15th June 2008
This April, 2 Explorer Scouts and 2 Network members set off to Norway to complete the 'Explorer Belt Expedition' - an urban exploration of at least 10 days.
The purpose of the Explorer belt is to find out about another country, it culture and the people living there. As part of this, participants also choose their own project to complete whilst away.
Our project was to find out about 'What young people do to have fun in Norway' and how this differs to young people in the UK. We were also given 10 surprise mini-projects just before leaving. These included crewing on a ship and interviewing the captain, broadcasting on Norwegian radio, meeting a local celebrity, learning a song, making a traditional Norwegian delicacy and trying our hand at a Norwegian cottage industry.Our trip started in Stavanger (European City of Culture 2008, joint with Liverpool) where we stayed with a sea scout group in their 'Scout House'. These were the sea scouts who sailed to the 21st World Scout Jamboree and they took us out to sea on their boat. We also got to experience some winter mountain walking, climbing up Prekestolen (Pulpit Rock) one of Norway's most well known landmarks - and one of the most spectacular sights you will ever see. We also visited the County Council, broadcast on 'Radio 1' in Norway, their equivalent of Radio 1 in the UK, got an article in a National paper (http://aftenbladet.no/lokalt/article630171.ece), and spent time in the Norwegian Petroleum Museum - as much of Norway's current wealth and industry is oil based.Having spent 4 days in Stavanger we travelled on the night train to the Capital of Norway, Oslo, where we stayed with a family. Whilst on the train we met 2 Scouts (Solvor and Marianne) who were travelling to the launch of their new national Scout programme which was taking place that day in the centre of Oslo. They invited us come along and we spent the day with them enjoying some Norwegian Scouting activities. It also gave us the opportunity to meet the Chief Scouts of both Norwegian Scout Organisations (they have two!) and after a campfire (hosted by a Norwegian kids TV presenter) we presented them a 'Norway Safari UK Scarf!'. Whilst in Oslo we also visited Vigeland park, a park with over 200 statues showing humans at different stages of life, Holmenkollen, a famous ski jump used in the 94' Lillehammer Winter Olympics and the new Opera House which was opened whilst we were there - it looks like a mountain and visitors can climb it like a mountain - the walls and roof are all walkable!Finally we spent 4 days in Bergen staying with 2 families. Whilst there we visited a Scout meeting and got to spend a night in a Norwegian tent with a stove in the middle called a Lavvu - it was lovely and warm inside, but -8 outside! The families also taught us how to cook Komle, a Norwegian dish a bit like a dumpling, but heavier, made from mashed potato and served with salted meat. We also visited a small rug company that almost exclusively produce rugs to order for the whole of Scandinavia and we even got to help in the production process!
We found that young people in Norway aren't that different in lifestyle from ourselves....they love eating pizza, spend half their lives on Facebook and MSN and like going out with friends. There were some differences though...the Norwegian school day starts earlier in the morning, they prefer to wear large headphones rather than the small in-ear headphones which you generally see in the UK. Young people earn more per hour for evening/Saturday jobs - averaging around £9 per hour, but with costs such as £100 for an hour driving lesson and car prices double that in the UK, this is quickly absorbed.The trip was the experience of a lifetime with so many people met, stories told and stunning views seen. We were delighted following a presentation of our trip to be awarded the Explorer Belt!
Below are some top tips for anyone else thinking of completing a similar expedition...
Plan ahead - we arranged a lot of our hoho in advance, and although we did manage to do a lot of things whilst away by chance, having some destinations pre-planned opened up many more opportunities and meant we met a lot more people.
- Apply for funding - we were lucky to receive money towards our trip from the Scout Association Explorer Belt fund, local Scout councils and charity organisations. We also carried out fundraising to help pay for the trip.
- Write a diary - Even if you have to prop your eyes open with matchsticks each evening...grab every chance you can to write down your thoughts and experiences...if you leave it, it becomes very hard to catch up. A diary is a really useful record when you get back.
- Be cheeky - If you don't ask, you won't get.
- Be prepared - We took a lot of equipment we never used but could have been essential given the cold conditions...
- Train - we had a number of training weekends where we got used to lightweight camping and walking long distances with full kit.
- Take photos - Pictures are a great way of conveying what you did and saw to others - we saw the most amazing scenery!
- Pack 'thank-you' presents - We took badges, Kent and UK scarves for those who hosted us and helped us out. They loved the presents and also swapped us items giving us souvenirs to take home. We also thought up some English meals we cooked whilst there to share some of our culture.
- Tell others - Inspire others to go out and try something different!