Yvon Chouinard, the iconic adventurer and founder of Patagonia clothing company, once noted that “the word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvon’s definition, of course, is rooted in decades of experiences along razor-thin edges of catastrophic outcomes and soul-fulfilling experiences in far-flung destinations. It aligns with one of Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definitions, “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.”
For travelers that do not possess Yvon’s body of experience, their “edge” could be a trip to a national park, a family voyage in the Galapagos, a whitewater rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon, a bike trip in Tuscany, a safari in the Serengeti, a trek in the Himalaya, or a climb to the 20,000-foot summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Each journey may be on the edge of a traveler’s personal travel experiences and risk perception. In other words, it’s all relative.
Some travelers choose to undertake their adventures within a group setting. The origin of adventure travel, at least in the US, can be traced to trips organized in the late 1800s by the Sierra Club to engender an appreciation and support for the newly created Yosemite National Park and other threatened wilderness areas. The Club organized the logistics, and expert naturalists accompanied each outing.
In essence, modern-day Adventure Travel companies and professional guides offer similar opportunities in destinations that are otherwise challenging or, in some instances, impossible to do on their own. The experience level of travelers combined with a traveler’s perception of a fun, enriching, and comfortable experience varies across a long and wide spectrum. Also, there is the wild card the guide never truly knows the travelers before the start of the trip, their creature comfort zone and interests, and their level of risk tolerance. Many variables and hurdles to success are at play, which is why guiding adventure travel trips are often considered the Ph.D. or Post Doctorate level of trip leading.
Colby Brokvist’s “The Professional Guide’s Handbook – How to Lead Adventure Travel Trips and Expedition” is the first book published on the fundamental elements of leading adventure travel trips. It is a distillation of Colby’s nearly two decades of experience guiding trips from Yosemite to Antarctica - a must for all aspiring and current guides and adventure travel operators that hire guides. The beauty of Colby’s handbook is it includes not only the planning and operational basics and identifying and mitigating the risks that can and will go sideways, but also best practices for managing the reality that no two groups are the same, and the opportunities to engage and inspire travelers to support conserving the places and cultures they have had the privilege to experience. In a word, Colby has nailed the totality of guiding adventure travel trips.
WWF Vice President, Conservation Travel and former President of Geographic Expeditions and Yosemite National Park District Naturalist