This week I have been asking students this question; often in education the emphasis on the destination i.e. GCSE results in our case.
A trip to Finland to experience the northern lights caused me to reflect on this oft asked question. To go and view the northern lights has been a life time ambition of mine as it combines two of my great passions; physics and photography. I have been in many respects preparing for this trip through my physics and photography work for the last 20 years.
To capture the lights using a camera is not straightforward you are working in the pitch black at temperatures of around -30 as a result I have spent the last 12 months practising using my camera in the dark and when the weather very kindly obliged this winter, in very cold conditions. The lights are also dependent on the sun’s activity something that is a seven year cycle, we had planned to travel this year precisely because we are currently at the maximum of solar activity. The Northern lights only usually appear in the very north and you need clear skies to see it, we chose to travel to the very far north of Finland, we chose this spot because the freezing cold also keeps the clouds away; Inari the community we chose is very cold!
To ensure you reach your destination successfully it is essential not to rely on luck, good planning is essential. We were still not guaranteed to see the lights but by travelling this year, in Febuary, to the far north and having practised the photography techniques we were far more likely to be successful.
Once we arrived in Inari we found ourselves in a community which was so isolated there was no police station, no hospital and only one shop; the northern lights only appeared at night and so myself and the others in our trip looked at what else we could do to fill our time. In many respects the activities which included racing across a frozen lake on a snow mobile, visiting a reindeer farm, learning about the local Sami culture, hikes into the frozen landscape and the friendships we formed whilst there were experiences I had not anticipated when planning the trip but when I reflect on the trip it is these that I will remember the most … perhaps.
We did experience the northern lights, in fact on the first night we arrived in Inari we had a display that was described by our guide, Marti as one of the best he had seen in his life. I also captured the lights using my camera and was moderately pleased with the results.
In respect of my original question, my answer is that both the journey and the destination are critical. It is important to have something that you are aiming to achieve in life, to plan so that you are successful but it is also important to enjoy the experiences along the way. The same for me is true of school, there is no doubt that achieving good results are important but it is equally important to enjoy the moment and get involved in the wider life of the College by joining in with activities that allow you to form new friendships and have an enjoyable time whilst you are at the College.