We love it when people think about the positive "big picture" benefits that can come from their adventures; and we are huge believers in the power of story telling. How can your experience make a difference in the world? To help spark some ideas we had a conversation with PolarExplorers director Annie Aggens.
Q: Why should I think about sharing my experience with others?
A: One of my favorite poems, The Call of The Wild, by Robert Service, has a stanza that goes, "Have you suffered, starved, and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole? "Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story, seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?" I love these lines.They remind me what adventuring is all about for me, and it's not bragging rights. The concept of going out and doing things "just for the doing" is so appealing to me. But there's a flipside to that which stems from a sense of responsibility I feel when I travel to remote and delicate places.
Q: Tell us more...
A: I feel so fortunate to have the access, skills, experiences and relationships that allow me to travel to these amazing places. The experiences give me so much that I find myself asking what can I do to give back? To say it's a sense of responsibility is partially right, I do feel a responsibility to protect the places I love, but it's more like what can I do to honor these places and the people with whom I've experienced them? I can keep the experience to myself and I will learn and grow from it. Or I can share it with other people and possibly they will get something from it too. Just think about all the stories and people that have inspired you. What was it about the story that inspired you?
Q: What does "big picture" benefits mean?
A: "Big picture" benefits is a broad term that captures the potential for good things to come from your adventure. Being open to the concept that your experience may positively influence others is the first step in making that a reality.
Q: So how do you make that happen?
A: There are a million ways to inspire and be inspired. I recommend thinking about what brings you joy (writing? making movies? involving other people in what you're doing? fundraising? poetry?), and then sitting down and brainstorming a bunch of ideas.
Q: Can you share ideas you or other people have had/used?
A: Sure! For charity fundraising I've seen people auction off a phone call from the North Pole... or accept pledges in exchange for allowing people to write words of wisdom (or jokes, etc.) on their sleeping bags and skis. I've seen people auction off the right to make a training playlist (this is also a great job for a friend or family member). You can inspire others to embrace adventure by challenging them to walk, run or bike the same distance that you will ski (check out our Last Degree Challenge to see how we did this.) I love to teach people about the places I visit by giving presentations at schools, libraries and retirement communities. I focus on what it's like to be on an expedition, and why that particular place is so important. We've had people make feature length films and write books that have won awards. But sometimes it's the intimate personal exchanges, like at dinner parties or with strangers, that feel the best because they are unexpected.
Q: When's the best time to plan this?
A: The Preparatory Phase of the expedition, after you've committed but before you depart, is an important time to think about the best ways to prepare physically, emotionally and gear-wise. It's also the best time to consider what you might want to do with your experience after you return home. Thinking about it at the beginning allows you to plan early for things you might need later. Do you need certain photos? Do you need to start your journal now? Will you need a specific communication device or camera? What about battery storage and power? That said, it's never too late. If you don't think about it until you're back at home thinking to yourself "Wow, that was really powerful..." you can make a plan then. Finding your message (ie. what you feel is important to share) doesn't always happen on cue. Sometimes it comes to you months or years later and even then it's not too late to make an impact.
Q: Any other tips about how your expedition can make a difference in the world?
A: Don't underestimate the power of sharing your experience. At the same time don't get caught up in the need to do something huge. A book or film can be amazing but so too can a meaningful conversation with one person at the right time. Ripple effects can be made by a boulder or a pebble, and the impact can be immeasurable either way.