My Gap Year was going to be amazing, I was determined. I wanted to go ‘out there’ and do something ‘different’. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where they were going The only thing I had planned was a 10 week expedition to India with Raleigh. It was probably the best thing I could have participated in. Period.
Raleigh is a youth and education charity. It specialises in overseas expeditions which take adventurous young people out to remote places and gives them the time of their lives. The 10 week expedition, the longest of the different programmes they offer consisted of three phases; adventure, environmental and community. Each project, was totally different from each other and an incredible amount of fun.
I arrived in Mysore, India with 32 other venturers and about 20 staff members known as volunteer managers. My first project, the community phase, was to build ten composting toilets (one for each family) in the remote village of Hosekerasunda. I hate being a tourist, and this definitely wasn’t for tourists. It was a wonderful introduction into Indian culture; we lived in their school, ate the food they cooked for us, swam in the reservoir every day, learned some Kannada (the local language) and had a fantastic time.
My next project was the adventure phase. We had a ten day trek through beautiful Kerala, two days’ mountain biking and three days’ kayaking in the peaceful back waters. One of the best things about Raleigh is the lessons it teaches you, such as the importance of team work. At one point, one girl collapsed in tears half way up a mountain we were trekking up, proclaiming that she couldn’t go on, couldn’t do it. The team emptied her bag, divided her things so she wasn’t carrying anything except a toilet roll, fed her sweets (precious treasures out there) and sang made-up songs about our team to motivate her. She was the first one on the summit that day. That’s team work. That’s Raleigh.
The last project was the environmental phase , which was brilliant. We stayed in Nagarhole National Park repairing elephant trenches, which was hard work, but so satisfying. We had fun afternoons with trips out to visit waterfalls, sampling local foods, playing volleyball with the rangers, we had ‘bungalow Olympics’, salsa lessons and yoga, amongst other things. One of the highlights was the safari in the forest, where we got to see some wildlife close-up, including wild elephants.
People now ask me whether I’d recommend Raleigh, and my answer is always, unhesitatingly, ‘definitely’. After 10 weeks I left with a wealth of new knowledge, memories that will always make me smile, and a whole host of new best friends who I will have for the rest of my life.
Raleigh is great for everyone, the 5 week expeditions are ideal for students in summer holidays. Raleigh offers so much support in terms of kit, fundraising, and getting everything you need. If you want to take part in some really worthwhile, genuine projects, have an adventure or do something a bit different, Raleigh is for you.
We all have an expedition within us. Find yours at raleighinternational.org (link to http://www.raleighinternational.org/gap_year/)