One of the common traits of an outdoor education programme is the element of travel – embarking on a journey. And it is normal for the journey to be undertaken with other people, more commonly referred as teammates.
I am sure that many of us have fond memories of travelling with other people. Well, at least in my case. I have forged bonds with friends both local and overseas. Some are still in close contact and some are a bit further but we will respond to the slightest WhatsApp message or Facebook Messenger beep.
One of the memorable experiences was the Expedition at the finale of my MSc programme at the University of Edinburgh. There we have a group of students from across the globe figuring out where to go. In the end, we settled to go to the Outer Hebrides or the Western Isles of Scotland.
My reflection here is not so much about the location but more of the takeaway from the experience. While there could be a thousand and one lessons to be derived from the journey, I will be focusing on the aspect of Not Being Judgemental of Others.
In one of my blog posts, I wrote about how outdoor education could help to develop social capital. Social capital benefits both individuals and communities by enabling all parties involved to be more effective in working towards common goals. Putting it simply, it is the interactions with fellow team members that could potentially lead to developing a sense of reciprocity and trust.
In an expedition, the degree of interaction is typically heightened. Yes, I must admit that I do go into the “zoned-out” moments where I start to be quiet and reflect on life. However, apart from those instances, there were numerous points where we have to depend on each other.
Most importantly, we get to see how our friends are actually. And I must say that I get to understand and appreciate my classmates better. I get to have small talks with each of them. We had mini self-introduction sessions even though we have been on the programme for nine months and embarked on mini-journeys in our practical programmes before this final expedition.
I need to highlight that with whatever I saw and learnt about my friends, I developed a degree of appreciation and understanding of them. And that realisation also stamped the lesson of not judging others. As we humans try to weave our way through the many interactions and contact with others, we may unconsciously develop a certain set of pre-conceived ideas of others.
Ustaz Nouman Ali Khan nicely explained for us not to be judgemental of others in the short clip below. Not being judgemental is definitely a virtue to strive for. And I observe that in the Quranic verse cited, Prophet Muhammad was required to address the war captives, suggesting the need for people to interact with each other.
[Quran, Surah al-Anfal, 8: 70] O prophet! Say to those you hold prisoners, “If Allah finds any good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you, and He will forgive you. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
In summary, we need to understand and develop positive relationships with others and based on my main practice, outdoor education offers itself as one of the many suitable platforms to forge ties. And from my humble experience participating and leading different types of outdoor education programmes, I observe that expedition tend to be the most impactful in developing a positive relationship with others.
On the grander scheme, outdoor education programmes could help develop social capital when participants begin to interact with each other. And I argue that interaction helps to break our bad habit of being judgemental of others.