Harnessing our Experiences – Martin Foakes

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Mr Foakes is an explorer, environmentalist and outdoor education coordinator. Currently acting as head of outdoor education for Tanglin Trust School, Foakes has a long history of developing and delivering outdoor and adventure experiences for students of all ages. These of which involve activities such as Rocking Climbing, Caving, Trekking and Wild Camping. Through embarking on expeditions in places such as Antarctica and Myanmar, Mr Foakes advocates what he learns along these trips to build a more informed youth community through various platforms. In this interview we will be learning about Mr Foakes’s journey as well as what the youth can take away from it. 

Quick Summary

What inspired you to pursue exploration? Was there perhaps a specific moment that set you on this path? 

Even from a relatively young age, Mr Foakes’s passion for the outdoors was always evident. An example being that fact that his mother recalls that the only way to make him happy as a baby was to push his stroller outside into the garden. Even till this day, when Mr Foakes feels stressed at work, he resorts to spending time outside. Mr Foakes then went on to talk about the absence of a ‘careful path’ when becoming a professional outdoor person. Using the analogy of a pinball, Foakes constantly looks for opportunities to channel his passion for the outdoors in numerous stages of his life. Resultantly, he found himself at a position which he is very happy to be at. 

There can often be a misconception among students that outdoor activity wouldn’t benefit them in future ambitions such as corporate jobs. What cross applicable skills do you think students can gain from engaging in outdoor activities such as exploration which apply to all walks of life?

In an age where students can very easily fall into the trap of having a ‘predictable’ CV, Foakes referred to the highlight of his CV being the fact that he has proven experience in the outdoors, something that is not easy to come across. The benefits of immersing ourselves in the outdoors is truly evident. One of the primary factors comes down to decision making. As we situate ourselves in foreign and natural environments such as those outdoors, we are forced to adapt. The more often we immerse yourself in unpredictable scenarios, the better we become at decision making in all walks of life. 

Shifting the focus specifically to your trip in Antarctica, what were some of the most significant challenges and perhaps lessons you learnt along this expedition. What can the youth take away from these lessons? 

It’s not everyday you come across someone who has spent 2 weeks on the most uninhabitable continent on the planet. While Mr Foakes refers to it as being a genuinely enjoyable journey, the more important question he likes to ask is how we place our next step after the experience. What can we take from the experience and use it to make the world a better place? In Mr Foakes case, it was advocating the sustainable aspect of the trip to international schools back in South East Asia. This message applies universally, as we immerse ourselves in experiences, we should always think about how we can harness what we have learnt to help others improve and contribute to a good cause. 

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Mr Foakes left us with a message that revolved around the importance of immersing ourselves in a variety of experiences. As opposed to regretting or pondering what the experience would have been like, we should instead simply ‘get on with it’. Whether we enjoyed the experience or not, we will nevertheless leave informed and able to move onto the next stage of our lives with a broader perspective. Either way, Mr Foakes described it as being a ‘win-win’ scenario. 

If you think you might, then you should

Martin Foakes

Author: Discere Team

We're the team behind Discere

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