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National Local Explorers League

Feb-Mar 2015 289

I love going out and doing things.  I love travel and experiencing new places.  It’s even more fun to do them with other people.  But not everyone has the time and money to travel the world, myself included. (Yes, I get summers off, but my husband gets a grand total of one week of vacation days.)

So my solution is “daycations.”  I’m fortunate to live in an area with lots of parks, hiking, museums, monuments, and other things to visit.  The museums can be pricy, but there are plenty of hiking areas, wildlife centers, etc. that are inexpensive and even free.  I’m the kind of person who hates going places alone, so I always find someone to join in the fun with me.  My usual candidates are my husband, nephew, parents, and youngest brother.  I’ve sort of become the unofficial family activity planner and family historian.

Feb-Mar 2015 316

On President’s Day my brother and I hiked a local peak.  (We dubbed it the “Everyman’s Mountain.)  We’ve always liked to invent grand schemes, like theme parks and movie plots, and we got thinking about an organization that would encourage people to explore their local communities.

And so we created the National Local Explorers League.  Well, thought it up, anyway.  It would be really cool to make it real.  We modeled it after the ranks and merit badges of the Boy Scouts.  It sounds kind of like a name out of World of Warcraft, which was not exactly intentional but not exactly unintentional.

Feb-Mar 2015 317

The purpose of the NLEL is to, as previously stated, encourage people to explore their local communities.  This would give people a venue for meeting people with common interests, and fostering feelings of community and civic pride in our communities.

I envision a national organization with local chapters in various communities.  Each chapter would have their own webpage linked to the NLEL website.  On each chapter’s webpage would be blog posts, pictures, and “travel guides” to the sites in their community, and members can share pictures and blog about their explorations.

All members are known to one another as “Explorers.”  The NLEL has five ranks: Junior Explorer, Adventurer, Navigator, Pathfinder, and Trailblazer.  There are six areas of achievement.  These are:

Epicure: eat at (non-chain) restaurants

Connoisseur: attend concerts, plays, and other cultural events, at the professional, community, and school levels

Historian: visit history museums and historical sites/monuments/landmarks

Scientist: visit science and technology museums

Hiker: visit regional parks and hiking trails

Mountaineer: climb every mountain (You totally just sang that.)

Explorers must complete a certain number of explorations in each category to go up in rank, but are encouraged to work on them in any order.  The lifetime achievement award is the “Been-There-Done-That Award.”  (My brother and I thought that was particularly clever, and, I must admit, the credit for that one totally goes to him.)

The lifetime service award is the “Surveyor Award,” awarded after 20 years of service to the organization.  All explorers are eligible for this award, regardless of rank.  Service to the organization consists of writing blog posts and creating travel guides, and organizing explorations for others, particularly kids and youth.  (So someone could hike the same mountain over and over, bringing different people every time, and all that would count towards the Surveyor Award.)

Separate from the ranking system are the Fellowship Achievements.  Explorers earn a star for every achievement they earn in the Fellowship tree.  (“Tree” here is used in the gamer sense of talent tree, not an actual tree.)  Examples of these are:

  • Go somewhere new with a friend
  • Introduce a friend to one of your old favorites
  • Make a friend on an adventure
  • Create a secret handshake with your adventuring friend
  • Share your adventure in words and/or pictures on your chapter webpage
  • Randomly run into an old friend on one of your adventures

There are three yearly get-togethers:

  • January: Goal-setting – If you make specific goals about how many/what kind of adventures you plan to have, the more likely you will actually do something.
  • June: Goal check-in – Having a mid-year check-in will help members stay motivated and hold themselves accountable for achieving their goals.
  • November: Celebration – Held in November rather than December because everyone is way too busy with a zillion things to do around the holidays.  Members have a chance to share their experiences and feel good about what they accomplished.

Each get-together will consist of a dinner.  Dinner should definitely come before anything else.  Otherwise, you will just feel irritated the whole time and wonder why you came in the first place.

After dinner there could be a speaker, at the discretion of each chapter’s leadership.  The topic might be a motivational speech, or about the history or opportunities in the community.  Whatever.  Most chapters would probably be best off skipping this part.

Each member would have the option of creating a table display of their adventures that year at the midyear and end-year meetings.  After dinner, members can circulate around the tables, socializing and taking a look at what everyone else did.

Then would come the roundtable discussions.  There would be one for each area of achievement.  In the roundtable, members discuss the best places of explore, for example, on a budget, with kids, etc., and any other helpful information.  In small chapters, the areas of achievement can be grouped as follows: Epicure & Connoisseur, Historian & Scientist, Hiker & Mountaineer.

Now I need someone to read this, think it’s an amazing idea, and actually found a chapter.

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