Want to get started with polar expeditions, or expeditions in general? I'd love to hear if I can help with your plans, or put you in touch with people who can teach you the skills you may need to learn to take the 'next step'... but its down to you to make the first step!Over the years, I've worked with a wide range of people; children, young people and adult groups, including those with complex medical and physical needs and learning difficulties in a variety of environmental and expedition situations.Hope you're inspired!
Teaching in some form or another has always been important to Helen, but the traditional classroom wasn't exactly what she had in mind. Find out how Helen managed to combine her love of the great outdoors with her passion for teaching and instructing others - a far cry from where she started as a primary school teacher over 20 years ago!!
Want to get started with polar expeditions, or expeditions in general? I'd love to hear if I can help with your plans, or put you in touch with people who can teach you the skills you may need to learn to take the 'next step'... but its down to you to make the first step!
Over the years, I've worked with a wide range of people; children, young people and adult groups, including those with complex medical and physical needs and learning difficulties in a variety of environmental and expedition situations.
Hope you're inspired!
Lots of different projects on the go at the moment in my 'gap life'!
I am running http://www.newland.no/" rel="nofollow">polar training courses in Norway for people heading off to the North and South Poles later this year or maybe planning their own polar expeditions in the future (this is in great partnership working with my Norwegian polar guiding friend, whose company I work with on a regular basis).
I'm also doing kit and logistics work for groups visiting both the Poles.
I do fundraising, and help to set up Antarctica workshops raising awareness about climate change and sustainability issues through the http://www.polarfoundation.org/" rel="nofollow">International Polar Foundation.
I simply love with a passion the buzz of passing on skills that I have been fortunate enough to learn by trial and error, or by some very sound advice from friends and colleagues over the years!
The first few years of work-life were as a qualified primary school teacher, but I always had the feeling that the conventional clasroom environment was a little too restrictive for me (although I've always held onto the love of teaching/instructing others).
Almost twenty years of running outdoor centres including being in charge of a residential base, delivering outdoor first aid courses, and outdoor education advisory work completed my public sector phase - so a real period of stability and security of regular pay, pension, etc.
However, when I increased the amount of expeditions I was leading for various companies as well as having a full time job, the need for more freedom became worth more than any financial incentives or career moves! When the opportunity arose to lead on a young people's expedition to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia at the end of 2007, it seemed to 'fit' too neatly, and to then head onto a South Pole expedition immediately afterwards... There aren't many County Councils who can see any benefit to their employee being away from their work on unpaid leave for 12 weeks, so sadly the job that I still loved had to go!
I'd always had a fascination for the polar regions since a very early age (the front two pages of the atlas were so different from anything else on offer in the book), always been fortunate enough to travel a fair amount as a child within Europe at least, and always enjoyed being in the 'great outdoors' almost from the point I learnt to walk. When the opportunity to roam freely around the hills and mountains of the UK was taken away during Foot and Mouth disease in 2001, I suddenly realised how much I'd taken for granted, and the importance to me of big wide-open spaces. I booked a last-minute cross-country ski trip to Norway... and never really looked back!
A few more weeks of skiing and winter skills practice, in addition to the outdoor knowledge I had already learnt completing my Winter Mountain Leader award, and suddenly the 'almost impossible' seemed just about possible, and skiing to the North Pole on a last minute trip became my new challenge!
My first polar trip to the North Pole was paid for totally by myself (ouch!) although I've always given talks on return from my adventures - these donations have raised money for a variety of charities which I have supported over the past few years.
The second time was at a reduced rate, and the third time was for free, but all the time I was benefitting from the skills and time that the guides had been willing to invest in me 'learning the ropes'... and because I'd asked lots of questions and wanted to know and learn more!
Some of the polar expeditions, e.g. crossing Greenland and skiing the full distance to the South Pole, have involved sponsorship (in kit and equipment, not always in hard cash!) but there's really no way around it if you reallly, really want to do something - you are the one who has to 'make it happen'!
Best thing: has to be the feeling of empowerment - you are responsible for your life! If its not working, then change.
Worst thing: when I went on my first ever polar expedition, almost everyone told me I was crazy and couldn't understand why I'd want to give up the security of a full time job with regular income etc., and why I'd want to pay so much money to go somewhere cold when they personally spent all of their time dreaming about holidays soaking up the sun and relaxing... but this was a holiday to me.
Now they simply ask 'where/when am I going away next' or express surprise that I'm actually around at home! Even with Internet and other means these days, its sometimes difficult to keep up-to-date with everyone if you're only home for short periods of time.
I know I'm completely 'bitten' by the polar bug - there's a deep-seated restlessness for me to 'be out there' in the wilderness on a regular basis. Maybe these trips should come with a health warning that they can seriously open your eyes to an amazing world, and you'll never return back to your old view of the world once you've experienced these dramatic environments!
Life is happening now - live it!
No one hands these life opportunities to you on a plate - it involves training, fund raising, and often a fair amount of sacrificing other things. Be realistic about how long you need to prepare and how much you're prepared to give up... but more than anything, get 'out there' and make your dream happen - enjoy the journey as much as the goal. And make sure you retain your sense of humour along the way!
Remember that there will be 'down' times as well as 'good' times. These are just a test of how much you really want to achieve the goal and highlight how important it is to surround yourself with friends who also believe you will achieve your dreams.
Polar regions can be inhospitable places e.g. Antarctic weather doesn't suffer fools gladly - get it wrong and the consequences could become serious very quickly in these kind of extreme environments. Learn the skills from those who know and regularly experience these places themselves, and continue to push their own boundaries 'outside' of their times when they have group responsibilities.
Go with people who are good instructors, and who are good communicators. Of course, I would recommend making a training trip first with my Norwegian colleague, Svante and I. Visit our website, http://www.newland.no/" rel="nofollow">Newland, to learn more!
Tim Moss' website, http://thenextchallenge.org/" rel="nofollow">The Next Challenge, is also a favorite of mine for useful 'bite-sized' chunks of practical expedition information!