Hello, Joanne, here! I am a Scout Network member in both Braid District in South East Scotland Region and in Dundee in East Scotland Region. 

I have just returned from The Balkans where I underwent 10 days of an expedition, completing a top award in Scouting – Explorer Belt.  

The Explorer Belt is a top award open to explorer scouts over 16 and Scout Network members who wish to push beyond their limits and experience an expedition adventure of a lifetime. It pushes individuals to work amongst a team to complete one major project (we did an A – Z of The Balkans mainly focusing on architecture, food and culture) as well as ten minor projects (ranging from being on a boat ride, learning a traditional dance, cooking cultured food, playing musical instruments and many more) over a ten-day expedition that we shaped ourselves too. We decided as a team to explore three countries of The Balkans; North Macedonia (Skopje, Prilep, Ohrid); Albania (Pogradec, Tirana); Kosovo (Prizren and Pristina). I personally loved Kosovo and Lake Ohrid the most, just felt so much peace within the natural landscapes and experienced so many alternative ways of learning and living in new cultures.  

Like most life experiences, we faced challenges and a few more than some of the other teams that were completing the belt also. Our team started with four and by day 8 we were finishing the rest of the belt as a duo. I’m not going to say the trip went smoothly, as it went anything but smooth, but I’m very much glad that I encountered a lot of different scenarios as it’s prepared me for life events and how to deal with them.  

I’m extremely grateful that I received funding from South-East Scotland Scouts for my expedition as it allowed me to explore countries and places I’d likely not get the chance to see again, and it also allowed me to have the trip of a lifetime as well as meet other incredible Scout Network members who have become friends for life.  

If I could say to any young person either considering or about to embark their Explorer Belt is: one hundred percent complete it. Honestly the memories, stories and laughters you’ll share amongst yourself, and teammates is incredible, and I feel this will definitely be a massive highlight of your scouting life.  

It definitely has shined a light into my scouting life, in fact it’s made me realise how fortunate I am to be in a movement that has provided me with so much support and guidance, and how much more I need to do for other young people, giving them the same opportunities, I’ve been given throughout my time since I joined the movement as an Explorer Scout.