Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

"If You Don't Mind Going Places without a Map, Follow Me:" Re-Stor(y)ing of Self, Place and Educator

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

"If You Don't Mind Going Places without a Map, Follow Me:" Re-Stor(y)ing of Self, Place and Educator

Article excerpt


Metaphorically, going places without a map was a significant shift for me. Experiencing a sense of disconnection both professionally and personally became a catalyst to undertake a journey of re-connection. This coincided with an experience of displacement and what transpired was the making of new meanings around being an educator and around outdoor education. This paper is the beginning phase in articulating a new story.

The self (in roles of researcher and educator) is situated in the story, which can be a vulnerable and risky place to be since this form of narrative is on the margins of contemporary outdoor education practice and research. The telling of this story serves to give presence to an alternative representation of experience and narrative. It draws on qualitative research methods from the phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions. This paper is an autoethnographic account, which aims to narrate the tensions, complexities and contradictions around the spaces of experience that are not so visible.

Making meaning is demonstrated through the incorporation of poetic representation of experience in an attempt to capture the inter-subjective nature of these spaces. Writing as research is at the forefront and is a process of "re-stor(y)ing" (Pinn, 2003) that is about re-discovery, re-creating and re-visioning. Self-awareness occurs simultaneously in the writing process which I contend is a valuable and ethical way of engaging as a reflective practitioner. This paper will conclude by considering some implications with regard to the pedagogy of being an educator in the outdoors.


"If you don't mind going places without a map, follow me" (Behar 1996, p. 33) became a powerful metaphor as it created alternatives for me that ultimately have contributed towards a greater sense of self-understanding. I have used the map and compass as external guides to represent concepts I have lived by in my life and my work. For instance, I had delivered outdoor education experiences to students in places that were very familiar to me and the nature of these experiences were built around familiar patterns formed by curriculum and learning outcomes, particularly in relation to personal development. These are not negative in any way but something was enticing me to let go. On one level, there was the letting go of a financially secure job. But on another level, I was now looking for guidance by internal means as a 'journey' from the heart, an inner compass, and attempting to be open to difference and distinctiveness, creativity and change.

This story unfolds as a story of "learning to lead" (Dimitrov & Lederer, 2005). This presents a paradox, since after many years of working as an outdoor educator and leading students and adults, one may consider that the necessary qualifications and experience would be apparent. On the contrary, there emerged a sense of disequilibrium and a realisation of things I didn't know that included not knowing myself and this was a catalyst for change.

I entered into unfamiliar terrain both within me and around me which made me feel uncertain but at the same time, possibilities for creativity and change emerged. In navigating this terrain in the course of study and research I adopted an approach described as "re-stor(y)ing" (Pinn 2003). This began as part of coursework studies in social ecology and the material in this paper is drawn from recent research (Blades, 2004a; 2004b). This story is not a chronological narrative but rather a narrative that weaves reflective writing evoked by imagination, kinaesthetic senses and emotion. These elements create the "text" of experience and the "data" for interpretation of meaning. Therefore, writing formed a major part of this research and as Van Manen (1990) pointed out, in making sense of lived experience, the object of human science research is essentially a linguistic project that positions the act of writing as a research method in itself. …

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