The World Nomads Podcast: Trading Ties for Hiking Boots

In this episode, we chat to someone who ditched their corporate job to follow their passion for adventure travel, and who is Monsieur Les Gâteaux?

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Man in the snow Photo © Supplied: Richard Campbell

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The World Nomads Podcast: Traveling during COVID-19

With COVID-19 still affecting the way we engage with the world, it’s important to plan wisely and travel responsibly, both for your own safety and that of the places you visit. But as we reengage with the world, you're likely planning vacations not far from home. World Nomads can help by providing travel safety tips, inspiring content, and travel insurance designed to protect you while traveling.

Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.

What's in the episode

 00:42 Who is Richard Campbell

02:07 Turning your passion into a profession

04:11 Building a business during Coronavirus

06:37 What is important to you?

08:48 Travel moving forward

11:51 Traveling with children

14:38 Creating memories

17:00 Next episode

Quotes from the episode

Whether I'm lucky or unlucky, probably unlucky, this is the 5th major downturn I've lived or worked through... And so really from the start, our focus was, okay, what can we control? Let's figure out what we want to accomplish during this pandemic.” - Richard

Who's on the show

Richard Campbell is the founder of 10Adventures an adventure travel platform. It began by building an audience of adventure travelers, by offering free and extensive trail information, GPS coordinates and quality guides on adventure travel in some of the most amazing destinations on earth.

“We’ve replaced the traditional guidebook, providing clear, concise route descriptions, digital maps, a standardized difficulty rating system, and all sorts of our favourite hints and tips for everything from trip planning to adventure living on our blog.”

Richard and his family in the Rocky Mountains

Resources & links

Check out the latest 10Adventures tours.

Latest travel alerts and warnings.

Which countries have open borders?

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We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode from wherever you get your favorite pods and if you missed the last episode I am riding solo through to the end of the year after Phil left World Nomads for a job where he gets free lunches every Friday – everyone has a price! As for me, I am still on the road working from our van and still based in Broken Hill for one more week as we explore more of the desert in far east New South Wales.

Our guest in this episode is Richard Campbell the founder of 10Adventures an adventure travel platform. But prior to forming the company, he was the COO of an oil and gas company so what was the catalyst for the change?

Richard: Yeah, so it seems natural, but I know when I did this, everyone was asking me, are you crazy? Why are you giving this up? So, we'd grown an oil and gas company from 18 people to 425 people. It was successful. I'd become the COO. And from the outside, it looked great. And on my 40th birthday, around that time, I went and did a course on leadership, and a big aspect of the course was around are you going to be happy with what you're doing and how you're spending your time when you're 65? And so it just really hit me in that I was working in an industry I wasn't really passionate about. When you've grown a company to that size, I think a lot of the fun is, you've lost a lot of the fun because you don't get to do a lot. You're mostly just overseeing.

And so I stepped back and said, boy, I think I'd be unhappy if I spend another 25 years doing this. It would be financially the right decision, but it wouldn't be something where I'd be, oh, I'm really glad about how I spent that time. And I wasn't really sure what to do. But about a year earlier, I'd started working on just this passion project where I was sharing my favorite hikes in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and down in Montana. And that started doing really well where I get a lot of emails, people saying, hey, we love this site. Thank you for doing this. And so I started to realize, I may have just, in my free time by pursuing a passion project, stumbled upon a really interesting business.

And so as I started to allocate more time to that, it became clear what we're doing and what we want to do really is solving a need that isn't there for adventure travelers. And so I gave up this great career in the oil and gas industry to do something that I'm really passionate about. And I haven't looked back once and said, oh, I've made the wrong decision. This is so motivating and interesting. It's just been a great result for me and for my family, just to move into something that is full of people who are so interesting and dynamic and pursuing their dreams as well. It's really a great decision.

Kim: So this passion project was basically you sharing your hikes on a website that you launched. Am I correct? So blogs.

Richard: Yeah, yeah. I was out in the mountains and I looked around, this is back in 2015, I noticed everyone still had a printed guidebook. And I thought, why is everyone still buying guidebooks at the bookstore? And when I went home and I started looking at it online, I realized what was online was really low-quality information. And so you still needed to buy a guidebook. So my idea was let's just create a guidebook of hiking in the Rocky Mountains that are going to be as good as what you can buy in the store.

And so really focused on having high-quality route descriptions and give all the information you might need. And so just used the hikes that I knew well that I'd already done and slowly built that up. And then over time, people at other places said, oh, I found 10Adventures. Can I contribute to my region? And before we knew it, we had 50 different great adventure destinations in North America and Europe and a loyal following. And it really became clear that there was a market or a need for what we were doing.

Kim: Okay. Well, you've told us why you decided to build an adventure travel company. But you did this during the pandemic. You've done this in 2020, right?

Richard: Yeah. I started this full-time in 2018 and then we launched our new website with where we rebranded as 10Adventures in 2019. So we're fairly young in terms of all the information we have. But yeah, operating in a pandemic has been interesting for us, especially in the travel where most travel companies have seen close to 100% decline in bookings and whatnot.

Kim: That's very true, but in a way also the slowing down of the world allowed you the space to get this up and running.

Richard: Yeah. Whether I'm lucky or unlucky, probably unlucky, this is the 5th major downturn I've lived or worked through. And so I'm used to, okay, when there's a mass change in your business or what's going on, how do you handle it? And so really from the start, our focus was, okay, what can we control? Let's figure out what we want to accomplish during this pandemic. And as you said, our focus is how can we build our business? And by having a plan, I think it helps everyone in the team that you can add certainty where you can have certainty.

So we know what we're trying to accomplish each month or each quarter. We don't know when the pandemic is going to end, but we know what we want to accomplish. And so this has been really valuable because we've been able to scale and grow our business really well in this downturn. And I think part of it's just knowing that eventually, COVID is going to end. And if we use the time wisely, it'll give us a lot of benefits because we're going to have the biggest travel boom of our lifetimes after COVID. Everyone's going to want to travel. And so we want to be prepared for that.

Kim: Yeah. Well, we'll get to what that travel may look like. But you mentioned reflecting on your 40th birthday, whether you wanted to be the COO of a company. And I guess also for 2020, often we use those milestone birthdays or milestones in our lives to reflect on what we want moving forward. But 2020's been like that for everyone, whether you're turning 40 or you're turning 23 or you're turning 61, everyone's stopped and been forced to look at the way they want to live moving forward. And that's certainly what we're hearing in the interviews that we're doing and the people that we chat to. Are you picking up on that as well?

Richard: Yeah. I think there are lots of people who are learning what's important to them. And so for people who already loved the outdoors, they've rediscovered an increasing passion for the outdoors. We've seen a lot of people who haven't done an outdoor trip or a hike or a bike ride in their lives or in the last 10, 20, 30 years that are getting back into the outdoors. And so there's been a huge boom in people who can't do their regular trip, a cruise or a trip down to Mexico or a wine tasting tour in France. And so they've started to do hikes and bikes locally. And they've just discovered a love for it. I have a friend who, I don't think he's ever done anything active and all of a sudden he's going on his e-bike every weekend.

And I think lots of people are discovering, hey, the outdoors are actually really incredible. And there are all the health benefits associated with doing stuff outdoors, but there are also lots of mental health benefits with all the stress of what's going on in the US with elections and pandemic around the world, being able just to go and go for a bike ride or go for a hike, and with your family typically is just a really nice way to de-stress and take the edge off in these trying times.

Kim: I love the fact that your mate's got out and he's exercising but on an e-bike.

Richard: If you knew him when he told me I couldn't believe it. Now, he still has to pedal somewhat, but just like that, I just couldn't believe it. But I also, I've met people who own Pelotons, those indoor cycling, and they don't even own an outdoor bike, but they love the technology. And so I think there's something about the technology on a bike that makes these people more interested. But actually this friend, he's been talking to me about going on an e-bike tour in Italy.

Kim: Oh, wow.

Richard: And so here's a guy who's only ever done cruises who's now like, "I'd like to go and do an e-bike around Italy, where there are not too many hills." And so there are people, this is changing what they thought they knew, and they're learning more about themselves and learning just that, hey, it's great to be outside and to be able to spend time with ones you love without all this mental and physical traffic around you.

Kim: Yeah. So how then will travel look in the future? What have been the takeaways from 2020 for you? And you talk about post-COVID, a lot of people talk about there not being a post-COVID, that there'll be this new normal. How do you think travel will change?

Richard: Yeah, so I think the first thing is adventure travel was one of the fastest-growing segments pre-COVID. So it was growing at 17% per year. There was a massive change as people were moving away from bus tours into private, smaller groups of their friends and families spending a lot of time outdoors and soft adventures or hard adventures. That's going to accelerate. Every study is showing that as COVID dissipates, people are going to want to go on trips where they stay in smaller centers, they stay with their own cohort of friends or family, and they want to spend a lot of time outdoors. So we're going to see a rapid increase in adventure travel coming out of COVID.

What we're seeing that's interesting is multi-generational families looking for trips that grandkids, parents, and grandparents can do. And so again, like my friend, looking to replace may be going on a cruise as a family, or going down on an all-inclusive holiday in a hot destination and trying to find something that's going to be easy enough for the grandkids and the grandparents to do, but provide some interesting aspects whether or not it's learning how to make pizza or learn how to make paella or wine tastings. But allow multi-generational families to now do soft adventure holidays. So I think that's one big change is more and more people are going to do adventure style or outdoor holidays.

I think you're also going to see a lot of tour operators change their business model somewhat. There's a lot of companies that we've talked to where they were really focused on one type of tour or one destination or one type of guests where they've realized if they were only focusing on bringing guests from Asia to Europe that basically stopped throughout the pandemic. And they realized that they have to look at having different business models. So it might be adding new revenue streams, adding new tour types, focusing on different geographies. A lot of our partners are looking at having a way to focus more on local audiences. There's a whole group of people that live in and around where our partners are located that they've never really marketed to before. Whereas now that's a way for them to continue their business and help people explore more locally. And so I think those are the two big aspects are companies trying to do more different things and then people continuing to give adventure and outdoor travel more of a chance.

Kim: Yeah. Well, we've got an episode coming up next week on traveling as a family. You've touched on it, getting your kids into family adventures. What do you guys do? Because you've got three children?

Richard: Yeah. So we have three kids. We had them all within 39 months.

Kim: What?

Richard: Yeah. So initially this adventure travel, being outside is a really big part of my life. I think it's really valuable. We live next to the Rocky Mountains. So we have this great opportunity. When we first had kids, I'd look at photos on Facebook and then Instagram, and you'd see these great photos and then go, "That's what I want." But the truth is it's really, really hard to start. And so we had five years of trialing and failing. We couldn't get it right. And it was really tough because you think I want to go on a backpacking trip or let's go hiking, but it just never ended up being that rewarding.

And then finally in 2019, it started to work. And it was just fantastic. And what we realized is, kids, get ready for outdoor family adventures at a different age. You can't push them before they're ready. And so for our kids, they weren't ready and we tried to do it too early. The second thing is how to motivate them. And so there are lots of different things. Some parents I talked to, use candy or they use screen time. For our kids, they just like to talk about their toys. Or if things get really bad, I have a series of characters I've developed that I just make up stories with those characters. And they'll walk forever as long as I'm telling a story.

And then the third thing is we also had to train them up a bit. If you initially go straight to the mountains and say, "Let's go for a hike," it's tough. You're going from up to higher elevation. You have a lot more elevation gain and loss. And so we started using a lot of our time in town to really get the family used to do like what's it like to go on a three-hour hike in parks in Calgary? And when the kids can do that, then going to do that in the mountains is not nearly as hard. And that leads to this idea of having realistic expectations. When I first started, I thought, oh well, of course, the kids can do this hike. But you realize kids are different. And so we found our kids can go long at relatively flat distances, but if you start to go uphill, they get tired and worn out really quickly. So that changes and influences what type of hikes we do.

So we do a lot of hikes along rivers and valley bottoms. And if we want to do a hike that's up in the Alpine, for example, we'll try and find hikes where the road is already at elevation, so we don't have huge elevation gains. But it's really easy to get de-motivated. And I've talked to a lot of parents where they've tried it a few times and it hasn't worked. And really the focus is just to keep trying. Eventually, it will work. And at least for our family, and for myself as well as a kid, all my great memories are doing these great family adventures. And so we're really focused as a family to have our memories being these fun family adventures.

This past year, they've all been close to home in the Rocky Mountains. But in other years they've been abroad. And part of what we're doing at 10Adventures is we're actually adding a section to really focus on family adventures, because it's a great way to engage kids to learn about different cultures, languages, customs, history, food, and really allow them to rapidly grow their knowledge. And I've seen with my children, they get really engaged learning about these totally different way things are done in different parts of the world.

Kim: Well, you've answered my final question. Were you adding that to 10Adventures? But you mentioned your characters. Tell us one that you'll use to get the kids through a tough hike.

Richard: Oh. So we go through waves. So the current favorite is one called Booger McFarland, who is a guy who can't keep a job because he does really silly things. And he likes to eat a lot of hot dogs and candy. So that's a favorite one. We have a detective inspector, oh, I forget his name. I just told, he was yesterday. We have a Monsieur Le Gateau who's a famous explorer. We have the detective brothers, which are the three of them, which go and solve capers. So, yeah. So it's just if it's really getting tough for the kids, I'll just talk. And we've come back from one backpacking trip, and I'd actually lost my voice because it was pouring rain and we were all wet, and we had about a three-hour hike out. And so I just had to talk nonstop to keep the kids going because they were ready to shut down.

Kim: That's great.

Richard: But yeah, it's fun just to see these kids that can, they're almost on the ground and then you start a story and they're up and they're running ahead and that just energizes them so much.

Kim: That's so cool. That really is cool. Well, thank you so much for your sharing 10Adventures with us and how you arrived at it. It sounds so much more interesting than gas and oil if I can say that. So congratulations.

Richard: Thank you very much, Kim. And thanks for having me on the podcast. I really like being on here and talking a little bit about something I'm so passionate about.

My pleasure Richard, we are big fans here at world nomads of turning your passion into a profession, so again well done. We will have links to 10Adventures in show notes. Don’t forget to rate, share and subscribe to the World Nomads Travel Podcast and let me know what you are up to by emailing [email protected]

Next week families on the move across the world.

Bye

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