Making it enjoyable for all

  • Planning
  • Participation by everyone
  • Knowledge of the area
  • Pace
  • Setting a positive tone for the group
  • Flexibility

Bushwalking and ski touring through a natural environment, full of stimulating features and away from the pressures of everyday tasks, shouold give enjoyment to all participants. It is a dynamic setting that provides adventure, challenge, inspiration, stimulation and motivation. It is a situation in which we can explore our individual capabilities, as well as those of the group. However, it is not quite that simple. Enjoyment does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with a trip into the outdoors. While the environment and the experience of being 'out there' are major contributors, there are many other factors which determine the overall enjoyment of the experience. Many of these flow from good leadership.

Planning

Good planning, as discussed in Chapters 1–3, sets the foundations for a successful trip and facilitates enjoyment. Poor planning can make it difficult for any group member to enjoy a trip. Generally participants need to be in their comfort zone most of the time in order to experience enjoyment.

Participation by everyone

The leader plays a key role in developing a climate in which everyone can feel comfortable. Delegating responsibilities so that all have the opportunity to contribute will foster a sense of belonging and add to the achievement which individuals gain from reaching objectives. Allowing different people to lead or navigate sections can enable the leader to mingle with the rest of the group, stimulating conversation and interaction between other group members.

Knowledge of the area

Knowing the area and the group assists the leader in planning for enjoyment. Spectacular views, points of interest and specific features all enhance the experience. However, it should not become a guided tour based solely on the leader’s knowledge. Encourage group members to contribute their knowledge and expertise as this creates interest, fosters conversation and contributes to positive group dynamics. Also, it will facilitate interaction with the environment by encouraging the group to look out for specific features (rather than the leader just pointing them out), and so will add interest and enjoyment to the activity.

Pace

The leader has a key role in ensuring that pace does not distress members of the group. Managing rest stops is also very important. Establishing basic rules to ensure everyone can see the person in front and the person behind helps to keep the group together.

Setting a positive tone for the group

A skilled, people-oriented leader can establish a culture of cheerful enjoyment within a group. The most important part of this will be generating laughter which is not at the expense of any member (except perhaps the leader!). The whole experience should be fun. No one should feel pressured or excluded. Rewarding any interesting discoveries by showing enthusiastic appreciation will encourage others to contribute their observations. Openly praising any useful contribution to the group, and discouraging hurtful criticism of any person, will foster a sense of valuing every member of the group. By planning a series of satisfying highlights, starting quite early in the trip, it is possible to build a lively sense of group achievement and capability (‘We are a great team!’).

Flexibility

Plans need to be flexible to suit the group and the prevailing conditions. The route may need adjustment or another campsite selected if travel has been faster or slower than expected. Regularly give encouragement, praise and support throughout the trip, but do not force individuals to complete set or additional objectives. Fostering a positive atmosphere within the group can provide the incentive some individuals need to achieve a set goal.

The task of carrying a heavy pack over many kilometres for days on end, may not fit into most people’s definition of fun, and rightly so! However, many situations can occur during a trip which contribute to fun and enjoyment. Many of these involve interaction between group members–maybe at lunch, around the camp or on easier sections. Other enjoyable moments may arise from the activity, such as skiing downhill sections, having a swim in a lake or river, or sliding down a scree slope. Because they have such a positive effect on the group’s overall enjoyment of the activity, the leader should facilitate these situations. Many can be pre-planned, while others are spontaneous, for example initiating a word game or joke-telling session. Items like a pack of playing cards or a game of ‘Pass the Pigs’ are useful for general entertainment, particularly at night or if the group is tent- or hut-bound in bad weather.

There can be many different reasons for undertaking a bushwalk or ski tour. In most, the goals and objectives can only be enhanced if everybody has a ‘good time’. Planning and providing for enjoyment will be an integral part of any successful trip.