“My Old Friend the Blues” – The Jamboree Blues (Part 1)

Hello everyone – in an attempt to resume some sort of normal service, it’s Martin again, writing through my lunch hour as inspiration strikes.  I’ve written this then walked away for a few days having forgot to press the big red “Publish” button.  Please read this as though I published it Thursday lunchtime!

I hope we’re all enjoying the Summer, wherever we are in the world right now.  Right now, this lunchtime, my Facebook news feed is full of three things…

  1. People on Jamborees, Roverway and other such internationals
  2. People preparing to go on Jamborees, UK Internationals or head abroad for an international event, and
  3. People sharing memories of past events, Moots, Jamborees, Roverways etc. – the fact that this day last year was the last day of the 2017 Moot in Iceland may have something to do with this…

This is absolutely fantastic, the memories it’s triggering are unbelievable, it’s sparked up conversations with people I’ve not seen in years, and made me go through all my photos from every event I’ve been to, a massive smile on my face.  It also gave me the inspiration to write this post.

Seeing this, and going through the photos/videos etc., has also has built in me some emotions (See Matthew, I’m not totally heartless!).  This post is about these feelings and the general “what next” of an international event.  Whilst this is, once again, primarily about the Jamboree next year, a lot of what I’m saying relates to the folk who are coming back from Roverway or any of the other events that have taken place this year.

So without further delay, these feelings I’ve got…

Some are good, really heartwarming emotions that make me feel really happy and make me really look forwards to this time next year when we’ll be in America.

Others, make me feel a bit sad.  Sad doesn’t really describe it, but it’s the closest I can think of.  It’s sort of the longing to be back, with the people, in the place, enjoying that event all over again.

It’s kinda hard to describe the “sad” emotions to people who haven’t been on an event, haven’t made friends from all around the world then had to return to real life.  For those of us who have, we term them “The Blues”.  It’s a mix of the comedown from the awesome high that is experiencing life changing adventure with like minded people, a little bit of jealousy from those, like me, who are stuck at home whilst others are away having the time of their lives and the longing for the next event to come around.  I’m well used to this – it happens every year, except most of the time I have another event to go on.  For anyone new to internationals, or indeed, anyone who has blanked out this part of international events, here’s some advice built from my own experiences.

I should stipulate, I’m in no way a mental health professional.  The Blues happen and they can make you a bit sad.  If you experience severe emotions or for a long duration, please book to see your GP.  At the very least they can refer you to a more appropriate service.  I cannot.  If you feel overwhelmed or need to talk to, please reach out.  I’d love to help, if only to help point you in the right direction of proper help.

The Blues strike us all a little differently, and there are as many different ways of coping with them as there are people who feel them.  Personally, I cope rather badly by drinking a bottle of nondescript non-branded bourbon (totally not Jack Daniels) and listening to the Levellers seminal album, “Levelling the Land” obscenely loud helps.  I also use this method to help with breakups and bereavement.  This is not the recommended approach (especially if you’re under 18!  You naughty, naughty Explorer Scouts…)

Some people can internalise them and move on with their lives.  Others need a bit of time, or a bit of a cry or whatever to cope and come to terms with the emotions.  I fall into the latter category.  And that’s okay.

Honestly, the best way to deal with the Blues is to talk.  Talk to your friends and family, but be aware, they weren’t “there”.  If you’re a Participant or a Unit Leader, you have the best support network available, each other.  You guys will have lived and worked alongside each other for three weeks, plus all your training camps.  I can guarantee you will all feel the same way, you will have experienced so many things together.  I still, though very rarely these days, bump into people I went to the Jamboree in 2007 with and we still, to this day, 11 years later, laugh at some of what we got up to.

For IST, CMST and folk working directly for the Jamboree, you also have each other.  Whether it be your tent buddies or the people you worked with whilst you were over there.  That being said, having a support network in place before you go is incredibly useful – we’ll cover this off in a few weeks as part of the “Looking After Yourself” Series, but I’ll touch on it here.  Jamboree’s can be one of the loneliest places on the planet.  You’re surrounded by 50,000 Scouts (and Guides…) but you can still feel totally alone – I know, it’s happened to me.  Knowing folk before you go can really help this and gives you a level of support rather than turning up and hoping for the best.  The best advice I can give you is to get involved with your local IST groups – we have a link to some of them on our “links” page.  Be active in these Groups – I know that Scottish HQ is putting on “All Scotland” weekends and that the NW England folk are planning meet ups already, go on these and meet the folk from your town/city/region/expanse who are going.

Other strategies exist.  One of our lovely CST for Iceland suggested looking for short, medium and long term goals for your return.  It’s not too early to start thinking about these.  Examples may include, but are not limited to:

Short: Get involved with your local Scouts/Explorers/Network and pass on what you experienced in the aim to enthuse them to apply for South Korea 2023.

Medium: Plan and execute your own international event, whether EuroJam 2020, Essex 2020 or taking your own Pack, Troop, Unit, Rabble etc. abroad somewhere.

Long: Sign up for Ireland 2021 (if eligible), or Roverway 2022, or even get started on your application for South Korea 2023.

Other Short, medium and long term goals may relate to your Personal Development Goals, or to things that are happening to you – going to college/Uni etc.I think that these goals area fantastic idea, and it helps you focus on small attainable goals, to remind you life goes on after the Jamboree.

The other thing to perhaps do, is think about planning a Reunion.  Reunions, whether a seperate event or making up part of something like Gilwell Reunion, gives you something to look forwards to, a chance to meet some of the friends you’ve made. These could be get together if friends from your area, or trying to assemble your Unit/patrol somewhere in the world for a repeat of your Jamboree adventure. I know some of the North West England IST from the last Jamboree still do occasional meet ups three years on. I also know, I could probably couch surf through South America, some of the US and onto Canada as a result of the people I met at the various events I’ve done.  As I said goodbye to my Australian comrade in Iceland – sorry to break the narrative, but his name was Bruce and his wife was called Sheila, could they be any more Aussie? – he gave me an open invitation to sleep on his couch should I ever wish to travel way down to that part of the world.

Others may take on projects that they can throw this emotion into, to help take others away to events or to help in their communities.

As America draws close, or even to a close, applications for the UK CMST for both Roverway 2020 and Ireland 2021 will open.  This may be something entirely new for you, or a continuation of your role from this Jamboree.  Sometime around 2021, unit leader applications will open for South Korea 2023, perhaps this is something you wish to work towards in the longer term, having been a participant or IST, taking on a new challenge.  This, of course, doesn’t even start to cover the vast array of UK based internationals happening.  Counties like West Lancashire run multiple international trips every year and seem to be constantly on the look out for Leaders to take contingents from Malaya to Switzerland.

For those of the 16-24 category (once the Jamboree is over), there is the option of running or taking part in an Explorer Belt.  As well as being one of our Top Three awards, some of my best memories relate to organising and running my Explorer Belt with eight folk I’m proud to call friends (some of whom are coming to America!).  For me, it was the perfect time in 2014 to throw myself into a project to help me forget my Post Moot Blues from Canada.  A word of warning however, as someone who has ran and done an Explorer Belt, I think doing it as an adult is a far better experience than doing it as an under 18, it may be worth the extra wait.  For anyone who wants to organise one, please speak to me, I have a whole host of “Top Tips” relating to those expeditions!

I find, more generally, talking about The Blues helps (when I can get past the whole “men don’t talk about emotions” thing). We will have formed not just friends, but family at the Jamboree. And as family we look out for one another. If you do start feeling the Blues, please speak out. Message someone, message anyone, message me (I’m not as scary as I look/sound) and we can have a chat – a couple of folk took me up on this after Iceland, and I think I helped.

There are some underlying medical conditions that can affect, or be affected by the Blues, so if you think that might be you, get to see your GP or healthcare provider.  As stated above, somewhere, I’m not a mental health professional.  I know what I know from my own experiences of coming back to Real Life after attending three Jamborees, two Moots an Explorer Belt and about half a dozen other events.  I have seen friends suffer as a result and I don’t want that to happen for anyone.

I’m aware this is possibly quite a long, dry post, but I hope I’ve hit it with some humour and given you an idea of what to expect, whether you’re at something like Chamboree, Red Rose or NorJam this year and are feeling a bit dampened when it’s over, or you’ve never been on an international, America next year being your first.  I’ll leave you with a final piece of advice, really my Top Tip of this Top Tips post, and a song which I think fits the theme of the post, and from which the title is stolen.

Look out for each other, and if you have concerns, speak to the person you’re concerned about.  If you’re still concerned, or they’re looking for help, please shout for it, to other Unit members or Leaders, to other IST or even to someone like the Samaritans.  I recently phoned them as I was concerned about someone else and they were absolutely fantastic.


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