I often wonder if I've lost the plot. I am a secondary teacher and next summer I will spend the majority of my well-earned holiday trekking through Laos and Cambodia with 17 students. This is not a one-off - I do this sort of thing regularly.
But I know why I do it. Not only do I enjoy these trips but I also believe they are an essential part of my job. Expeditions like these make a difference to students' lives; being immersed in another culture offers the type of learning that can't be achieved on an average school trip.
I know what you're thinking, but I do not teach in an independent school or even a school in an affluent area. I am aware of the perception that these trips are the preserve of the rich and I realise that the reason more schools don't offer them is the price.
But finance does not have to be an insurmountable problem. In schools where the majority of students live in singleparent families and many receive some kind of financial support, it obviously won't be easy for a pupil to get hold of thousands of pounds. But the challenge of raising that amount is one of the reasons that these trips are such a great tool.
The things we experience (or don't experience) in life are often determined by cost, but that should not be the case. Students deserve to be inspired no matter their financial background. As teachers, we have a responsibility to ensure that pupils don't limit themselves at such an early and impressionable age.
And although affluent students still benefit from overseas trips, I believe it is pupils from deprived areas who gain the most from visiting a place that is a stark contrast to their own culture. So how can you make it work?
It's essential that students are determined and want to make the most of the opportunity. If they're ready to take on the challenge and commit their free time to raising money, their financial background becomes almost insignificant. It's partly about giving them self-belief and helping to counteract the feeling that cost is an obstacle they can't overcome.
Positivity is a huge driving force and your students will need to work hard to achieve their goal. My team for next year have complete ownership of the trip and use social media sites to share ideas, support each other and celebrate individual and team successes.
Start fundraising early
By the time we go on the expedition, the students will have been raising money for more than two years. We have packed bags in supermarkets, washed cars, sold raffle tickets, baked cakes, babysat, delivered papers, hosted quiz nights and discos, held barbecues, run dance shows, completed sponsored walks and silences - anything and everything we could think of.
Another way to boost funds is to get staff involved. When my students did a 15km sponsored run, I joined in. I was also convinced by colleagues to do a sponsored skydive. Your participation helps pupils to realise that it's a team effort and encourages them to make the most of every opportunity. They need to recognise that raising such a large sum is a gradual process and every little helps.
Lots of parents will be nervous about their children being so far from home, especially if they have never left the country themselves. Safety is the most important part of any trip, so it is the first thing I discuss in meetings with parents. Doing so also helps to explain the price, which has to cover the necessary insurance. Some parents may appreciate assistance with filling in passport and visa forms or understanding which vaccinations are required and where children can get them. Involving the families of your team creates a support network for both you and the pupils.
Ask for help
Tell as many people as possible about what you are doing and why. This type of trip is unforgettable and we have received support from many different sources. For example, a governor at our school recommended bag-packing at a nearby supermarket. While we were working there, the manager of a local business enquired about the trip and was so interested in what the pupils told him that he offered to support them in other fundraising activities. People in your area want to see students being given opportunities like this.
Overseas expeditions develop invaluable skills and aid the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. Pupils from the most deprived areas already have an understanding of hardship; when they see how poverty is approached elsewhere in the world, it gives them a sense of perspective. They learn that although money can be influential, it does not guarantee happiness and should never limit your aspirations.
Natalie Wickenden is a progress leader for Year 10 students (aged 14-15) at a school in London and is working with World Challenge to broaden participation in student overseas expeditions