Originally published on theage.com.au
Justin Bonavia was studying criminal justice at RMIT and working part time in the Juvenile Detention Centre at Parkville as a youth worker when he first started to think about the positive impact that adventurous outdoor activities had on young people.
Five years later, employed as a wellbeing worker at The Pavilion School, Bonavia challenged his students to try fishing, hiking and rock climbing . The students’ reaction inspired him to start his own adventure tour company, Aussie Escapades.
Bonavia is a self-taught entrepreneur. Beginning with one 12-seat minivan, a sense of adventure, bucketloads of enthusiasm and a burning passion for the outdoors, he has built Aussie Escapades up into a profitable company in just 18months. He employs four guides and has taken more than 1000 people out to explore the world.
He says he has succeeded in his mission to “turn what I love into a career”.
Tour guide, Miranda Mildenhall, agrees that it is Bonavia’s energy and personality that makes it such a positive working environment.
Drawing on the interpersonal skills he developed as a youth worker, Bonavia manages his tour groups like he does his classes. He sees it as his role to connect with his clients and engage them in every activity. He encourages them by indulging in each experience with them. He also takes professional photos, and films groups as they achieve their goals.
In future he aims to employ other enthusiastic guides to run his local trips so he can concentrate on expanding his company to offer international trips for skiing in Japan or cycling in the French Alps.
There are, however, drawbacks to running your own company without having a background in business, Bonavia says.
“You’ve got to be hungry for success but you also have to know when to switch off. Because it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Energy and enthusiasm seem to be the common ingredient in this career. Tracey Wright from Take Shape Adventures agrees that it’s a fun industry.
A decade ago she was 45kilograms overweight and looking to change her life when she undertook a personal training course and then started a fitness studio with her partner, Adrian Infanti.
Wright loves bushwalking and wanted to share this with her clients. She led a small group up into the mountains as a way to give them the opportunity to improve their fitness while having a positive experience in the outdoors.
Now, the team is regularly leading adventure weekends and Take Shape Adventures runs on a separate business model to the studio. “My mission has always been to help people see that the world is out there for the taking”, Wright says.
“Nobody ever gets to the end of a hike and says it wasn’t worth it.”
Both Aussie Escapades and Take Shape Adventures are relatively new to a competitive market but both are attracting the bulk of their clients through their use of social media.
Wright says that the trips are booked out almost as soon as she puts them up online. Her clients have created a community of adventure lovers who encourage each other to join in.
A passion and enthusiasm for fitness and nature are the winning combination needed for a career in adventure travel. With that, entrepreneurs can climb all the way to the top of the mountains and get paid for a lifestyle and a career that they love.