Darrell Wade, co-founder and CEO of Intrepid Travel, writes: I can’t really complain about my life, and even if I did you probably would give a shit anyway. But sometimes things just don’t work out so well….
As the founder of an adventure travel company I reckon it is my personal duty to get out and explore the world and think deeply about how to give people the best holiday they’ve ever had in their life. I mean to say if I don’t do it, who will?
And so I made the massive self sacrifice and took 6 weeks holiday in mid December. The first couple of weeks was down at Lorne and I have to say some serious drinking got in the way of any thinking. It was time to escape the clutches of friends and family with my liver barely in tact, so we headed off to the West Indies for a few weeks of island hoping and sailing.
Let me tell you life doesn’t get better. I had visions of the Caribbean being full of mega resorts and cruise ships. Not so! The sailing in particular was sublime. Clear skies, warm temperatures, good breezes make for a happy Darrell.
Every island is a country, and every one seems as different as could be. One day its as if you’re in an English county, the next the south of France, the next the wilds of Africa. (Seriously, Dominica reminded me of Zaire 20 years ago! It was utterly fantastic) And amazingly few tourists. No doubt they are there — Virgin Atlantic alone sends fourteen 747’s to the Caribbean a day, but I remain blissfully ignorant about where they hide them all.
Several weeks later and we were seriously chilled out with pathetic smiles on our faces and attempting to mimic the “Hey mon, stay cool, be happy” attitude of the locals. But all good things end and so we commenced the ridiculously long journey home and back to work…
I walk into the Intrepid office to the cries of “You’ve heard about Peru?….” “Ah, well, no….” Faced with an incredulous “Where have you been” looks, I’m told of the massive storms and flooding in Peru and that a couple of thousand people are stranded in a shitty little town near Machu Pichu. (It is shitty. Trust me — I’ve been there in better days and it was shitty even then.)
We know we have 29 travellers up there – but at this early stage they aren’t yet accounted for and so the mood is tense. The emergency procedure manuals are open, the phones are abuzz, the briefings are prepared and a project team is established. It is all hands on deck to ensure safety, comfort and evacuation in that order.
We were lucky that we had 5 staff on the ground with our travellers and a fully operational office in nearby Cusco. So this time around we were able to establish safety quickly and secure rooms and food better than most. It was way less than ideal — incessant rain, isolation, stories of food running out, continued changing plans and delays — and you start to have justifiably anxious travellers on your hands.
But as emergencies go, it was OK as all were safe — and at the end of the day that is the thing that really matters. Several days everyone was evacuated by helicopter, and lives are returning to normal. No doubt recounting their adventures — though certainly not the adventures we had planned for them.
Our operations department resumes it’s usual hum, the emergency manual is updated with any knowledge learnt and life goes on.
And so it is the life of a tour operator – from blissful exploration to the nightmare realities of managing emergencies and all the stressful uncertainties and anguish that entails. Unfortunately when you operate trips in over a hundred countries around the world for as long as we have, your team acquires a certain level of experience in disaster management.
I just wish I was still sailing somewhere off the coast of Guadeloupe….