What makes Adventure Travel, Adventure Travel? Really, it’s a nuanced (potentially pretentious) way of describing travel pursuits that exist with an inherent (or perceived) level of risk, usually requiring added degrees of exertion, or some modicum of expert skill to complete. It’s a niche market that is ever-growing, and its ability to stretch a traveler’s experience far beyond what their ability-level is already at, is what makes it unique.
Per the Adventure Travel Trade Association:
Travel and tourism make up the world’s largest commercial service sector, employing 1 in every 10 people on Earth as of 2018. Any type of tourism significantly impacts the economic well being of people and the environment. Dominated as it is by small businesses working in rural or wilderness environments, adventure tourism is even more dependent than other forms of tourism on human and nature capital. The protection and thoughtful promotion of these resources is crucial not just for adventure travel’s continued success but for the social, cultural and environmental integrity of any destination.
Essentially, Adventure Travel ensures travelers are able to explore remote or dangerous regions in manners they likely wouldn’t be able to achieve on their own. The employment of local, expert guides is invaluable, and there is an entire niche tier of tourism dedicated to it. This style of travel ensures accountability in ecological practices, promotes the ethical treatment of local populations, and empowers tourists to broaden their horizons, both culturally, and recreationally. In short – go guided!
On the PCT in 2016, I arrived to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park in early July. While waiting for a family friend to meet me, I indulged in lunch at the local café: one burger, one side of fries, a short stack of pancakes, and a full bag of kettle baked jalapeno chips later, and was in dangerous need of finding the restroom. In my desperate pursuit of a safe place to relieve myself, the first person I found to ask for directions happened to be a guide – with branded shirt and hat, and a radio strapped to his chest, this fella looked like he knew his business. In my hurry I managed to glean enough information from him to learn where he worked, and come the following fall, I applied to his employer myself.
The following spring of 2017 I moved to Phoenix, where I worked as a guide for several months in Arizona and Utah for the now defunct Arizona Outback Adventures. When an opportunity opened to work for both Arizona Outback, as well as REI Adventures, in Yosemite, I quickly packed up my VW Golf and headed back to California. I’d spend the next two seasons working in both the Sierra in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and Arizona and Utah in Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion National Parks. Preparing meals, dispensing expert advice, navigating trail, and administering first aid for travelers first-hand granted me a boots-in-the-dirt perspective with clients that helped conceptualize the needs and characteristics of tourists as they partook in their own intrepid, personal journeys in the industry I’d come to love.
By early 2019 I had completed two seasons of guiding in numerous National Parks and had recreationally thru hiked over 5,000 miles of America’s most scenic trails. While I greatly enjoyed the human experience of guiding travelers, I wanted a change in my career for two reasons:
1. I wanted to increase my platform to reach a wider horizon of clients. Personal guiding is optimal for groups up to 1-7 passengers per guide, and I knew there were many more interested people at home who wanted to get outside.
2. I was tired of sleeping in my car and on picnic benches.
My next step would offer me the opportunity to work for REI Adventures at their corporate headquarters, in Washington State, which I gladly took. My girlfriend and I packed our bags and moved to the Evergreen State without a second though, where I would work for REI selling and providing personalized customer service for guests on over 250 itineraries world wide. Navigating the travel sphere throughout the pandemic was challenging, and after over 2.5 years, I would eventually transition to working as a custom travel consultant for a smaller company, MT Sobek. While at MT Sobek I developed custom itineraries for travelers all across the western US, with trips ranging anywhere from 5-17 days long, visiting a multitude of National Parks and other iconic destinations. My experience working on the back end of Adventure Travel has helped provide me insight to the inner workings behind the curtain – hotels, travel agents, high end luxury clients, car rentals, international destinations and guests, guides across the globe, and of course a boatload of administrative skills.
It is my goal moving forward to promote the sustainability of ethical treatment for communities visited when traveling, to ensure wild and culturally relevant places are maintained for generations to come, and to push intrepid individuals out of their comfort zones to new horizons.
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