This summer, 45,000 Scouts from more than 100 countries will converge on West Virginia, USA for the World Scout Jamboree. I was recently asked to provide some suggestions for some UK Scouts for making the most from the experience. (I’ve had the privilege of attending a few Jamborees over the years.) Here’s my starter for
- Take photos. Obviously. You’ll want to share them on social media. But don’t forget to experience the Jamboree through your own eyes rather than the screen of a smartphone. Put your phone away.
- Get out and meet people. From Day 1. At the start of the event, it’ll feel like you’ve got loads of time to get to know people and make new friends. But before you know it, the closing ceremony will have been and gone. Pluck up the courage to go and visit other Scouts right from the first night. Breaking the ice for the first time can seem impossibly hard (I will blog soon with some ideas about how to do this), but once you’ve done it once, the next time will feel easier.
- Take time to be quiet. The frenetic excitement of the event can sometimes mean that you don’t get to reflect on what you’re getting out of the experience. I try to find half an hour a day to get away from people and sit quietly to ponder a bit. If it doesn’t feel comfortable or safe going off alone, take a friend.
- Keep a diary / journal. Photos are great, but nothing feels as personal as the written word. And I mean written. In pen. In an exercise book. Every day of the event. And write it for yourself, not for wider circulation. I recently found a journal I had kept when I was 18. It was a revelation.
- Drink plenty of water. No-one wants to spend the Jamboree in the medical centre, suffering from dehydration and a raging headache.
- You do not have to be the same person you are at home. There’s no need to keep up appearances at the Jamboree, or build your personal brand. You’re not going to see any of these people again unless you choose to do so. Be more silly / geeky / sporty than you usually are if you want to be. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.
- Embrace the diversity. There is truly no other event that comes close to the World Scout Jamboree in terms of the races, cultures and creeds represented. This can feel quite threatening. Or completely freeing, depending on the way you approach things. Don’t go home with memories only of things that you could have done even if you’d stayed at home.
- Reach beyond the organised programme. Yes, the ziplines will be amazing. The skate park is superb. The global development village will challenge your preconceptions. But it’s the conversations that you have outside the programme, the time you spend with the people you meet, those unexpected and unplanned encounters that will really have an impact. Don’t be a slave to the timetable.
- Enjoy the moments that go wrong. Not everything will happen as you expect it might. There will be delays; people will not be where you expect them to be; you may find yourself being asked to do activities that might have been your second (or third) choice. Take advantage of each moment and remember that it’s often the unpredictable things that make the best stories (and memories) when you get home.