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Explore 2016: Past Attendees – Tori James

  • Written by  Geographical
  • Published in Explorers
Explore 2016: Past Attendees – Tori James
15 Nov
While some aspiring expedition leaders and field scientists attend Explore once, many more return year after year, making the journey from delegate to panellist to speaker as their fieldwork and expedition experience grows. Here’s how the annual expedition and field research planning weekend has impacted the lives of previous alumni…

Explore 2016

Tori James – Current Occupation: Speaker and adventurer

Tori James became the youngest British female as well as the first ever Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest in 2007. She was a member of the Pink Lady Polecats, the first all-female team to complete the Polar Challenge, a 360 mile race to the Magnetic North Pole. In June 2014 Tori was part of the Beeline Britain team who travelled in a straight line from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of BLESMA(the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association). Their 1,100km journey involved sea kayaking, road cycling, mountain biking and hiking. Tori is an ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wales, Girl Guiding UK and the Visit Wales Year of Adventure 2016.

What is the biggest impact that Explore had (or continues to have) on you?
My first visit to Explore was with the Expedition Society at Royal Holloway University. It was inspirational and full of interesting individuals. Explore is not only an idea generator it connects you to the people who can actually help you make your ideas happen. The brilliant thing about the expedition world is that people are generally very willing to share their skills, knowledge and experience. Explore attracts speakers and workshop facilitators who are at the top of their field, literally and metaphorically breaking new trails and who can help you deliver projects to the highest standard.

If you were/are planning an expedition or field research project today, what emerging topics, or objective would you focus your attention on?
Having completed two trips to East Africa this year (Ethiopia and Kenya) I was shocked by the amount of work that still needs to be done if we are going to prevent the extinction of numerous species of animals and plants. It’s a cliche, but change really does not happen overnight. I first visited Kenya as a university geography student in 2002 and following my latest trips I now have renewed motivation to understand what can be done to prevent extinction and to help publicise these issues, specifically through sustainable tourism. The September 2016 issue of Geographical which focuses on extinction was a timely insight.

What three pieces of advice would you share with a person who is thinking about organising or joining an expedition or field research project for the first time?
• Go to Explore and talk to as many people as you can. Use the archives at the Royal Geographical Society to research your project or learn from previous expeditions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – if you don’t ask you don’t get. Surround yourself with positive passionate people who are genuinely interested in your idea.
• There’s often a very long road ahead to get your expedition or field research off the ground. From recruiting team members, researching the idea, sourcing kit & equipment, seeking advice and of course raising the funds to go. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the huge list of tasks that lie ahead of you. Set yourself milestones and remember to celebrate the small successes that you have each week or month. Be resilient to the setbacks that will inevitably arise – I often tell myself ‘there must be another way round this’.
• When forming a team, be clear on your aims and objectives. Have a conversation with your team mates to find out ‘why’ everyone wants to be a part of the team. Be honest – is it for the research objectives? for future career prospects? to visit somewhere new? for the personal challenge? Be specific in your collective objective before departure. In 2005 I was part of the Pink Lady PoleCats who entered a race to the Magnetic North Pole. As a team we agreed that we would specifically aim to finish in the top half of the field – we did!

Explore 2016 runs from 18 to 20 November. The evening of TED-style talks at the Peter Smith Memorial Lecture on Friday 18 November are free for Explore delegates and £5 on the door for members of the public. For more details, visit rgs.org/explore.

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