Nick Simon recently returned from an expedition with the British Exploring Society. We caught up with this Road Less Traveled alum before his next journey to find out how his RLT experiences have stuck with him.
Nick first traveled with us on the 2009 “Call of the Wild” expedition to Colorado, which involved nine days working on a wolf reservation and we exploring Great Sand Dune National park, did some climbing and whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River.
His second trip with RLT came a year later with the “Footsteps of Giants” expedition to Norway. It involved a month of backpacking, sea kayaking, white water rafting and mountain biking in Norway.
1. What did the Colorado trip you took with RLT teach you about species conservation?
Embarrassingly, before going to Colorado I knew very very little about wolves apart from the fact they were like a large wild dog.
The staff at Mission: Wolf, such as Kent Weber, not only had a passion for protecting the wolves but also in educating us about them. We learned about their behavior, how they were adapted to their environments and their importance to the ecosystem in general. An example is how they help manage populations of herbivores from getting too large which prevents overgrazing, which in turn can impact other species.
2. What did your trip to Norway teach you about how to be part of a closely knit team?
Many people are members of teams, whether it be working in a job or playing a sport. Being on expedition with a group is a very similar team experience, but you’re even more intertwined, as you are spending 24 hours a day living with your teammates. To meet your basic needs you have to rely on everyone pulling their weight.
In Norway we had a rotation for duties such as cooking and washing up. If someone were to slack on washing then their teammates could feel the consequences the next day when they came down sick.
3. Five years later, how do you find yourself leaning on those lessons in your life today?
On my recent expedition, I spent two months working in the same 10-man patrol. By the end we were more like brothers and sisters than strangers who’d only met a few months before.
It was instinctive to help carry a sick person’s kit or to lend water if someone ran out in the desert. I personally have found that by the end of an expedition you know the people you’ve traveled with better than a lot of your friends back home, you also forge friendships which last.
4. What did you gain from your trips that surprised you most?
How little I could get by on. In turn, this made me appreciate what I have at home a lot more. For example it’s a bit of a shock to come home to a wardrobe of clothes and a room filled with random items when you’ve been only carrying the very basics in a small backpack or holdall for a month or two!
5. If someone asked you for advice in choosing a type of trip or destination, what are some bits of advice you would give them?
I’d recommend that anyone thinking of traveling to go someplace that has a different culture than your own and to experience it properly by living and working with the locals. They often have very different outlooks on life or ways to solve problems it can be a real eye opener.
Another thing that I personally think is important is going slightly outside your comfort zone. A quote from Andre Gide sums this up nicely for me: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
I think I actually first heard that in Norway with RLT as we had a book of inspirational quotes which we read from before each meal.
6. What do you learn about yourself when you travel like this?
I used to find it difficult to define myself, at one point I had attended three different high schools, in three different countries, in just over two years. This made me feel a bit insecure and not really know who I am, a problem which I think a lot of teenagers also experience. So traveling for me has helped ground my understanding of who I am and what I want to do with my life.
Nick Simon is a 19 year old Anglo-American dual citizen in his ‘gap year’ between high school and college. He has lived in America, the U.K. and is currently based in France but is in the process of moving to Belgium. He is planning on going to the university of St Andrews in Scotland next year to study Geology. He has done several expeditions including two with the Road Less Traveled, to Colorado and Norway. He has just returned from a two month scientific expedition with the British Exploring Society to Oman.