Chloe was one of nine participants who joined us on our Expedition Leader Program in June 2019, to embark on a 12 week adventure through Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, China, Laos, Thailand and Nepal. Chloe kept the world up to date with their journey throughout the three months and has kindly shared with us her thoughts and reflections post program.
When I left Quebec to join the Expedition Leader Program (ELP) team in June, I had no idea how much knowledge I would return home with three months later. I was expecting to learn the general stuff outlined in the syllabus such as leadership skills, travel management, logistics, cultural knowledge and other hard skills – and I did. Never in a million years did I imagine how much I would learn about myself, and the world.
During our last few days in Nepal we took time to reflect on what our main takeaways from the program were. As we sat at Jiva’s Café in the heart of Pokhara and listened to each other’s thoughts, it became apparent that the ELP had achieved exactly what it was set out to do, and more. We were departing from the ELP as stronger, wiser and all-round better individuals than we were at our time of arrival in Quito only three months before.
I have now been back home in Canada for a little over a week. I still spend a ton of my time thinking back on those moments of reflection and what I took away from the ELP, which I am sure will be a part of me for the rest of my life. If you’re reading this blog you may have already heard many of us participants, or even the Pure Exploration team, talk about what an incredible experience the ELP was. To be honest, I don’t think we’ll ever stop expressing just how incredible it was. No words will ever do justice to the truly life changing 3 months we just had. However, for those who didn’t join us on this life changing journey, here is my best attempt at doing just that, putting it into words, by creating a list of what learnings and reflections I took home with me after my time on the program.
A sense of belonging
I always knew that there had to be more of us dreamers out there who want to see it all and do it all. I felt that the place where I come from had always made me feel quite lonely in that sense, as I wasn’t surrounded by fellow dreamers. A few weeks prior to departing for the ELP I had finished a university degree. I believed that society’s expectations for people like me were always a little different and a lot more structured than what I had in mind for myself. After traveling with like-minded individuals who are equally passionate about the world, I am so happy to have decided to break the mould and follow my own path. If you are aching to do the same, please do it. The world is too beautiful for you to miss out on. You can’t miss out on seeing the beauty the world beholds because of what others have planned for you. Once you put yourself out there you will find the people with whom you belong and with whom you will build incredibly strong, life long and beautiful relationships.
It is often difficult to see the “good” happening in the world when we are sitting in our own little corner absorbed in the news on the television and the stories on the internet. Trust me when I say that there is so much of it out there, there is an abundance of goodness in the world. I experienced the purest forms of goodness whilst on the ELP. From dancing and playing with children during community projects, to laughing with street food vendors late at night, or singing with a taxi driver in the middle of traffic. I am now so certain that people are good regardless of where you travel. Our group were greeted with the most welcoming smiles in every country we visited and treated like family on countless occasions. The negativity we see in the media accounts for less than 1% of what is truly happening in the world. You realize this very quickly when you get to experience so much of the world in such a short period of time, as we did during the Expedition Leader Program.
Humans need to understand their connection to nature
We were lucky enough to experience nature in so many ways during our three months travelling; through our environmental project in Cusco, learning about conservation in the Galapagos, and by being fully immersed in it during our multiple treks through the mountain peaks and luscious rainforests. I have always felt a strong personal connection and sense of appreciation for nature. This feeling of being at one intensified throughout the trip and I would love all humans to have an opportunity in their lives to feel this bond in its purest form. Being immersed in nature makes me a happier and healthier human being. I feel every human who got the chance to experience the great outdoors and all it has to offer would feel the benefits also.
Humans are all interconnected
Our interconnectedness as human beings allows us to communicate and form such strong connections without having to worry about language barriers. We are all one and the same. We all feel love and pain. We all share smiles. We all have our own version of struggle. There is a depth in all of us that allows us to connect on such a basic, important and beautiful level. Disconnect between people of different cultures, races, religion and so on can be entirely attributed to a lack of effort to understand. We share so many of the same ideas and basic emotions. We all crave a good life, good health, happiness and love. We simply need to take the time to listen.
I could likely keep adding the things I’ve learn for hundreds of pages, but I think these four key takeaways encompass a lot of what will stay with me for the rest of my life. I can’t speak for the others on the program about what their most important takeaways were, but I can say one thing for sure, we were all shocked by the type of knowledge we were leaving with. While the program was built on strong foundations that would enable us to learn more about ourselves and the world, it is incredible to think how much everyone on the team took the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience. I strongly believe that when it comes to experiences like these, you get out what you put in. I think we all left with more than we ever expected to and that was because we gave more of ourselves than we ever thought we could.
I should also add that I come back home with 10 new best friends. All of us joined the program with different life experiences, values and beliefs. These 10 friends taught me so much over the three months. Here are some final words to thank those who quickly became my family.
Jessica T - Your endless enthusiasm and passion for the world around you is contagious. Thank you for being your beautiful self.
Keri W - Passion, reflection and curiosity makes you one heck of an admirable and inspiring woman. Thank you for allowing me to experience your beauty and knowledge.
Sarah P - Vulnerability and strength should always go hand in hand. Thank you for being a relatable source of support and love.
John M - Creating your own path to happiness is key to not missing out on this wonderful life we were given. Thank you for lighting a fire in me that will forever push me to chase my dreams.
Jessica M - It's when we are pushing what we thought our limits were that we truly begin to shine. Thank you for reminding me to keep stretching my comfort zone.
Zoltan L - Your ability to adapt and turn every situation into a good time is remarkable. Thank you for reminding me to always live life to the fullest.
Caitlin F - Learning, reflection, love and kindness suit you so well. Thank you for being a source of light in my life.
Miranda J - Curiosity and passion make the best citizens. Thank you for reminding me that there are so many good people who truly care.
Zack O - Compassion and care are underrated. Thank you for always taking the time to show us how much we all matter.
Chloe H - A listening ear and a big hug goes a long way. Thank you for being the loving shoulder I was able to lean on.
Check out more photos of the Expedition Leader Program on Pure Exploration's Facebook page. Pure Exploration would love to say a huge thank you to Chloe and each of the Expedition Leader Program participants (mentioned above) for your incredible energy, enthusiasm, support and adventurous curiosity over the last three months. We've loved sharing in this transformational journey with you! We'd also like to give a huge shout out to Program Instructors Keri and Jess who went above and beyond absolutely everything - thank you for your hard work and for being so amazing at what you do! You can find out more about the Expedition Leader Program here or alternatively you can send us an email for more information.