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Interview with Trish Sare of BikeHike Adventures

Trish Sare started her adventure tour company with a single trip to Costa Rica in 1994 from her then-home in Toronto. Today, Vancouver-based BikeHike Adventures offers multi-sport tours in twenty-nine countries on six continents. Trips range from horseback riding in Romania and caving in New Zealand to volunteering at a school in Thailand (along with biking the Golden Triangle) or adventures closer to home, sea kayaking, whale watching, hiking and more in Canada.

Could you give us a little background on why you started BikeHike Adventures?

My mother passed away at the age of 46, and before she died she told me to go and see the world as you never know what tomorrow holds. I took her words seriously and at the age of 20 I left for a five-year dream trip working my way around the world. I met so many inspirational people out there, learned so much about the world and had so many incredible experiences that I came back to Canada wanting to start my own company giving others the same experiences that I had.

Where did you start out with the company and how has it grown?

I started with just one trip to Costa Rica, with one date, just to see if it would work. The first trip sold out at 12 people. Then it was starting all over again from the beginning. I added four more departures the following year. Then I added four new destinations, for five in total. It took about four years before I was able to make a full-time living out of BikeHike Adventures and not have to work a few jobs at a time to make ends meet. Today we operate in 30 countries worldwide and also have won many awards including being named one of the Top Adventure Travel Companies on Earth from National Geographic Adventure magazine for two years in a row.

Running an adventure tour company sounds like a dream job to a lot of us. Is it a dream job for you?

Definitely! I just love what I do. No two days are the same. I get to dabble in many different areas of business and travel. I meet so many interesting people from all over the world. My career is also about making people happy, which is something that makes me proud each day.

What are some of the challenges you face (or have faced) with BikeHike Adventures?

The travel industry is highly affected during difficult economic times and during instability in political climates or health risks, so we always have to be creative in our growth strategies. After September 11, it was a challenge to get travellers out on the road. During the SARS crisis no one wanted to come to Canada. Today, Americans are not coming to Canada as much as they did when the U.S. dollar was much stronger than the Canadian dollar; therefore we have to reach out to other nationalities to join our Canadian trips.

Do you get the opportunity to take your own trips with BikeHike Adventures?

Most definitely. I scout every single trip before it comes a BikeHike Adventures. I also always lead the first and then go back every few years to check up to ensure things are going well. I also take media on trips and do special departures with our dedicated clients. I’m on the road a good four months of the year.

How do you develop new trips for BikeHike Adventures?

I generally get an idea for a new trip we’d like to develop and then fly to that destination and run through an itinerary. I reach out to locals in the area to find out the local insights that we should incorporate into an itinerary. Then I hire a local guide there to take me through the area by multi-sport. I am looking to see that guide’s skill set in communication, safety, enthusiasm, intelligence, etc. I scout hotels vehicles, trains and attractions in the area, and also meet the local people to infuse lots of cultural encounters into our trips.

For someone just dipping their toe into adventure travel and who may not have done much hardcore travelling in the past what are some Canadian tours you’d recommend?

I’d start off by doing some one- to two-day trips first before diving into a full week of adventure. I’ll name some adventures here in British Columbia as they are here in my backyard. Some adventures I’d recommend: A zipline adventure in Whistler. A float trip down the Elaho River in Squamish during the salmon spawning season (November–February)—you can spot up to 5,000 eagles during that time. Also a couple of days of bike touring through the Okanagan Valley and doing wine tastings are always fun.

Personally, what is one of your favourite spots in Canada for:

…mountain biking?
Ontario, as I love the rolling tight and twisty trails. BC has much more rugged terrain than Ontario, so it is rated much more difficult.

…scenic hiking?
The West Coast Trail is just beautiful and rugged. It has coastline, rainforest, shipwrecks and so many ladders which adds a level of adventure; a crab shack, burgers and beer in the middle; and tons of wildlife (whales, seals, sea lions, eagles, cougar).

…whitewater canoeing or rafting?
The Ottawa River is incredible for rafting. For whitewater canoeing, I’d say Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial ParkTemagami region (north of North Bay) and the 30,000 Islands (Georgian Bay Islands National Park).

…rock climbing?
The Chief in Squamish’s Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.

How has developing BikeHike Adventures changed the way you travel and what have been the biggest rewards?

I started off as a backpacker, living life the simple way. I’d arrive at airports with no one there to meet me—I was on my own. Now when I travel, I have an entourage meeting me and I’m put up in beautiful hotels, taken out for dinners, invited into local homes. The biggest rewards of starting BikeHike Adventures is that I’ve met some incredible people from all over the world. I’ve seen travellers meet their soul mates on trips and get married. I’ve seen friendships built between our travellers and with the locals that they meet. Ultimately, the kind of travel that we do changes peoples’ lives and makes them happy.

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Keep up with BikeHike Adventures on the company’s blog or via Facebook, or get the latest news and deals on Twitter @bikehiketravel.

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