It’s Great Out There: School on Wheels expedition up the Danube river

Adventures take many forms, and can have a different purpose and meaning to every person that takes part.

For one intrepid group of teenagers and volunteers from Italy who set out on their adventure this April, the challenge before them was a considerable one – to cycle 170km along the Danube river to the Austria’s capital city, Vienna.

Organised by the Center of the Community of San Martino al Campo ONLUS (SMaC) in Trieste, Italy, and in collaboration with the cooperatives of La Quercia and the Duemilauno Social Agency, and with grant funding from The North Face and Its Great Out There, this adventure up the Danube River focused on giving opportunities to teenagers who have either dropped out of, or have currently been excluded from, the Italian school system. As such, they represent some of the most vulnerable members of society and face a high risk of becoming socially marginalised.

Through the generous financial support and promotion by the Municipality of Trieste, and with vital help of a fantastic team of voluntary teachers, SMaCs „Non uno di meno“ project offers an alternative personal and academic development path for children who have been referred to them through social services. For many of those involved, the pleasures and benefits of the outdoors can often be inaccessible and intimidating. SMaC puts a specific emphasis on learning through experience, including outdoor pursuits. Taking kids into the outdoors provides hugely valuable opportunities for personal development, in areas such as determination and team working, that are more difficult to learn in the confines of the classroom.

Across five epic days, the team navigated their way along the 170km route along the Danube from Grein to Vienna. With rides ranging in distance up to 80km + per day, the journey offered plenty of challenges, not least the physical and emotional ones, but also others ranging from how to carry the right kit, looking after the bikes, and working as a team.

The trip was a fantastic success. ‘This trip was extraordinary for all those who participated’, said expedition leader Riccardo Taddei, ‘everyone, at least once, thought we would not make it.’ By working together and encouraging one another, every member of the team successfully made it to Vienna.

As is often the case with projects of this nature, funding is a challenge. Riccardo Taddei and his team from SMaC were successful in applying for grant funding from It’s Great Out There and The North Face. Along with the help of many volunteers and local organisations, this group of teenagers were able to benefit from a brilliant, and positively life impacting, experience in the outdoor.

Having successfully completed this adventure, Riccardo’s belief is that the experience, and lessons learned, will help spur on every one of those involved as they look towards their future challenges – not least their upcoming end of year exams.

As one of the founding members of the It’s Great Out There coalition, The North Face is committed to inspiring and enabling the next generation of outdoor explorers. The North Face was honoured and delighted to be able to co-fund this project.