How I Started My Own Expedition Company
A mixture of a lack of confidence in my own abilities and not knowing what the next step was to be, but knowing that one had to be taken in some direction or other was the motive behind signing up to the Explorers Connect Expedition Leaders Course in Bristol.
Even on the train down, I was entirely unsure what to expect, but the only way you’re going to find out if you’re woefully out of your depth or completely wrong and it was a good idea is to jump right in and I had no inkling that it would, thankfully, be the latter and would inexplicably change my life after it.
It was my first event with Explorers Connect and I’ve been involved in a couple more since; a positive sign if ever you need one. Every time I’ve found myself immediately making friends with an open minded, likeable bunch who have equal measures of tales to tell and experience to share. The courses have been pitched at the right mixture and level of both skill and accessibility and I think that is the core of EC, showing people that you are capable and here’s some similarly minded folk that you will get along with at the same time.
My initial fears for the Expedition Leaders course mentioned above were unfounded and 48 hours later, after feeling that I never shut up once, I came away with a feeling of calm and vindication, almost feeling that I’d mentally gained permission to pursue all the things I’d always wanted and now knew that I had the experience to attempt. I mentally ticked off everything from Day One as things I already do and have learned, sometimes the hard way, over the last 15 years of expedition experience and soaked up all of Day Two, just growing in confidence all the time though not sure how to focus it all just yet. I met with a fantastic bunch of people and in the time since the course I’ve not only kept in touch with them but they have grown and nurtured not just the idea that I arrived with, but also myself with the confidence gained from that weekend so that now I’m taking very definite baby steps with my own unique business.
The course enabled me to realise I was capable - something that I genuinely struggled with prior. It made me realise right at the very end of one slide on Day Two that a ‘specialised’ expedition company was what I was creating, the ones that, in Belinda’s words, were the most fun and sometimes achieved the most extreme stuff. It was as if the lightbulb switched on in my head at that moment.
With that first step taken, in the rollercoaster and thoroughly epic time since, I’ve attended the EC Winter Skills course in the Cairngorms (something else I highly recommend) and the two combined experiences kicked me into action. I’ve since gained my NICAS 1-3 and am lead climbing now as well and finally taking that to the outdoors, have been training for sections of my SPA, gained my Bronze, Silver and Gold NNAS and completed my training week for my ML with the recommendation that I return asap to complete my assessment. I’ve undertaken a few bespoke days with instructors for rope work and navigation and picked up my 16-hour ML specific medical course also. I joined in as a client on a Bear Grylls 24 hours course and then successfully passed both course and assessment to be accepted as an Instructor in the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, helping out on the Corporates and Survival Race events as well as their course content when I can. There’s more to add to the list but I think the point has been made.
I’ve met a ton of likeminded people since that Leadership course and set up and spent the last 10 months building 7 Explorers from the ground upwards, doing everything from web design to the intricacies of business startup and having to massively think outside the box and then fine tuning it all with regards to event content etc. It’s not my full time job yet, it’s not even my part time job yet but in a couple of years there’s a very good chance it will be. It’s stressful as hell at times but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
It was apt that this year’s Leadership course coincided with 7 Explorers first clients on their ‘pre Expedition training course’ as 12 months prior I would never have thought I would be in that position - all down to putting my ass on that course and sitting open minded through it and thinking, ‘I can actually do this…’
I will permanently be grateful to Belinda for running the course. There’s a particular conversation that will always stick in my mind and will always be part of my inspiration for the future but if there was any message I could pass on to anyone considering signing up, it would simply be to get it done. Not only will you share the passions and dreams of a great group of like-minded people but you’ll learn to realise that no matter where you are starting from, anything really is possible with a bit of passion and self-belief.
Andrew ‘Sandy’ Sanderson
7 Explorers Founder and Director www.7explorers.com
‘Find yourself in unexpected places’