Personal development on youth expeditions: a literature review and thematic analysis

Tim Stott, Peter Allison, Johannes Felter, Simon Beames

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Youth expeditions are associated with a range of benefits for participants. More young people are participating in overseas expeditions than ever before as vacation and gap year choices are diversified by a rising number of expedition providers. To date, there has been no systematic research effort to draw together and evaluate the evidence that underpins the benefits or, otherwise, for youths participating in overseas expeditions. This paper reviews empirical and philosophical literature which has been published in a range of journals and themes emerging are placed into a personal growth model. This review (or mapping exercise) focused on post-1990 literature and found 35 key publications which met the criteria: youth expedition; duration exceeding 14 days, self-propelled, and based overseas or out-of-state. The 35 publications (UK 26; USA 4; Australia 3; Japan 1; South Africa 1) were subjected to a thematic analysis using Greenaway’s ‘Four Arrows’ model of personal growth. Outcomes associated with overseas youth expedition participation included (1) upward personal growth (realising potential) including increased confidence; physical and social resilience; self-reliance and ability to overcome challenges, (2) outward personal growth (learning about & relating to others), (3) inward personal growth (learning about self) and (4) downward personal growth (learning about environment). The processes that were valued in overseas expeditions and which, with some caution, may be linked with some of the aforementioned outcomes include: genuine independence; group isolation and self-sufficiency; person-centred leadership; positive responses to stress and physically demanding activity. Suggestions for areas for further meaningful research are offered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-229
Number of pages33
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number2
Early online date27 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • expedition
  • literature review
  • thematic analysis
  • personal development


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