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"Boy, it Must be Great to Get Paid For What You Do"

by Jill Baxter, Bear Creek Outdoor Centre

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There is no denying that outdoor adventure has come into its own.

I still remember the days when people would look at me sideways with that ³you are a bright girl, don't you think you should have a real job? look on their faces when I told them that I was an adventure tourism guide. But these days, with the Outdoor Life Network in everybody¹s living room, the responses are very different indeed. Now, a little light shines in their eyes and they ask me which rivers I have guided and if I can give them any advice in planning their next trip. How things change. 

Adventure travel and ecotourism form the world's fastest growing tourism sector and outdoor adventure programming is at the heart of this growth. Consumers of these programs are looking for excitement, a level of risk, unique experiences, education and fun. Analysts believe that the worldwide demand for adventure and ecotourism vacations will continue to grow well into the next century, pushing the sector's revenue
higher every year.

With the growth of the industry has come a need for professionals to be the front line delivery for adventure products, and a well qualified professional is a sought after commodity worldwide in adventure travel.

Many colleges and universities have keyed into this need and are now offering excellent programmes giving students a solid foundation in the outdoor adventure tourism industry.

Employers value post secondary education, however, most programmes do not include industry recognized skills certification.  It is the combination of attitude, knowledge, skills certification and experience that will make you marketable in the industry.

I always used to say to people starting out in this industry that what I do, I do because I love it, what I get paid for is having the judgement and decision making skills to avoid having to use all of my training. By that I mean,  If you are a river guide,  what you do is make sure people have a great time, that they are fed amazing food and hit all the big rapids and learn things they did not know about the places they visit.

But I am more than a river hostess. I have years of experience behind every decision I make, I have specialized training in rescue and wilderness medicine, I have studied the places I work in and respect the inherent risks of my working environment, I have planned every detail of the trip beforehand and drawn up contingency plans and I understand both the strengths of my group and my own limitations.

This is not a job for everyone. It is not for people who do not want to take responsibility.

This is a job for leaders. And leader does not mean control freak. It is someone who is well organized, who cares about people, who puts group/guest needs ahead of their own. It is someone who is flexible, who has a sense of humour, and is so passionate about what they do that their professionalism and pride in their work shows through in their every action. A leader is not a show off. Though I cannot remember who said it, the words ring in my ears ³A good leader is one who, at the end of the day, when all goals have been met, the group will say "we did it ourselves".

Many times I have guided trips with corporate executives who have told me that if ever I get tired of playing for a living I would be welcome in their human resources department or in a managerial position.  Needless to say I have never taken any of them up on their offers. I have now been ³playing for a living² for over ten years and I am not prepared to quit any time soon.  Why would I? I love my office, all the wild and wonderful places of the earth,  I meet fabulous people, I can dress casually and not worry about how my hair looks, and I find new inspiration every day because every day is different from the last and you never know what it will bring.

A typical day may involve waking up in some spectacular place. Making coffee and packing your gear before anyone else is out of their tents. After breakfast perhaps a hike or on the river, if you see something wonderful you stop and check it out. Maybe it is a herd of muskox or caribou or young golden eagles in their nest,  maybe it is a stream that meanders to a waterfall just perfect for swimming under, perhaps it is the art work of a people who traveled the same way thousands of years before you.

All day long you play, you discover, you explore the places around you, you learn and you teach and you soothe your tired and happy body with a soak in a natural hot spring.

It is hard work but you will truly love your job and you are guaranteed to hear these words from almost every one of your guests at one time or another, ³boy, it must be great to get paid for what you do?² and you will heave a big sigh and say " is".

Further Information
Jill Baxter is the owner / operator of Bear Creek Outdoor Centre near Canada¹s capitol city of Ottawa.

Bear Creek Outdoor Centre runs a ten week intensive summer programme in Outdoor Adventure Leadership. Skills, certification, knowledge and one incredible experience.

To find out more about this exciting programme go to or write the director

Brief Programme Details
Since it's conception Bear Creek has been providing leadership training and certification in outdoor adventure.  With our beautiful facility, exceptional staff, and terrific location close to some of the best rivers in the country we can offer training in many different outdoor activities.

Bear Creek Outdoor Centre offers a 10 week summer program through our Advanced Leadership Training Institute to students from around the world. A summer programme in Outdoor Adventure Leadership. The programme will focus on personal development through group experience and skills mastery.

Programme activity areas include White water canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Mountain Biking, Climbing, Wilderness first aid, Swift water rescue, Riverboarding, Leadership development and team building, and a major Canadian wilderness canoe expedition.

Image courtesy Anthony DeLorenzo