As our chairman Justin Packshaw gets ready to embark on his third adventure in Antartica, he reflects on his previous trips - how they've challenged, shaped and inspired him, and how they can bring about social and environmental change.
Written by Justin Packshaw
There is nowhere on earth like Antarctica. It is the largest desert in the world; 1.5 times the size of the USA. It is the coldest, windiest, highest, driest continent on earth and it is covered in 90% of the world’s ice that, in parts, is more than 2.5 miles (4km) thick, and 40 million years old.
It is a land of extremes and can be one of the most mesmerising, inspiring and serene places, yet simultaneously the most brutal, unforgiving and dangerous places on earth. Being there puts into perspective how small and insignificant we are, and underlines the extraordinary power of Mother Nature when she decides to flex her muscles. The reality is that it is an environment that one struggles to survive in, but if you can it will change your perspective on life and totally inspire you to have a deeper respect and love for this remarkable planet of ours.
I have been fortunate enough to go to Antarctica three times, and the power of the place never fails to astound me. On two of those expeditions, I travelled with inspirational wounded British soldiers from my old Army regiment, The Royal Dragoon Guards. Both trips were life-changing. The first was in 2012 on a trip to the South Pole to mark the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott’s 1912 race to the Pole, in particular to celebrate one of his team – Lawrence Oates – who had also been in the same Regiment, so it was very poignant. Then, in 2014, I was lucky enough to replicate parts of Ernest Shackleton’s audacious 1914 Endurance trip and our journey took us from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsular and then to South Georgia.
We have all grown up in awe of these great explorers and it is difficult to really comprehend how astoundingly brave they were to embark into this harsh environment armed with little more than a pioneering spirit and a compelling conviction to go and explore and discover. They were exemplary in showcasing us that everything is possible if you just believe, step into the unknown and get involved. The wounded soldiers on my previous expeditions highlighted this brilliantly. Through grit, dogged determination and a good dose of humour and humility they overcame enormous obstacles to walk with giants.
My last trip down there was spectacular too. Mainly because of the players I took with me; a unique, talented, courageous, funny, successful band of brothers that are some of my closest friends. Our story really started a few years ago when we decided to do something bold and adventurous together and yet harness our resources to help less-advantaged young people on the back of it. This had us skiing the last degree to the North Pole in 2015.
We were a close team, and there was a lot of genuine camaraderie between us, underpinned by solid friendship and respect. What started as a pipe dream has become the most incredible reality, where we now have a group of people who have stood at both the top and bottom of the world and on the back of that have raised over £1.3 million for two noteworthy organisations in The Princes Trust and The Roundhouse. That is teamwork at its best.
Every aspect of this adventure surpassed expectations, from our fundraising to the physical challenge, and how we all pulled together, dug in and just got on with it. Remarkable really and I could not be more impressed with them and the adept squad that they have become. Everything in life is so much easier when you have people you trust and can lean on. Good teamwork is all about honesty, friendship, protection, respect and loyalty; and if you can combine these, anything is possible. This team embodied that, and I believe that is why the expedition was so successful.
Individually, they are all extremely focused, ambitious and driven and through hard work have achieved a lot in their lives. It has been interesting to see how capably they have adapted these attributes to successfully learning the nuances that polar travel demands. No easy task, and yet by stepping out of their comfort zones it is amazing how quickly they adapted and realised how proficient they are. Stepping into the unknown really is life changing and we must encourage it. In fact, it is one of our best skills that we strive to do with our clients at Joro Experiences.
Human endeavour is a good place to start to do this and it allows one to learn important life skills and realise that thinking big and challenging assumptions will ignite one’s sense of purpose and well-being. It means confronting risk and challenging yourself. It is a state of mind, a deep-rooted desire that will enable you to smash the hurdles in your path. It’s about being willing to confront a challenge and test yourself — whether that is a physical challenge like the South Pole, a new business or a creative endeavour. It’s about knowing that it’s going to be difficult but deciding to do it anyway; being tenacious; setting goals; working hard; and letting your belief and passion overcome fear and doubt.
This is why it felt so right for our efforts on this last trip to Antarctica to have been harnessed to support our selected charities that are totally engaged in helping young people take the first steps on their adventures. Their work is based on the belief that young people – particularly those from vulnerable or disadvantaged backgrounds – can fulfil their potential if they just get the right support and are encouraged to belief and strive to be their best. The journeys these young people are embarking on require belief, passion and a willingness to take that leap of faith – to step from familiar territory to the unknown.
My experience of taking people to some of the most remote places on earth with Joro has shown me that people are capable of far more than they initially think. Humans are meant to excel, and when you realise your potential, and how adaptive the human spirit is, anything is achievable. Throw in a bit of determination and persistence, and you will have a fairly good chance of reaching any of your goals.
It is amazing what the spirit of collaboration can do, and it is our aim to continue this journey of marrying up bright and successful business minds/leaders around a significant expedition, as an effective way to bring about impactful social and environmental change. It’s about higher purpose. It is these guiding principles and best business practices that we want to encourage to help the next generation lead lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity.
Justin Packshaw has built a life around travel. Born in the Mediterranean, he served in the British Army, has represented Britain in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht race, crossed Mongolia on horseback, summited Everest, jet-skied the coast of Nigeria and led several expeditions to both the North and South Poles (to name just a few conquered feats).