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New horizons for RGS Explore

Nicole Bennett-Fite, the recipient of the 2017 Journey of a Lifetime award, visiting the Yagnob Valley in Tajikistan Nicole Bennett-Fite, the recipient of the 2017 Journey of a Lifetime award, visiting the Yagnob Valley in Tajikistan Nicole Bennett-Fite
29 Sep
Get ready for a special bonus RGS-IBG Explore event, new for 2017

The Society’s annual expedition and fieldwork planning weekend, Explore, has been the starting point for many innovative field research projects and expeditions. Some of our best known field scientists and explorers have at one time or another attended, spoken or volunteered at Explore – and many cite the event as a turning point in their lives. Now in its 41st year, the Explore weekend attracts a wide range of people. Some want to contribute to a better understanding of the planet through field research; some are seeking a physical challenge; while others undertake projects that enable them to make a contribution to a more equitable world. Whatever your age or experience, if you have a passion for travel with a purpose, Explore informs and inspires in equal measure.

The 2017 Explore weekend in London takes place from 10-12 November. With over 100 field scientists and explorers giving lectures, running workshops and providing practical advice, it is more of a gathering than a conference. The person next to you pouring coffee or looking at a poster may well have recently returned from the place you want to go to.

This year, Explore is also heading to Ambleside in Cumbria. As part of its tenth anniversary celebrations, the University of Cumbria, with support from the Society’s North West regional committee, is running a one-day expedition planning workshop with a focus on student-led projects. Mary-Ann Ochota, the broadcaster and anthropologist, will facilitate Explore North West on Saturday 7 October. Mary-Ann has been working with a research expedition undertaking archaeological and ecological surveys in the Simpson Desert, as well as documentaries in Tibet and Uganda.

Explore North West will include presentations from people who have recently returned from the field in order to support those new to scientific expeditions and other journeys with a purpose to plan, undertake and report back on them. The day is aimed at university staff, researchers and students but is also open to the general public, youth leaders, teachers and sixth formers, and will be a great networking opportunity for all.

Screen shot 2017 10 03 at 12.36.38Mary-Ann Ochota, Facilitator at RGS Explore North 2017

The RGS Explore events are rightly famous – not just for being a one-stop shop for practical and reliable advice on expedition planning, but as a way of meeting like-minded people who also have ambitious plans. It can be lonely and very daunting to try and get an expedition off the ground. You might meet a lot of people who advise against it, or suck their teeth and say ‘Gosh, really? That’s quite an undertaking, are you sure you can do that?’ RGS Explore is the antidote to that.

Our approach is ‘You want to make a journey with a purpose? Engage with communities? Undertake important field research? Explore the roads less travelled? Great. Let’s help you work out how.’ From sessions on expedition medicine, to getting your story out to an audience, to developing field research techniques, the day is set to be packed with advice and inspiration. And will hopefully be a launchpad for many exciting journeys!

If you are interested in planning a journey with purpose, sign up to one or both Explore events to help get your expedition started. Explore North West – Saturday 7 October at the University of Cumbria, Ambleside: www.rgs.org/ExploreNW. Explore 2017: the expedition and fieldwork planning weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10-12 November at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), London. Early bird discounts for those who book before 15 October: www.rgs.org/explore.


RGS-IBG Independent travel Grants

The Society offers three grants for challenging, inspiring journeys with a geographical purpose and this year’s deadlines are fast approaching:

  • The Journey of a Lifetime Award is run in partnership with BBC Radio 4 and is aimed at those who are passionate about radio, travel and storytelling. The award offers £5,000 to make an exciting and original journey anywhere in the world, plus training in field recording from the BBC and the chance to tell the world your story through a radio documentary. The recipient of the 2017 award is Nicole Bennett-Fite who travelled around the small Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and visited the remote Yagnob Valley, home to the last speakers of the Yagnobi language. Nicole’s BBC Radio 4 documentary will be broadcast on Monday 23 October. The deadline for the 2018 Journey of a Lifetime Award is 6 November 2017.
  • The Land Rover Bursary is run by the Society on behalf of Jaguar Land Rover. Offering up to £30,000 and the loan of a vehicle, the bursary is aimed at those who want to take a journey beyond their limits and for which a Land Rover is an integral part. This award is all about challenging yourself and inspiring others. This year’s recipients, geography teacher Fearghal O’Nuallain, field scientist Dr Shane McGuinness and videographer Temujin Doran, will drive across Jordan, the third most water scarce country, to investigate how people are managing their most precious resource. 
  • The Neville Shulman Challenge Award offers up to £5,000 for a project that furthers the understanding and exploration of the planet: its cultures, people and environments. In previous years the award has supported camera trapping surveys deep in the Peruvian Andes, and a documentary of life in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Zanskar. This year’s recipient, Leon McCarron, travelled to Israel to meet the Samaritans, the world’s smallest and oldest ethno-religious group, to explore their rich past and the challenges they face in the 21st century. The deadline for the 2018 award is 30 November and applications are invited from both individuals and groups.

Details of all the grants available for projects taking place in 2018 can be found at www.rgs.org/grants

This was published in the October 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

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