Andrew ‘Sandy’ Sanderson explains how he turned his love for adventure into his job
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 Leadership 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 is to jump right in. I had no inkling that this decision would inexplicably change my life.
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. I think that this attitude is at the core of EC. I met with a fantastic bunch of people on the course. Not only have we kept in touch; they've also helped me to grow my confidence to take the first steps of starting my own business.
My initial fears for the Expedition Leadership course were unfounded, and, 48 hours later, I came away with a feeling of calm and vindication: I felt that I’d somehow gained permission to pursue 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. I soaked up all of day two, growing in confidence all the time - though I wasn't quite sure how to focus it all just yet.
The weekend helped me to believe that I was capable - something that I genuinely struggled with prior. At the very end of one slide on day two, I realised that a ‘specialised’ expedition company was what I was creating. In Belinda’s words, these were the organisations that were the most fun and sometimes achieved the most extreme stuff. At that moment, it was as if a lightbulb switched on in my head.
With that first step taken, in the rollercoaster and thoroughly epic time since, I’ve attended the EC Winter Skills course in the Cairngorms. This, combined with the Leadership course, kicked me into action. I’ve since gained my NICAS 1-3 and am lead climbing outdoors now; 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 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, successfully passing both course and assessment to be accepted as an Instructor in the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. In this role, I help 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 spent the last 10 months building 7 Explorers from the ground upwards: doing everything from web design to the intricacies of business startup. I've had to learn to massively think outside the box and then fine tuning all my ideas. 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’. 12 months prior, I would never have thought I would be in that position! My success has all been down to sitting my ass on that course and remaining open-minded through it. It got me thinking that I could actually do this.
I will permanently be grateful to Belinda for running the course. If there was any message I could pass on to anyone considering following their passion, I would simply say to get signed up on the course. 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.
To sign up for our Expedition Leadership Course, click here
To find out more about Sandy's company, click here