I think it is fair to say I have an adventurous streak. I have hitchhiked and used local transport to cross West Africa and the Sahara Desert, via Timbuktu to Morocco; snow-boarded in the Himalayas; kayaked the White Nile; started an on-going volunteer project in Uganda and also driven a taxi around the world!
I guess it all started in 2005 when I was 18 and took part in a World Challenge expedition to Kenya with my school. As part of this trip we did some work in a school, trekked with the Maasai and climbed Mount Kenya as well as managing to find some time to relax on the beach at Mombasa. It is an experience that has left lasting memories and had a huge impact on my life.
Returning from Kenya I was heading off to Aston University and I think the expedition experience certainly helped to give me a taste of independence and responsibility. The expedition leaders really let the students take charge of their experience - handling the budget, planning the itinerary - easing you into the real world whilst still having the support of your teachers and classmates around you.
However, I think the experience has most had an impact on my career after leaving university. I had started along a traditional career route in the city when I took some time out to travel the world by taxi. The trip - 'It's on the Meter' - took me and two friends 43,319.5 miles around the world in a London Black Cab raising £20,000 for the British Red Cross and breaking two Guinness World Records (longest ever journey in a taxi and the highest altitude ever reached by taxi).
Spending 15 months in a taxi really gave me time to think and the idea of going back to a standard office job just didn't appeal. It was then I got the idea for my business Daredevil Project which makes challenge apps and mobile games to play in the real world.
The hardest part of starting your own business is taking that leap into the unknown. You need to build a confidence in your own ability and this is something that I definitely started to develop on my World Challenge expedition. Taking part in an expedition like that really puts you out of your comfort zone and challenges you physically and mentally, but you do come out at the end realising just how much you can achieve. If you can climb Mount Kenya why can't you go to Companies House to register your own business?!
This kind of experience when you are at school also helps build resilience. You have to deal with a lot of challenge situations on expedition and it is resilience that helps you to cope with these challenges and overcome any problems you may face. On my trip I was in charge of the flights outbound and inbound so had to organise passports, baggage, check-in, transport etc and learned a lot about skills like organisation, communication and budgeting. Something which has stood me in good stead over the years.
Being in these challenging situations also helps you to realise that the world isn't as scary as it may first seem and that you do tend to find yourself in incredible situations because of people's kindness. World Challenge taught me to respect that and I think it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of what can be achieved.
Finally, it is not just about the expedition experience itself. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into the trip, including fundraising to pay for the opportunity. I loved this opportunity to drive our own fundraising campaign, putting on local community events to raise money for the trip. It really brought us together as a team before we left and allowed us to explore our more enterprising side!
If any student at school or university has the opportunity to take part in an overseas expedition I would fully encourage them to take part. Not only is it an amazing experience in itself, it can be an experience that shapes your career and gives you the confidence and skills to go on to create your own career pathway. Having that first opportunity when I was 18 certainly kick-started my adventurous spirit and now I am running my own business that allows me to take that interest in adventure and make a career out of it. What more can you ask for?
Chief Mischief Maker, Daredevil Project Games