Why Guiding? | Olaf’s Corner

Olaf Malver May 16, 2015 0
Nat Hab guide in Botswana. (c) Alek Komarnitsky

Nat Hab guide in Botswana. (c) Alek Komarnitsky

You might wonder why our Natural Habitat Expeditions guides have led trips for years, breaking trails in new hiking destinations, paddling unknown shores, and scaling unclimbed peaks in crazy locations.

Nat Hab guide in Yellowstone. (c) Eric Rock

Nat Hab guide in Yellowstone. (c) Eric Rock

Well – I think it is all about people – not necessarily about place or task. To be a good guide you need to be a humble student of human behavior. Just imagine the daunting challenge of welcoming  a new group of eager expeditioners stepping out of a bush plane in some forsaken place. The guide must quickly rally the team to focus on a hard but safe and rewarding adventure ahead.  We try to ease this task by preparing our clients with well written itineraries, in-depth pre-departure booklets and personal phone calls if needed. But even that is not sufficient.  It is face time that counts.

Understandably there might be some discomfort initially for our clients – some of the places that Natural Habitat Expeditions goes are far beyond the routine of people’s daily lives.  One time a woman stepped out of a Twin Otter plane that had just screeched to a halt in front of a remote coastal mountain range in Greenland.  Jumping out on the pebble-stoned landing strip and planting her penny loafers carefully on the ground, she exclaimed to her husband: “ Bob – don’t you know that I hate walking on rocks?  Bob?” More than three billion rocks watched her in grounded silence.

Nat Hab guide explains the history of Machu Picchu to guests. (c) Megan Koelemay

Nat Hab guide explains the history of Machu Picchu to guests. (c) Megan Koelemay

We guides cannot just be silent – we have to act quickly and intuitively and make good things happen for all involved. So we use some tricks to alleviate any such surprises.  Whenever possible it is useful to get the group together in a circle before we take off (a well stocked beer pub works well – or a cozy camp fire on Day 1) and then ask the relaxed albeit key question to each individual:  “Why are you here??”

Nat Hab Expedition Leader with guests in southeast Alaska. (c) Megan Koelemay

Nat Hab Expedition Leader with guests in southeast Alaska. (c) Megan Koelemay

The replies (and the following examples are from real guide life) tell us a lot about each participant.  Andy mutters sadly: “Well I just broke up with my girlfriend and needed to get away from everything.” (Red Flag – needs positive attention to help in refocusing outwards).  Marie says demandingly: “I came here to paddle 20 miles a day no matter what!” (Red Flag –take her aside and help her up the steep learning curve about  the group safety concept and that we are at the mercy of the elements).  Jonathan shares: “My idea of a good trip is to embrace whatever happens and together make it happen.” (Green Flag – promote this guy as a great example!). And so on….

One of the best ones was when Paul, the exasperated father  from LA, patted his sullen teenage boy on his shoulders with a “Hey I brought my kid Thomas on this expedition  so that he could get away from the wrong crowd he was hanging out with –  stealing cars and selling drugs.”  (!?) ( Green flag – what a great opportunity for us as leaders to turn this boy around by using Nature the Great Teacher to make him responsible for himself – and his father – Duh!). Good ending – he later in life became an Outward Bound Instructor.

Guide on one of Nat Hab's polar bear trips in Churchill, Manitoba. (c) Brad Josephs

Guide on one of Nat Hab’s polar bear trips in Churchill, Manitoba. (c) Brad Josephs

Or what about the woman who showed up at the group meeting with  her  5 foot  ragged stuffed pink rabbit as a surprise travel companion on a her  hike across Papua New Guinea?  That one was tough – but we gave her a double tent and two bowls for dinner. His name was Snuffy and the other clients once tried to kidnap him, but that is another story…

Pointing out wildlife on a trip to Brazil. (c) Eric Rock

Pointing out wildlife on a trip to Brazil. (c) Eric Rock

So we have our hands full – occasionally.  But the fact is that most clients we lead into the wilderness are simply wonderful – and we could not do our job well if that was not the case.  So for me, the answer to the question  -why guiding adventures? – is that we like people and love to share our experiences and in fact grow together.  We will bring our tricks, interpretation, safety knowledge and enthusiasm, and our clients mix in all their rich pallets of life experiences.  It all works amazingly!

And if you check out our guide roster, just look at those  smiling guide faces who simply love what they are doing and clearly explain why they are guiding people like you.

Come along!

Olaf

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