they never even thought of.

Before each student goes on one of our expeditions, they fill in a questionnaire. This questionnaire asks them about their strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes and dreams and their fears. Really Wild then uses this information and that collected from the entire team to put together a personal task for each student. Each task is related to them addressing, overcoming or facing their fears during the activities of the week, but also helps them to untangle their problems and make sense of why they are they way they are. At the same time most of the students are tasked to help one another overcome or achieve in some way, creating a brilliant spiderweb of tasks that all in all will pull the whole team up together and help them achieve really great things. During this journey they fill in a work book or personal development record that helps them to reflect and test themselves against a special set of skills and values that are part of the Really Wild Method. It’s an effective tool for self-development and it works.

For me, its my favourite part of the trip. One great example we had this year was a student who was afraid of the cold, as she had had previous experiences that were not pleasant. Another student was assigned to help motivate her (although she didn’t know that). The results were evident very quickly. With a little motivation from others in the team and some brilliant first aid and cold injury training she was ready to go. Within a day she forgot her fear and was able to step out and push herself at minus 22 degrees without any hesitation. The results of her overcoming that difficulty had ripple effects, she tried new activities in the cold; she became more organised with her kit because she knew how important it was to not lose a glove or keep her boots dry. She laughed more, she got to see the beauty of the northern parts of the world and her confidence soared in herself.

By the end of the trip every student in the group knew that they had done something to help themselves overcome and grow, and they knew that they had done something to help someone else, and that’s a great feeling.

Borneo Expedition 2018

Palm trees against a milky sky in Borneo

The Borneo Expedition 2018 was for me one of the best expeditions that Really Wild has ever done. The one and only reason I can say this is because of the students. This is no cliché. These were young men with whom I would trust my life, no exaggeration. But I certainly didn’t have those feelings to begin with.

Beach in Borneo

It all started 7 years ago. Our south London Boys school consisted of a chatty but well-behaved cohort of middle to upper class London lads, who for the most part had their adventures via the computer games they played at home and the package holidays that they went on with their parents. Their school education was fed to them and even though they were quite smart, they didn’t need to be to get better than average results. You can put that down to the teachers who were breaking themselves in half for those boys every day.

Campfire dinners

I did an assembly at the school for the year 8 students and talked about real adventure, and treasure; fire, weapons and some of the best survival training they will get to partake in. They all put their hands up with interest.

We had some really good times training those boys how to thrive in UK winter conditions and they learn quickly and well.

Skip forward a few years to Ross, a brilliantly talented young man, strong in character, sitting on a rock on a Cornwall shore on a beautiful sunny June day, as far away from civilisation as one can be in Cornwall; with me, explaining to him that the toothbrush with which I was about to scrub his bleeding and septic foot was going to hurt quite a lot. He nodded and braced himself for the consequences of his breaking of the rule “keep your shoes on”.

Now Ross was on a completely deserted tropical island in the South China Sea with his friends building one of the most incredible water crafts I had ever seen! built from the plastic and junk debris found on the coastline of that jungle island.

We raced the rafts on the open water then they foraged for dry wood and made a fire on the beach to cook dinner. We ate well thanks to the young men who learnt how to manage fire with great competence and worked efficiently as a team.

Fun on a raft

I had great pride for those young men at the end of that trip. When leaving our deserted island, I saw one of my lads looking out into the uncharted jungle with a fiery confidence in his eye. “I’d love to just go and trek that jungle, wouldn’t you sir?”. I grinned at him, knowing that he could do it and do it well. He grinned back with even more confidence. I hope that when these men make it big in life they remember these learning moments, the ones that help them replace fear with wisdom and knowledge.