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Embracing The Unknown: Sue Stockdale’s Transformational Journey with Raleigh

Sue Stockdale was the first British woman to ski to the magnetic North Pole. Now, Stockdale is a motivational speaker and author who shares the wisdom gained from her adventures with people from across the world.

Sue’s pioneering spirit was spearheaded by a Raleigh Expedition to Kenya when she was 22 years old. In our conversation with Sue, she shared insights into how this Raleigh Expedition shaped her outlook, helped her build a mindset of resilience, and inspired her to bravely pursue the unknown.

Experience Sue Stockdale's incredible journey of personal growth with Raleigh, navigating the unknown and embracing transformation.

What Inspired You Go to Kenya in 1989 and Join a Raleigh Expedition?

“It was the idea of going on a Raleigh expedition. So when I applied, I didn’t know which country I’d be going to because at that time there were four or five different choices. So it was the idea of going on an adventure and getting three months of work and my salary paid because I was a corporate-sponsored adventurer.

I worked for British Gas and they were sponsoring five employees to go on Expedition. So I thought, brilliant! This is a chance to have an adventure and then to go off and get your salary paid. So like, what’s the worst that can happen? Really, nothing. You know, you’re having an adventure and you go into the unknown.

Five of us were selected to go on Expedition and then we got to pick where we wanted to go to and I picked Kenya… I thought the animals, the wildlife and I’d never been to Africa. I’d never been anywhere, really.

I’d been on… this sort of package holiday with friends. But I hadn’t done anything…I didn’t own a rucksack or a pair of hiking boots at that point. I had to get them before going on Expedition.”

Discover Sue Stockdale's captivating story of self-discovery and transformation alongside Raleigh, navigating uncharted territories.

What Stayed with You Most from the Expedition to Kenya?

“What comes most to mind is being in vast open spaces. When we were trekking with camels up in the Northern Frontier District you could see for literally miles, and then other moments when we were in different locations, it was like the size and the scale of the country, well, even just the area we were in.

That’s what took my breath away… it was almost like you were a little small insignificant thing in this big wide landscape. That feeling today never really leaves me… experiencing the power of nature and seeing how insignificant we really are. That’s quite an important learning, I think.”

What Kind of Work Were You Doing in Kenya?

“Our first projects were community projects. So we were building accommodation for a teacher in a small village… The project had begun with the previous expedition. So we continued on the work, building the teacher’s accommodation and then plastering the walls inside, painting it.

And then we finished that project and we had a little bit of extra time that month. So we went on to start to build a dispensary for the village as well so that they could have sort of healthcare locally. So that meant digging the foundations for the building.

Join Sue Stockdale on a transformative adventure with Raleigh, where she conquers the unknown and discovers the power of resilience.

Did That Raleigh Expedition Change You as a Person?

“Yes. I had met people from all around the world, so my world perspective had opened up. Different cultures, different languages. We had a deaf boy in one of our project groups so we all decided to learn sign language so that we could try and communicate with him. So the power of bringing a team together and doing something purposeful in country.

I was working in an office up until that point and I came back and thought, wow, there’s so much more I can do with my life, my capabilities.

It was kind of like having a mentor…Raleigh for me was like that. Nobody else has given me that belief in myself and that way of making an impact at an accelerated rate. So it was like a really powerful mentoring program.”

How Did Raleigh Help Prepare You for Your Expedition to the Magnetic North Pole Seven Years Later?

“Team working, learning in a degree of discomfort. With Raleigh, we were camping in our sleeping bags and a mosquito net under the stars, in places you don’t even have tents and of course you’ve got scorpions coming in your shoes or mosquitoes, you know, just darkness and creepy crawlies and getting up at 4 a.m. to load up the camels to go trekking with the sunrise.

All of those things have a degree of discomfort and that has great value. It taught me that, A) I can survive in discomfort and B) from discomfort, then something wonderful comes.

The confidence to put my hand up and say I’m going to give it a try, what’s the worst that can happen… And then just the appreciation of the world… it was like well if I can go to Kenya well then the world’s a much smaller place now. So, the North Pole’s just part of the world, I can go there too. So, opening my eyes up to the potential that was out there.”

Experience Sue Stockdale's incredible journey of personal growth with Raleigh, navigating the unknown and embracing transformation.

What Was the Biggest Challenge During that Expedition?

“We are so bombarded these days with stimulus. You know with technology, advertising, television, phones, whatever it is. In the Arctic, there is nothing. It’s white, there’s no colour to stimulate you, there’s no conversation because it’s too cold, you’re skiing in single file.

Therefore what’s going on in your head, it really magnifies. And if that mind talk is well, ‘I can’t do it’… that magnifies itself and will just be in your head and get bigger and bigger and bigger and your skiing speed or your capability will reduce.

So all of a sudden, it was like, wow. This stuff that’s going on in my head, this mind talk, this has got such an important role to play in the success of my capability and therefore the team… It was like being on a mindfulness course for a month.

It’s probably the same for people in a Raleigh Expedition today. People might worry about being cold and damp and not having their phone or whatever, but actually what that is, is a worry. It’s a mind talk, and if we’re not even aware of what impacts they are having on us we can’t have a choice to change it.”

Unveil Sue Stockdale's inspiring narrative of courage and growth with Raleigh, as she embraces the challenges of the unknown.

What Advice Would You Give to Raleigh Venturers Today or People Interested in Going on Expedition?

“Self-belief and willingness to take risks and to step into the unknown. That risk can be having a conversation rather than texting, it can be picking up the phone and calling somebody, sending off the application for Raleigh, not even actually filling it in, just clicking ‘click here to find out more’, that for somebody could be a challenge and unknown and it’s having the willingness to say, you know what, there’s no failure here there’s only learning. What’s the worst that can happen? Making mistakes will accelerate my learning and my development.

So seeing the willingness to get things wrong, to be the odd one out sometimes, to be uncomfortable, as really valuable learning. Because that’s what employers want, they want people who’ve got those life skills. So it actually is going to help you in your career in the future. It’s going to help you in your life in the future because life is certainly not going to be comfortable all the time.

I would say (nerves) are entirely natural for the 50,000 people who’ve been on a Raleigh Expedition before you. They probably felt exactly the same way and that’s a great thing because it’s that anxiety that can propel us into discovering the unknown. So use it as a fuel. Use it as a fuel to take action and one step forward.” nge it.”

Join Our Webinar with Sue Stockdale

On the 13th of June, we will be hosting a webinar with Sue, delving into her life, the significance of her Raleigh Expedition, and how embracing adventure and challenge can set you up for the future.

You don’t want to miss out!

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