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Top Five Leadership Expedition Myths Debunked

leadership expedition

Travelling on a school leadership expedition is an exciting opportunity. And yet, the prospect of being away from home, perhaps with people you don’t know well and sometimes in a remote environment, can also raise some concerns for both students and parents. We’re here to help address these issues, and show you why these expedition myths shouldn’t hold you back from the trip of a lifetime.

Myth 1: My friends aren’t going – I won’t know anyone on the trip

We get it – travelling away from home without the comfort of having your pals around can feel daunting. But the fact that your friends haven’t signed up to this challenge should be an extra reason for you to do it! For one thing, everyone on your expedition is in the same boat and will probably be feeling the same way. Getting to know new people, and learning how to work with them, also develops a key life skill – you’ll be glad of this experience at university and beyond.

Leadership expeditions are an opportunity to create new friendships. Before your trip departs, you’ll start getting to know your team through a pre-departure programme. By the time you all board the plane, they’ll no longer be total strangers. During the trip itself, you’ll be sharing unforgettable moments together, and forging lifelong bonds. Many of our travelling students are still great friends with their former teammates.

Isabella was 17 when she went on a World Challenge expedition to Belize in 2022. “I was nervous before my trip because none of my usual friendship groups were going,” she said. But working together and making group decisions helped her get to know her teammates quickly. “I realised I was with likeminded people,” she said. “We shared special moments that have bonded us for life! I’m at Uni now, and the social skills I learnt on expedition helped me settle in quickly and made the leap less daunting.”

Making friends on expedition

Myth 2: My parents say it isn’t safe

Parents are, understandably, concerned about their children’s safety when they are travelling abroad. World Challenge’s more than 30 years’ experience in student travel gives them a solid foundation for mitigating risk. Our trips have been refined over three decades and meet exacting safety standards, as well as a 24/7 Operations Centre, and access to Healix on call doctors. We also throw super experienced trek leaders, qualified guides and satellite comms devices into the mix.

Our expeditions are not only pre-risk assessed, but they are also continually and dynamically risk assessed by our teams on the ground. This means that everything from accommodation to transport can be swapped for an alternative option quickly if necessary.

Expedition Boat Trip

Myth 3: An expedition isn’t sustainable

Sustainability and ethics are integrated across all aspects of World Challenge trips. Of course, travelling leaves a carbon footprint, and flights remain the largest portion of our emissions. We use nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, to mitigate the negative impact on the environment. A large proportion of the trees are mangroves, with local communities engaged in the planting programmes. In 2023, we offset a portion of our emissions and planted 133,000 trees to mitigate the impact of the remainder of our footprint.

Our community initiatives are also carefully selected and thought through. We never visit orphanages, and you won’t find elephant riding on our itineraries. Instead, we choose responsible and sustainable initiatives that put the local community and their environment first.

Myth 4: It’s too expensive

Yes, an expedition has a price tag. But earning your trip fee is all part of the challenge – and can be hugely rewarding. Once you’ve raised the fee, all the essentials – such as flights, meals and in-country transfers – are included.

Our trips are self-funded, and many of our travelling students raise a significant proportion, if not all, of their trip fee. Paying your way teaches you valuable life lessons, from budgeting and forecasting to marketing and how to graft hard. Students are resourceful, using their own entrepreneurial ideas to earn their trip fee, from car boot sales and quiz nights to part-time jobs and selling their own creations at craft markets.

Brad was 15 when he heard about the possibility of an expedition to Morocco. Coming from a single parent family with a very low income, he had to raise every penny himself for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – which is precisely what he did. “I appreciated the trip so much more when I was in the country, knowing I’d raised all the money myself,” Brad said. “Never rule yourself out because of your financial struggles – I’m living proof that it’s possible!”

Another myth to be busted is that your kit has to be costly. You don’t need brand new, expensive equipment. Instead, see if you can borrow from friends and family, or find second-hand gear. Not only is reusing kit cheaper, it’s also a more sustainable option.

Craft Market

Myth 5: I’m not outdoorsy, and an expedition is all camping and killer hiking

First up, as well as camping, your accommodation could be a hotel, hostel or a homestay, which offers a real glimpse into local life. Trekking is also only one phase of the expedition, and they are often very manageable distances, sometimes with just day packs. Our itineraries are balanced with everything from community initiatives and wildlife conservation to city explorations and optional activities.

If you don’t consider yourself to be an outdoorsy person, you might just surprise yourself. Perhaps that’s a self-limiting belief, or a boundary that needs to be pushed. That’s exactly what happened to Suzy Fletcher, Regional Development Manager at World Challenge.

She had always loved to travel but was never interested in trekking and climbing mountains, claiming to be “more of a beach girl”. After joining the company, she went on her first expedition. “I found a new love for trekking and the mountains,” she said. Suzy – who last year summited Kilimanjaro – added: “An expedition incorporates so much more than just ‘the outdoors’. It opens up your world to experience things you would never usually get the opportunity to experience. You discover things about yourself you never knew.”


Written by Ellie Ross