I work in the adventure travel and outdoor education field, and I love it. I’m a trip leader, trip advisor, logistics lady, van driver, gear packer, photo taker, activity facilitator, meeting planner, and stuff maker upper. It’s not the easiest job ever, but I get paid to camp in gorgeous places and travel the world. Not bad!
There are many hats to wear in this industry, literally and figuratively. It requires a lot of flexibility.
But it’s also a job that allows you to be active, be challenged and make a massive difference in another human being’s life. Super!
I often get questions about how to get a foot in the door doing this type of thing.
So, how do you start?
1. DO STUFF OUTSIDE.
Yep. If you don’t already (wait, why?), do outdoor stuff in your free time. Go hiking. Biking. Canoeing. Join a climbing gym. Try as many outdoor activities as possible. Yes, people want to hire folks who actually like and do this stuff!
2. TAKE A COURSE.
NOLS offers awesome programs and is widely respected throughout the industry with courses for every level and interest. Outward Bound is another great organization running action and information-packed outdoor courses. A Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is required in many outdoor jobs and will make you an appealing candidate. Wilderness Medical Associates, SOLO and NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute all offer great training. I’ve never seen a candidate with too many certifications. Scuba, skydiving, level 500 basket weaving… whatever it is, go for it.
3. PART TIME RETAIL.
Dundundunnnnn. Working in a bike shop, climbing gym, or in outdoor retail will help you build familiarity and credibility with the gear needed for outdoor & travel pursuits. Customer service experience will also help you tremendously!
4. WORK WITH KIDS (AND LOVE IT).
Tutoring, babysitting, coaching. A lot of trip leading involves teens! If you don’t like working with kids, you reeeally might want to re-consider this whole thing. They drive a lot of the industry! (Yes, there are absolutely adult trips and programs out there, but be aware that this is a specific type of work.)
5. INTERN OR VOLUNTEER.
Nature centers, aquariums, zoos, state parks, Fish & Wildlife, Audubon Society, and local outdoor centers are just a few places that offer volunteer opportunities. Anything that gets you outside interacting with your community is going to be awesome experience for your future as a hero guide.
6. GET ON A TRAIL CREW.
By volunteering on a trail crew, you’ll gain experience working in a team outdoors, something employers will look for on your resume. Plus, you’ll meet like-minded people in a beautiful setting, while doing something good for The Nature.
7. WORK AT A SUMMER CAMP.
So many people that I know in this industry got their start by working at a summer camp, including myself. If you’re in college, this is wicked easy to do and super fun. There are tons of camps looking for counselors in large numbers, and often these jobs don’t require a ton of experience (babysitting will do).
Working in outdoor education and adventure travel is a demanding and rewarding job. If you’re determined, flexible and outgoing, you already have a lot of what you need to succeed in this industry.
It’s a wild ride. Enjoy it!
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