Raleigh International is a British youth development charity that offers structured overseas expeditions 'to inspire young people…to discover their full potential'. The expeditions involve three different projects: adventurous activity, community service and environmental conservation. This paper examines the experiences of a group of venturers who participated in a 10-week expedition to Ghana. Data were collected through a series of interviews and participant observation. The analysis of the participants' motives for engaging in the projects is informed by the interactional principles of Erving Goffman. The study participants indicated that their involvement with the organisation was primarily a form of face-work: to enhance their credibility as they anticipated entering the adult world of employment. In particular, they were concerned with building aspects of character that resonate with Goffman's elements of courage, gameness, integrity and composure. Raleigh International as the organisational body is seen to display elements of a 'total institution', providing the rules and values that govern the social encounter, during the time of which actors live in relative isolation from broader society. This study identifies two areas of concern for these young venturers. First, there was a failure to recognise that their desire for 'risk' to develop character was limited by the boundaries placed around their activities by Raleigh International, reflecting a broader culture of caution. And, second, their sense of 'service' to a developing nation contained elements of stigmatisation of the people with whom they worked.