Adventurer, guide, and owner of Outventurous, Gabriel Gersch recently did an Instagram Takeover for Alpacka Raft of his exploratory packrafting trip to Greenland. Of adventure, Gersch says, “It begins with leaving our comfort zone in pursuit of intense, challenging and extraordinary moments. Life offers all kinds of ways to get there – wilderness travel is one of them.” Gersch leads trips around the world, with the goal of offering affordable opportunities to people who might not be able to afford it. People cover their own expenses, with Gersch charging only a small amount for helping them with personal preparation and group leadership. We recently asked Gersch a few questions about the inspiration for his business and what it is about sharing adventure with others that inspires him. Check out our Q&A below, or visit his business website, Outventurous.com.
Alpacka Raft: What inspired you to start this business?
Gabriel Gersch: I used to work as a wilderness guide in Alaska. We offered trekking and packrafting trips, mostly in the Arctic North. It was fun, but after a couple of seasons I wanted to guide in other parts of the world, too. So I decided to start something of my own.
AR: Why did you decide to make it affordable for others?
GG: Selling lengthy wilderness journeys is a dilemma of some kind: People with the ambition and the time to go on a challenging four- or five-week trips are often younger, they usually haven’t gone deep into their careers yet, and they make less money. But the trips we are talking about are almost always very expensive when booked with a typical tour operator – too expensive for the younger folks at least. So the young people don’t have the money and the older ones don’t have the time. In a way you have to make such trips affordable if you want to attract any potential customers at all, so I’ve been working on a concept that allows ambitious people to join my trips on a low-budget basis.
AR: In what ways are your trips more affordable and/or different from other adventure companies?
GG: I don’t sell ready-made vacation packages, where you join a group of up to 12 people to follow the guide on a trek he has lead several times before. Most of the time I design trips bases on what I want to do – and I invite others to join me, usually two to four people. Often these trips take place in areas I’ve never been to before, so it’s a higher risk on the customer’s side, but a deep look into my travel history and the many routes I completed in the past should indicate enough credibility. And, of course, I charge much less: the goal is to have a real wilderness experience on a limited budget. Think of it like a group of friends traveling together on a cost-sharing basis, where the most experienced person gets financially compensated for doing all the planning, organizing and for bringing the most know-how into the field.
AR: What inspires you to take others on your trips?
GG: Generally, I prefer traveling with friends over solo travels. If I had a really busy job that I could escape for only three or four weeks a year, that would probably be different. But since I’m usually gone for several months in a row, I like to have company – it makes for better conversations and it’s safer. Plus, if you depend on the income as a guide, traveling alone is not helping much. 😉
AR: How do you make a living if you don’t charge much?
GG: I work in other projects, too. Everything I do is somehow outdoor-related, but it’s not just guiding: Photography, travel presentations and consulting for outdoor equipment manufacturers play a part in it as well.
AR: What are one or two of your personal dream adventures?
GG: I want to go on a several year-long journey around the world with my own future family. Ideally with one of these expedition trucks that have enough room to bring trekking equipment, packrafts, sleeping bags for different seasons et cetera, so you can do all kinds of wilderness trips at the side in areas, that are hard to get to without a vehicle. And yes, when I say “future family”, I mean kids, too.
AR: Is there anything I’m not asking that you want to share with me?
GG: Sure, when I give these speeches and presentations, I sometimes close by saying, that, even for me, traveling is not the most important thing in life. Actually, traveling is a pretty selfish thing to fill your life with, in most cases it doesn’t exactly change the world for the better. Happiness doesn’t come with a certain hobby or life goal – it’s what you are, the values you stand for, the relationships you build. I’m always keen on motivating people to travel – as a way to understand the world and yourself a little better, not as an end in itself.