Combine trips of a lifetime while exploring self-discovery and personal mastery at the Extraordinary Adventure Club, says Venetia van Kuffeler
EVER THOUGHT ABOUT trekking with nomads through the Sudanese desert? Motorbiking across the Mongolian wilderness? Training with a Zimbabwean anti-poaching unit or dog-sledding across a Norwegian mountain plateau? These life-affirming challenges are at the heart of the Extraordinary Adventure Club (EAC), founded by former Royal Marines officer Calum Morrison in 2012. A unique organisation that offers a revolutionary programme, the EAC combines bespoke wilderness expeditions with transformative personal development techniques.
Each EAC client is initiated with an intensive four-day retreat in the Scottish Highlands, where initial physical and psychological assessments are held. Laptops and mobiles are removed as clients unplug from technology for oneon-one sessions in nature. Morrison explains that “clients quickly become engaged in exploring the environment and themselves. At this stage, the idea is to get an understanding of clients’ life aspirations, identifying key goals and co-creating the framework of their EAC programme.”
In weeks that follow, clients are delivered a sealed envelope containing only their meeting point and packing list, with the destination remaining secret until their arrival. “One of the key elements of self-discovery is letting go of the illusion of control and engaging one hundred per cent with what is in front of you,” says Morrison. Experiences might be exploring the equatorial jungle in Guyana or a journey across the Gobi Desert. (One client was left alone to live with local camel herders in Mongolia, without a word of English between them). Genuine interaction with local people is a vital part of these expeditions, as well. “These interactions offer essential life lessons, often lost in our highly charged, developed world,” Morrison says.
Expeditions are curated around the individual’s personal goals, and led by Morrison and his team of ex-military personnel, internationally renowned psychotherapists, counsellors, holistic practitioners, coaches and mentors. “The environment that we take people to is entirely neutral – whether it’s the jungle, desert, mountains or ocean – it’s what happens when you’re there that’s important. It allows leverage for change.” He says physical challenges helps people feel like they’re achieving. “Hardship often proceeds transformation. Often people shout or burst into tears when they achieve things that they never imagined they could do.”
Growing up in the highlands of Scotland and during his work as an outward bound instructor, Morrison observed the impact the natural environment can have on others, especially on people from challenging backgrounds. After serving in the armed forces, he was involved in various projects for the Foreign Office, including one in Georgia, where he observed the Russian-Chechen conflict. He then worked for private organisations, which sent him to Afghanistan and Libya during the 2011 civil war there. Having sold a business to a multinational company, he even found himself working at a desk job with 12,000 employees at one point.
As a family man, the common experience was being able to transition from a difficult environment to being back home: “from being shelled at in Libya, to 36 hours later walking the dogs with the family. Similarly, if you oversee a big business, or are negotiating a particularly difficult political transaction, how do you deal with the fallout of the different lives that one leads?” And so he launched EAC in 2012.
No two programmes are the same, but they all require an initial engagement of six months, including an induction retreat in the Scottish Highlands, at least two wilderness expeditions – each lasting up to a fortnight – and regular face-to-face coaching and mentoring sessions. Through their pragmatic and experiential approach, EAC has achieved remarkable success in resolving a wide range of issues from anxiety, loss of direction and low self-esteem, to emotional breakdown and destructive behavioural cycles.
Broadly, the EAC works with three groups, the first of which are CEOs, ambassadors or business owners. “Perhaps someone who is looking to improve performance, reconnect with themselves, or someone who has achieved a goal, but isn’t feeling the contentment they had hoped for.” Second is the next generation of family held enterprises. Morrison cites the example of inherited wealth presenting a unique set of challenges. “We can equip the client with the skills needed to prosper in an era of social media, online scrutiny and security threats.” Thirdly, the EAC regularly supports clients from a treatment centre in Switzerland, helping them to move beyond dependency and solidifying good behaviour. “Our programmes shape and drive clients’ self-development,” stresses Morrison, “to find authentic, lasting motivation, creating a new framework for the life they actually want; kick-starting a journey of self-discovery that will deliver the very best version of themselves.”
With all this experience, is there any general advice Morrison can offer us to live by? “Switch off our phones!” he declares. “These devices provide us with a global reach, but mean we are locally isolated, and unlikely to talk to the person sitting next to us. No one is too busy to take some time for themselves – even if it’s only 15 minutes.” He continues: “To question your thinking and the path you’re on, is really a worthwhile endeavour. It’s healthy to have a structured process of inquiry.”