Explore is the name of the Royal Geographical Society’s annual fieldwork and expedition planning weekend, which took place this year at the Society Headquarters in London, over the weekend of the 10-12 November.
As many of you know, I was back in the UK for a month to put on a Music Festival Conference and Showcase in Manchester – unfortunately, the dates clashed but I was determined to make it work.
Which was why I found myself on the train to London on the morning of Saturday 11th November, slightly worse for wear after completing a gruelling 7am – 4am shift the day before on just five hours sleep.
Luckily, the 7am journey to London was well worth it.
I arrived, just in time to, regrettably, miss Spike Reid’s opening talk. I’d been lucky enough to hear Spike talk at a Yes Tribe event I attended just before I left for Bhutan.
Recently having travelled the entire length of the Ganges on a stand-up paddleboard, he’s now over in New Zealand on a new Adventure. I encourage if you to follow him on Instagram and find out what he’s up to next. An advocate for adventure, tackling the single-use plastic problem, and most importantly an all round great chap.
Now I’ve been to lots of conferences, events and festivals. There is always that one person that seems to be bringing the party.
That guy is Spike. Yet another reason to follow him on Instagram.
Anyway, I digress, onto the rest of the weekend.
Admittedly turning up completely exhausted didn’t help with my social skills, but with over 90 leading field scientists and explorers speaking at the event, and 350 attendees – I was feeling like the new kid at school.
I knew no one – and quite honestly was feeling a bit out of my depth. So I ate my (delicious) lunch alone, and dreaded spending the rest of the weekend staring aimlessly at my Instagram between talks.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Walking through the Exhibitors area at Lunch, I was greeted by a friendly face – a bone fide ‘internet friend’ Adam Hugill, whose blog ‘Adventure with Adam’ I had included in my latest round up ‘The Only Ten Adventure Websites you will ever need’.
A mutual love of the North, Adventure and both feeling a bit out of our depth, we bonded over several cups of tea, before realising we had pretty much the same schedule planned for the weekend. Hallelujah – my first Explore buddy had been found.
After that, the weekend just kept on giving, a plethora of insightful and interesting talks punctuated the rest of the day, over which we also met fellow attendee Sam Hewlings, who has just stand up paddle boarded unassisted down the Thames.
We spent the rest of the evening trading stories over drinks, meeting a ton of new friends (I think the three of us would have liked to count Alastair Humphreys amongst these, but the closest we got was him brushing past Sam’s arm) and ended the night far too late in the pub.
Which, inevitably was one that Spike had taken us too…
The next day and the weekend, in general, was split into two definite camps – those focused on the importance of Academic Research and Fieldwork, and those, like me, who had a variety of Expeditions planned.
As someone who has only just started to feel comfortable calling themselves an ‘Adventurer’, meeting so many inspiring people was pretty overwhelming.
There is a definite sense of privilege attending Explore. After all, being held at one of the most iconic venues when it comes to historic expeditions and research there is a definite sense of wonder.
Eating my packed lunch next to one of the oldest maps in the world, for someone who was chucked out of GCSE Geography for being too disruptive was a bit of a surprise.
However, the facts are that the event is filled with people genuinely excited and passionate about Geography.
And that passion is completely infectious.
I gained insight into so many different aspects of Geography it made me pretty upset that I had barely scrapped a grade ‘C’ at 16.
I learnt the term ‘Citizen Science’, a way in which the public can become involved in scientific research such as amateur birdwatchers, voluntarily contributing scientific data. Learning I didn’t need to be an expert (or pretend to be!) was exciting, and definitely something I’ll write about further.
I learnt that I’m not the only person who didn’t have sailing lessons at ten, or that had never climbed a mountain or relied on sponsors or a rich family to pay for my travels. Plenty of people I met had worked hard, saved their money and undertaking Expeditions on their own terms. Remembering there is no rule on ‘How to Adventure’ was comforting.
Was it worth it?
Over the course of the two days, I met a bunch of amazing people, many of whom I have no doubt will become lifelong friends. The connections I made were also incredibly important on a work level – I’ve come away with so many big plans for 2018, and now really feel I have a great support network to make them happen.
The event can be attended either by a day ticket or weekend. I opted for the £90 weekend ticket, which, to me, ended up being worth its weight in gold in regards to the connections and friendships made over the weekend.
I understand the price tag could be pretty high for some people, and I plan to run a competition for a free ticket next year on the blog – so I’ll keep you posted.
For those of you reading this interested in attending something similar, I’ll be pulling together a list of events and groups in the UK that you can attend until next years RGS Explore, which is taking place 9th – 11th November 2018.
I started my blog was to share my story and connect with like-minded people. Those who are focused on the importance of travel and adventure. I am starting a series on the blog highlighting some of the amazing work of people I met over the weekend.
Do you have any Adventure people or organisations you would recommend me look up? Please let me know in the comments below!
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Also published on Medium.