My Job: Outdoor activities instructor

Adrian Hall is an outdoor activities instructor and freelance expedition leader who runs activity sessions in schools across East Anglia and leads expeditions for young people to developing world countries. Fiona Muller talks to him about how he teaches map and navigation skills and inspires young people with his tales of adventure.

Why is it a good profession to get into?

I really like not being stuck in an office all day. It’s rewarding to visit schools and see young people’s reactions to working with maps – knowing how to find your way using a map is still an important life skill even in these days of GPS and satellite navigation. When taking young people on an expedition it’s great to see their confidence and awareness grow and to bring them back home a little more worldly wise.

There is definitely a growing awareness of the benefits of getting outside as part of a healthy lifestyle and lots of initiatives support this trend.

After a long career in publishing which ended in redundancy, I decided that I wanted a change away from a desk-based job to one which was founded on my long-standing passion for the “great outdoors”. After a bit of research, I enrolled on the Diploma in Outdoor Activities course at the College of West Anglia and on successfully completing it started thinking how I could turn my new skills into a way of making a living. Some conversations with teachers gave me the idea of running activity sessions in schools, at first in Norfolk, now all over East Anglia.

What does the work involve?

What I do each day depends on where I am working and what the school wants. For some, it’s outdoor navigation and orienteering sessions, for others it’s tales of travelling in the arctic or climbing mountains. My busiest times are during school terms.

When I am taking an expedition to another country – it will be full on. What happens changes on a day to day basis from trekking through unspoilt wilderness areas to community projects such as building work at schools in remote villages.

What are the positives/negatives of this profession?

I like the fact I am my own boss. I’ve enjoyed learning new skills such as making a website. I also like the personal reward I get from working with young people. On the negative side, like many small businesses, I have to do my own administration and book- keeping which is one aspect of the job that I’m less keen on.

Is there much local demand for people trained in this area?

There is certainly demand for activity instructors at local outdoor centres. This work is, however, often seasonal. If you are prepared to work as a freelancer or for yourself and have a good business idea though I would say give it a go! You need to be approachable, proactive and able to sell yourself and the services you offer.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

The most important skill is being able to communicate with people of all ages. You need to be interested in people and enthusiastic about your subject to engage young people. Also, you need to have good presentation skills and be confident enough to work in front of a group of people.

Leading an expedition requires technical knowledge and man management skills and the maturity to be able to cope with unforeseen circumstances.

If you are thinking about working in the great outdoors I would suggest that you go for it as you might never be happy sat in an office behind a desk!

Contact Adrian at

Source: EDP Thursday, February 14, 2013 

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