Martin’s Top Tips III (Dublin Drift) – Welcome to the Journey!

Howdy folks.

Oh, that was for the last event?

Hello, and thanks for visiting this page. I’m Martin McIntosh, a Group Scout Leader and International Adventurer from the Glasgow Area. I’ve been in Scouting for nearly 23 years (which is a little alarming), from a semi-adorable Beaver Scout right through to my current role(s). But there is one part of Scouting, above all the #SkillsForLife and good old fashion Scouting that I do on a weekly basis that I absolutely love.

International Scouting.

There is nothing else in the world that compares with these events. Gatherings of Scouts and Guides, strangers bound by their membership of their parent organization who come together in a foreign field and make friends and memories that last a lifetime. People whose lives and upbringings could have been totally different, bound in comradeship by a little purple badge we wear on our shirts.

I can get a wee bit soppy when I talk about International Scouting, but I absolutely love it. It has helped define me as a person, from my friends (and fiancée…) to my politics, from my general outlook on life to the way I Scout every week (or at least did before all this…). International Scouting has helped boost my confidence and given me a broader appreciation of the world at large. I can continue to list attributes, but I think you get the point by now.

Martin at the World Scout Moot in Iceland, 2017

You may have guessed, International Scouting is a passion of mine, and part of that passion is that I want as many people to experience it as I have. I want as many folk to have the adventures I’ve had. I want you to meet friends for life in a field in a foreign land the same way I have. And I want you to go home to your Scouts, and Guides, and enthuse them so they get the adventures and the experiences. Whether that be through having the drive to apply for South Korea 2023, the next Roverway, Blair Atholl or even the next Moot. Perhaps even by being taken away to Kandersteg or some event in the UK or further afield because you’ve been enthused by the experiences you’ve had.

This will be my third Moot, I was a Participant back in 2013 in Canada, and IST in 2017 in Iceland. I’ve also done four Jamborees, 2007 as a Participant and the next three as IST.

Since 2006, I’ve only ever not spent a summer away twice. Once in 2012 when I was on a sabbatical and, well, 2020… I’ve organised and led events from an Explorer Belt through Belgium and France, to taking my Scouts to BrumJam 2016, Red Rose 2014, 2010 etc. I was supposed to be taking my Group to EIJ in 2020, but, well 2020.

New York, New York – So Good they named it twice, enroute to the Jamboree in 2019

But I remember my first international experience, way back in 2006 very vividly. I remember the anxiety, not knowing what to expect or what the event would be like. I remember not knowing what to pack, or what to take in ways of kit. Should I take a holdall or a suitcase or a rucksack? Did I need to take a tent? How much money do I need to take? Is food included or do I have to provide my own? I’d never flown before, and had no idea what to expect.

It was going to be the furthest from home I’d ever been with or without my parents, and the longest I’d ever been away without them.

I was, back in 2006, a 15 year old Explorer Scout, and very fortunately, on that trip there were five Explorers and five leaders from the District Team. We were a recce party who were to scout (haha!) the town of Székesfehérvár for a District visit to celebrate the Centenary of Scouting the following summer. We had the District Commissioner, Assistant District Commissioners for Scouts and Explorers, A District Scout Leader and the District Network Coordinator (or whatever the role was called back in 2006).

A much Younger me in Hungary circa 2006.

All of whom were very experienced International travelers for work, pleasure and importantly, Scouting. Given the small size of our contingent, we were able to have free access to their experience and support. We were made to feel very comfortable in our ignorance, and allowed to ask anything, no matter how daft it might have been sitting here in the here and now thinking some of the emails I sent in a blind panic.

With that kind of level of support and interaction, we weren’t a million miles from help if we had questions. If we had worries, there were people who could help. I’m still in touch with some of those Leaders, and truthfully, my leadership style is based on the lessons they taught me on that trip. From how I interact with my Young People to the way I try and mentor new Leaders, all takes something from those Leaders.

Why am I telling you this?

I’m the first to admit I don’t know everything. I’m not as experienced as some members of the contingent. I know a few folk who have been doing Moots and Jamborees since I was in short trousers, and perhaps even before I was born.

But I have, as they say, been about a bit.

That trip to Hungary was 15 years ago. I’m about four weeks shy of being 30, and I haven’t stopped attending events. As I like to say, I’ve been halfway around the world in two different directions in the name of Scouting.

I have a wealth of experiences built over 15 years of doing these trips and events. I’ve learned things the hard way, and made mistakes that I’ve learnt from. Mistakes that I sometimes wish I’d been warned about before I’d made them. Mistakes that effected my enjoyment of an event. Mistakes that I made so that you don’t have to. Plus, there’s the odd hilarious calamity that serve as a learning experience for everyone.

From Iceland, I believe the original caption was “Ireland is just one sea away, see you in four years”. Might be five years, but the sentiments correct right?

And that’s the idea behind this blog. A platform for me to share my experiences and Top Tips so that other folk can get the best out of their event. Whether you’re brand new and this is your first event, or you’re an old sweat like me, I hope there is something here for all of you. Whether you learn something new, acts as a catalyst for you to share your own experiences, helps you enter the discussion to share your own experiences or helps you remember ideas you already had it’s all worth it.

This blog found it’s roots in 2017 with the Moot in Iceland. A lot of folk were on their first event – their equivalent to my jaunt to Hungary – and were looking for help and advice. I realised I had two options, I could snigger behind my hands at some of the questions and people’s lack of experience or, “I could think of others before myself and do a good turn every day” and help.

I spoke (or at least typed) about my experiences in Canada as a Participant, and the other events I’d done to help folk prepare. This was a series of Facebook posts that were well received, and served as a discussion point for other folk, from the CMT through to new folk, to share their experiences and start a series of conversations where folk could ask questions. For the Jamboree in 2019, I created this site and used it as I intend to use it for the Moot to Ireland.

If, like me, you’ve done a Jamboree as a Participant, you were in a good place. You had a Unit you can turn to to share experiences, I know in my Unit, back in 2007 there was a broad spectrum of experience, from those who had been away every summer since joining Scouts at 10 to folk like me who’d done one or two, to complete International novices. There were even a couple of folk who’d been to the 2005 Eurojamthat was in essence a practice camp for 2007 and had their take on that event to share.

UK Unit 060 September 2006

If you had this kind of experience, you had Unit Leaders who knew what they were doing and had the skills and experience you were able to learn from in order to get the most out of your event. If you were lucky, you get visits from folk like me who have been there, done that and got the limited edition commemorative badge set to show it. You were gently guided, from Selection through training weekends to the event itself.

By contrast, the onus for a lot of the Moot is on us. There is no-one there to figuratively hold our hands. We are all adults, and there is no more adulty adult to help us adult in the run up to, and at the event. It is entirely possible to arrive at the Moot site having not spoken to a single member of the contingent, or attended a single briefing event. I know folk who did exactly this for both Canada and Iceland (and regretted it…)

And to be completely honest, I think that’s one of the best parts of the Moot. The setup of the Moot is unique for Scouting events, you will be part of an international patrol that you won’t have met (in person) before the Moot, and will share in their culture as you experience Ireland, from the expedition centres to the main site. You will share in their first experiences, they will guide you though some of your own. You will live together, cook together and play together.

Patrol 69 to the 14th World Scout Moot 2013 (we were doing a challenge where we were only allowed a certain number of feet/hands on the ground. Probably safer not to ask…)

So where do you turn for help? When you have the questions I did, who do you ask?

If you’ll permit a brief, relevant, history lesson, in Scouting For Boys, the book that drove the formation of our Movement(s) Baden Powell was an advocate of the “older boys” passing on their skills to those younger, or less experienced. I feel this is a keystone of our movement(s) in the Patrol system, in the Young Leaders scheme and in how we train our Adults. Those of us who have been there and done that share a responsibility to pass on our experience, to mentor those who are younger, or perhaps less experienced.

I picked my copy of this edition up for about 50p in a charity shop…

Here is an(other) opportune moment to digress for a moment. I will talk a lot about International Scouting, and I will talk from the perspective of a Scout and Scout Leader. I’ve never been a Guide, though I am marrying a Brownie Leader and am known as Mr. Fluffy Owl to a Brownie Pack in Ormskirk. I won’t always differentiate in my writing, but where I write Scout/Scouting please feel free to substitute in Guide/Guiding. I have no issues with Guides being part of our contingent without being bi-organisational, I just sometimes forget when I’m writing, or it messes with my flow…

Anyway. My Unit Leader to the Jamboree in 2007, a man called Bill Roberts of Adlington Scout Group, Chorley, West Lancs, had a metaphor for the Jamboree back in 2007. At the time we used to giggle when he mentioned it, we did at one point have a game to do something every time he mentioned it. But as I’ve grown older, perhaps even matured, it’s a metaphor I’ve come to really appreciate, and take as my own.

He described attending that Jamboree as ascending a Scouting Mount Everest.

To climb Everest is to conquer one of the greatest challenges on earth. It takes years of careful planning and preparation. It takes training, it takes commitment. You can’t just waltz up to the mountains in sandals and shorts and start up the tourist path. You need specific skills, you need specific kit. You need a guide, you need someone who knows the mountain and can give advice on how to get to the summit. And once you reach the summit, you’re only half done!

Inspirational Photo of Mount Everest

The Moot isn’t *just* two weeks in Ireland, in the same way that ascending Mount Everest isn’t *just* climbing a mountain. The Moot is a journey. It started when you applied for the Moot, and it will end long after the closing ceremony. My journey to this Moot started back in 2005 when I signed up to go to Hungary, and I hope it will continue to South Korea and many other wonderful places and through many other adventures.

I ascended my Scouting Everest in 2007 when I attended my first Jamboree, and again in 2013 when I attended my first Moot. And since then I’ve been a Sherpa, helping others climb their Mountain, navigating the difficulties they’ve faced and imparting sage advice (sometimes even when asked!)

For Ireland, I want to be your guide and to help you climb your own personal Everest. And that’s the reason for this blog. It’s a means of imparting my self-proclaimed wisdom, the tales of my experiences, adventures, mistakes and misadventures.

I also want to offer another friendly face for you whilst we’re out there. We all need a friendly face now and again, and the more folk you know, the easier it is to find one. I will write about this in more detail at some point in the future, but the lowest I have ever felt, the most alone I have been in my life was at the Culture Day ceremony in 2007 – there must have been upwards of 20,000 people in that crowd, but I didn’t see a single friendly face to turn to and say “I’m not okay.” (I promise…)

I have to say, I’m not in the CMT, I didn’t apply to be in the CMT. I take my hat off to each and every one of them for taking on their roles. Personally, I’d rather the freedom of being IST for this event (mostly because it’s also doubling as a honeymoon…). Maybe someday I’ll think about going for a CMST role, but not just now.

For full disclosure, anyone who’s scrolling back through my older posts will see I’m good friends with at least one of the CMT, having travelled to and around America with him, but that’s as far as the association goes. The heads of contingent for the last Moot and next Jamboree may have been invited to my Wedding, but that’s purely coincidence. (Ben, we can probably swing you an evening invite if you’re interested?)

Myself and Scout Friends (one of whom you may recognise) at the Bo’ness and Kinneal Steam Railway a few years ago having fun with a mechanically interlocked lever frame.

I am just another member of the IST for this event, and a member of the IST who has a fair bit of experience he can share.

Everything I say, ramble on about or disclose is entirely my own opinion and/or view and doesn’t represent an official position taken by the Scouts, the UK Contingent or its Contingent Management and Support Team. I may link to the official positions, from the Moot FAQs or somewhere else on that website, and when I do I will let you know, otherwise assume it’s my opinion, or interpretation of the information we’ve been given – there’s a disclaimer on the About page, to save me having to rewrite this paragraph every time I write.

Some of what I say may be wrong, some of what I say may be contrary to the advice of the organizers or the CMT, and I will apologise in advance for that. In the first instance check the event and UK Contingent websites and FAQs. If I spot something I have written and is now wrong, I will retract it or edit it, but I may miss things.

All of this is one Scout Leader and his laptop. I have approached a few friends and fellow international veterans to proofread what I’ve written – to make sure I’m not talking rubbish and to make sure my spelling and grammar is okay – I failed most of my English exams at school! There may be some guest writers, I may end up writing in other places.

There is a mailing list, it was something set up for the last Jamboree, it shouldn’t send you dodgy links for viagra pills or spam you with ads for this site, PPI or anything else. Once a week (I think a Friday lunchtime) it will send you an email with any new posts. I will share my articles as I write them, but if that’s your thing, please feel free to sign up. Or not. You are a free-thinking individual, you choose.

Playing a borrowed Mandola somewhere amidst the Green Fields of France (well, just outside Ypres, Belgium) in 2014. I was shouting about Scouting between some campfire punk rock.

I have no motive other than trying to support folk on these events. I impart my Top Tips freely and with no expectation of any reward. If you enjoy my ramblings, or learn something, feel free to tell me, your smiling face will be reward enough. If you absolutely have to, offer to get me a pint at a training weekend (if they happen) or once we’re out there (Green card!) but never feel obliged. I do this as much for me as anyone else – it’s a catalogue of stories and adventures to help my failing memory as I get older. Did I mention I’m turning 30 in a month…?

I had grand intentions of doing some sort of weekly updates for the Jamboree in 2019, but real life got in the way. Given how much Real Life and adulting I’ve got to do between now and the Moot, (including getting married…) I’ll not make that promise. Posts may be frequent, posts may be sporadic. Posts may be a rehash of something I’ve already written, but reimagined with new pictures and anecdotes. Who knows. I certainly don’t… Plan? where we’re going you don’t need no plan!

I’ll try and write regularly, but there’s no real schedule. My topics will be many and varied. Some will be reflections, some will be speculation, some will be advice, some might be humorous. I’ll try to keep things light, but there might be some heavy posts here and there.

Please feel free to go back and read the previous posts – they are all written from the perspective of going to a Jamboree, which, if you haven’t gathered by now, is a significantly different event. There is some words of wisdom in there that might be useful, and a lot of what I’m going to talk about over the next 15-16(ish) months will find its roots in those posts, with perhaps a heavy emphasis on “you are an adult!”

But for now, welcome to the adventure. Your journey to Ireland has just started and it’s going to be an amazing!

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