One of the reasons I started doing expeditions was that they offered the chance to create a group with a single ambition, tight knit, all working together- with none of the nonsense and politics and manoeuvring that occurs in ‘real life’, when there isn’t that same sense of urgency.
The additional benefits are that this joint sense of mission means the group becomes the centre of the universe- for each member of the group. The shared mythology of the trip displaces the outside world of television celebrities and world events, things that usually dwarf us. Without belonging to a group with a higher than average sense of meaning one is destined to be an extra in the mediaworld’s ever changing superficial show- screened across TVs and the internet the world over. People develop double-acts and partnerships- ‘contramundum sets’- two against the world. Dynamic duos who range their own smaller world and its achievements against the ever looming big bad world. But there is always something a bit desperate about such mini-groups who define themselves as ‘against’ rather than ‘for’ something. An expedition is naturally positive- it is going somewhere, and everyone on the team is ‘for’ that onjective.
How does this higher than average sense of meaning manifest itself?
1. People get up early without complaint- and not to ‘show’ they are early risers- simply because the main event of walking is …the main event, and people want to do it, and have to make a certain number of miles or face failure.
2. There is no deep grumbling, by this I mean the core mission is never really questioned except in a joking way- if you’re on a walk of 700km you’re on a walk- you cannot seriously suggest giving up unless it’s obvious you have to give up through illness, injury or some other unforeseeable accident.
3. People sacrifice ‘letting it hang out’, ‘being themselves’, ‘doing their own thing’ for the sake of the expedition. Cabin fever is always a potential problem and people steer clear of standing on each other’s corns, pushing obvious buttons.
4. There is no sense of ‘out there’ (ie. the world of celebrities) being more important than ‘in here’ (what you are doing)- on the expedition.
5. In a real sense you create your own world.
6.There is a sense of calm urgency about what you do, what everyone does.
7. No one drags their feet.
8. You feel that you are where you want to be in the whole wide world. Nowhere else. Doing what you want to be doing.