So You Want to Be an Adventure Trip Leader

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Hi, I'm Erin!

I am a photographer and writer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, and living deliberately. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the outdoors, culture, people and wildlife.

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This is a follow up to my post 7 Ways to Get Started in the Outdoor Industry.

If you don’t know already, my official job title is Trip Leader. I’ve led trips on four continents and seen some amazing places in the company of some inspiring teenagers. I lead adventure programs for 14-18 year old kids, ranging from backpacking in Europe to ice climbing on a glacier in Alaska. It’s freakin awesome! Sound like something you want to do?

This is the BIG PICTURE. Here’s what you should know.

Getting to do cool stuff outside all the time is a huge perk of this job, but if this is your main reason for wanting this job, please run far far away. You will burn out in the first five minutes. You need to have a contagious passion for sharing experiences in the world and in the outdoors.

And it isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s really draining. Sometimes you don’t want to be outside in an ice storm cooking everyone dinner, but there you are! You need to be on your game all the time. You need to be the whole package. Additionally, this job does not stop! When you are on a program, you don’t have time off. You need to make time for yourself to stay sane.

Spot the yawn!

If you plan on working with kids like I do, awesome. They’re great! You are a guardian and that is a massive responsibility. Not only do you need to be the King of Logistics, but you also have to care a LOT about your kids. You, my friend, have many hats to wear. Someone who is good at this job will keep in touch with their campers for years after their trip, and make a meaningful impact. (If you don’t plan to work with this age group, the take-home message here is to know your clients.)

Not pictured: van full of 13 screaming teenagers blasting Miley Cyrus

Scheduling yourself will be a game of Tetris! Jobs range from 2 weeks to 6 months, and you’re always finding the next one. This means always thinking ahead, being great at money management, researching the next thing and often applying for jobs while you are on a trip… or whenever possible. I’ve had phone interviews in some pretty weird places.


If you are a person who thrives on making connections, being a role model, and instilling passion and appreciation for the outdoors in other humans, this could be the job for you. Trip leading is the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had.

Lots of folks want really specific information. They ask, “But how do I actually START?”

The answer is… you just DO. I could give you a list of awesome companies to apply to, but ultimately, if you want to have this job, you need to research the crap out of this industry. You need to apply to a buttload of companies. You need to have an idea of what age group you want to work with and what you’re looking for in a job. It’s probably not going to just fall into your lap.

You got this. Jump in and get after it!

Questions? Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. […] Where to learn more: To get a better idea of what it’s like to work as a trip leader, read this article on Erin Outdoors: So You Want to Be an Adventure Trip Leader. […]

  2. Will says:

    Good heads up on what can be this kind of job. I’d really love to nail a nice job able to travel to different places, being as your guide or similar, to share experiences and keep motivated. Thanks!

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I'm Erin, Your New Tour Guide

If you’re interested in travel, love spending time outdoors, or want to learn more about photography, you’re in the right place. I’m an adventure trip leader turned travel photographer, passionate about learning & sharing the real stories from the places I visit.



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