My name is Aoibhinn Moyne. I’m a rover from Errigal County and I took part in this year’s Explorer Belt expedition. Before I left I had decided to write an article on what it is like to do the belt and its ties with mental health, but now, after being home for almost a month, I have decided to share something so much more important with you all; “What it’s like to do the Belt, and not get it”.
I have been involved in Scouting for 13 years now and have wanted to do the Belt for as long as I can remember. When I think back on all the stories people have told me over the years, not one bit of information I was given scared me. All of the pain and hardship faced by the participants was overcome by the immense sense of relief, pride and happiness that was brought by receiving the belt. But what about those who didn’t complete the challenge? What was there to mask all of those intense emotions for those who didn’t get to wear that beautiful leather belt? Nothing? While at first, it certainly felt like it, I can finally tell you that that is most certainly not true.
The Belt itself was of course, everything I had expected. It was tough, painful, and gruelling at times, yet one of the best things I have ever done. I was lucky because I had an amazing partner with whom I shared the journey. We laughed, sang and made the most out of every obstacle we faced (and trust me there were many). I don’t think I would have gotten as far or have been able to write this without her positivity pushing me onwards. When we were taken off the road on day 8 I was a mess, I cried for two days, no word of a lie, but she helped me see and appreciate everything I had done and for that I can’t thank her enough.
One of the things I noticed whilst on the road and something that was also noticed by another team was that even with all the stories we were told, nobody tells you just how hard it really is, and at the time that made me feel quite angry because maybe if I had known I could have prepared myself a little more. Now though as I think back on my journey to write this I struggle to remember the bad things and I can understand why others struggled to tell me the whole truth; it’s because they couldn’t remember either.
Coming to terms with everything after our journey ended was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do and to be quite honest I am still struggling with it today. I was so beyond disappointed in myself and embarrassed. I felt a tide of envy and anger at the other teams for completing something that I thought I wasn’t strong enough to do and yet I was so proud of them all. This mix of emotions almost broke me and put a strain on a few friendships but thanks to the people around me I was able to control it and begin to separate all of those temporary negative emotions from the long-term positives. Still though, sometimes I look at the photos of the successful belters on Facebook and I envy the bond they share. I read the private jokes from base camp that I don’t understand and all I feel is sadness. Sometimes when I’m telling people about my journey or hear people talk about theirs I forget about what I have achieved and all I want to do is curl up into a ball and cry, and guess what I learned? That it’s okay!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter, not in the slightest. I stood at the front of the crowd waiting to welcome the team home, my team, because I am so proud of them all and I know that my day will come.
The people around me were amazing. I really can’t thank Fr Dave, Richie, the sweep team in Italy, those who welcomed us at the airport when we came home, those who listened to my cries and stories and of course my Belt partner enough. It was you all who helped and are still helping to keep the smile on my face.
The moral of the story is that sometimes you don’t reach your goal and that it is absolutely fine to feel sad or angry about it as long as you keep your head up and keep trying. I want people to read this before they go and understand that if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, you will get through it. It has happened before and it will happen again.
I’m already thinking of my application for next year’s belt! It is a one of a kind experience and has most definitely changed me for the better.