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

The True Cost of Expeditions

I’m lucky enough to speak regularly in schools, with the rather expansive task of condensing all the worthwhile reasons to go on an expedition down to a small little slot hemmed in by the curriculum.

And there are a lot of good reasons… To stretch your comfort zone, to work hard at something worthwhile, to live a life without regrets and the list goes on.

As with many opportunities, I think the biggest perceived obstacle is the cost. This has to be the single most commonly asked question at my talks, not just from students, but parents too, fearful of seed of adventure being sown.

Expeditions now appear to be an industry too, with a myriad of organisations offering adventurous and challenging experiences for young people. The variety of course means that (from my opinionated view-point) some are good whilst others are distinctly mediocre, some or more expensive, others less so…

Thus with a fair bit of generalisation, the true cost is probably something along the lines of this:

  • A couple of thousand pounds.
  • A few weeks of your time.

It’s worth mentioning that you could of course head bravely out of your door one day on a shoe string budget and never look back (and please do! lots of brave folks have successfully), but for many I think, a slightly more structured experience is desirable.

So is it really worth it? What could you get in return that would justify that cost.

Well aside from experience itself and all the associated benefits, there’s two less obvious things that I think are worth mentioning.

Firstly, the more I speak to students, the more I meet who are keen to enhance their CV’s, eager to maximize their chances of a successful university application, or improve a range of desirable skills like teamwork, leadership and problem solving. They want to set themselves apart from the competition. If they can do all this, whilst having an adventure and contributing to worthwhile projects as so many expeditions do, then I think this is a winner all round.

Secondly, with five years having passed since my first expedition and the not insubstantial challenge of raising the funds for it. I compare its cost to my monthly rent, the cost of an average two-week holiday, the expense of choosing to own a car (which I don’t), and all the other costs of living. Every year, the cost of that first life changing experience seems less and less significant, and more and more worthwhile.

So all things considered, the true cost of expeditions, isn’t really very much.