James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

8 reasons to go on your first expedition (and one not to)

Embarking on my first was a fluke. Back in the days of ‘msn’ I heard from a friend about an expedition to Svalbard. Sounded interesting, though I confess to not having a clue what Svalbard was.

As interesting as it would undoubtedly turn out to be, it was not the Arctic that caught my eye, but an opportunity to explore Madagascar that had me hooked. Before the wave of enthusiasm dissipated, I signed up and set about working out how I might make it happen. Luckily it did. Here’s 8 reasons to take the plunge:

1) Expeditions frequently take you off the beaten track. They offer the chance to see a place as it truly is, sleeping on rocky, icy or swampy ground (or a moving boat?) and being out of doors for days, weeks or months at a time. I can’t think of a better way to explore a country than on expedition.

2) The less fun it is at the time, the more enjoyable it will seem in hindsight. Or to borrow the words of Mark Twain and Tim Moss – It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

3) Expeditions are synonymous with adventure, things rarely go exactly to plan and therein lies the beauty of it. They force you to think on your feet and be adaptable to new situations.

4) Do something worthwhile. There are of course many worthwhile pursuits that could occupy your time, but expeditions are frequently in the enviable position of combining the aforementioned adventure, with a worthwhile purpose.

5) Stretch your comfort zone. You don’t need expedition experience to go on an expedition (in fact you probably only need a sense of humour), you might as well start somewhere, and afterwards, who knows what wild things might seem achievable.

6) The people. There’s nothing quite like sharing a tent together for months on end or dealing with expedition challenges to form lifetime friendships.

7) From a purely academic point of view – an aspect that is undoubtedly important to many young people – expeditions look great on your CV. However, I wouldn’t make that your sole reason, or you might find yourself up the Amazon, without a paddle, and questioning your motivation.

8 ) In 40 years time you’ll probably regret the things you didn’t do, rather than those you did.

It would be unfair and biased of me not to present the opposite side of the argument. After much thinking and pondering, here’s a very valid reason NOT to go on your first expedition.

1) You might want to go on another.

Do you agree with all those points, or are there any you would add or change? Let me know in the comments below..