Life of a Tour Leader

The life of a tour leader isn’t for everyone. I mean, you’re seeing new places everyday, hiking the best trails, participating in the most adrenaline pumping activities, and hanging out with likeminded individuals. It can be overwhelming for the normal individual who is set on living the 9-5 lifestyle, always catching their favorite TV series, and sleeping in their “own” bed.

Strung Out Leader

During my early twenties I struggled with the transition from the “norm” into a seasonal and nomadic lifestyle. I was raised in a traditional family setting where we worked hard and deserved the vacations we went on every year. How could I live a life that was filled with all those things we longed for throughout the year?

Quality 70s Family

For me, every day is about staying ahead of the monotony. Keeping my energy high and my spirits even higher. Life on the road keeps me motivated and focused on what makes me feel the best physically and mentally. Seeing new sights, trying some new sport, hiking a new trail, or chatting with a stranger who has made their way out of the city. I find no fault in those who choose to remain in their comfort zone, it’s just hard for me to comprehend and I always find myself trying to convince them to challenge their predetermined boundaries and limits they imposed upon themselves.

Forest Gump Road

I set high standards for myself and hold others to those same high standards. I’ve been called the “coolest drill sergeant” people have ever met. I take that as a compliment, yet I would like to think that since those early days of tour leading I’ve mellowed out. Haha

Hat Day

When you come on a journey with me, you can count on smiling, laughing, pitching in, smelling like a campfire, eating S’mores and some days of muscle soreness.

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The Alaska Salmon Run

You still don’t know what to do this summer? Rather than read about our adventures, watch the latest pictures from our Alaska Adventure and maybe you decide to join us this August. We have had epic weather so far, a mama bear with two cubs right next to the bus, caribou and moose in Denali National Park as well as whales, sea otters and many eagles on our boat and kajak adventures in Seward and Homer on the famous Kenai Peninsula. Not to neglect the amazing views of glaciers and mountains. Did you know that Wrangell St. Elias National Park has 9 out of the 16 highest peaks in North America?

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Towards the last Frontier – Roads and Permafrost

In the last days we made our way up going further north and north. With no problems we got into Canada and decided to take the more scenic but also more difficult route via Banff, Jasper, the Cassier Highway towards Whitehorse and finally into Alaska.  Although the roads sometimes reminded me slightly to African roads we weren’t disappointed: 16 black bears, 1 grizzly bear, a caribou and a grey wolf in addition to an amazing scenery!

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The Cassier Highway finally meets the Alaska Highway and on some historic mileposts you can read about how the Alaska Highway was built and finished in 1942 and what difficulties they had to face. There is a phenomenon called “permafrost”:  The permanently frozen earth is underlying much of the northern landscape. When the builder scraped off the insulating layer of overburden, they exposed the permafrost to sun. This melted the permafrost and formed and ice-bottomed mud bog. Yukon sunshine in summer could produce as much mud as rain produces in other part of the world! Finally the frost in fall only made the road passible again. But the following spring the same happened again. The highway engineers finally had to learn that the best way to build a road over permafrost was to leave the insulating of dirt and vegetation in place and build the road on top of it. The underlying logs and timbers still underlie much of the road from today!

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Every winter frost and ice still damages most of Alaska’s and Canada’s roads which we could feel driving Atka around many potholes.  Luckily she did a great job and only lost her coolant water tank cab which we temporarily fixed with a dry bag and some zip ties.

We made it into Alaska over the border again and Atka had to pass a thorough inspection by Alaska’s DOT officials… and she did great! We can proudly announce that she has an Alaskan number plate now!

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In a few days the first trip will start and we are having a few days in Anchorage where the sun never goes down at the moment which means temperatures are very pleasant! By the way: Did you know that Anchorage is almost at the same latitude like Oslo in Norway?

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Las Vegas Madness

I have to admit, Las Vegas was never really on my bucket list. Gambling is something which never seemed appealing to me. I had too much statistics at school and university which told me that my chance to win was marginal.

But at the same time I am curious and always up for new things. So I got myself ready for a night out in Las Vegas. We were meeting up with an old friend of Dave, had a nice dinner with some margaritas (a good start!) and finally ended up at the first casino.

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Dave and John went straight for the Black Jack Table. And when Dave changed a hundred Dollar bill into chips I really had to hold myself back. “Seriously? You are wasting hundred dollars to gamble? Most likely losing it all?” The game started and I had no clue what was going on. It happened so fast! Chips were going and coming back to us. I found out about the positive side of gambling: While you are sitting and playing all drinks were for free…

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After half an hour John lost all his chips (and all his money), Dave surprisingly managed to get out even! We decided to take it a little slower and sit down at the bar with computer games. I am not sure if it was the amount of alcohol I already consumed or the fact that you gamble for a lot less at these computers, but I started liking it: Drinks for free and once in a while I tried my luck with the “Computer Black Jack”. I listened to the smartass comments from Dave and John how to win and how to play properly… and… decided that according to my knowledge I shouldn’t follow their advice. I was playing ten dollars, 25 cent each game, so there wasn’t much to lose. We ended up having a fun night, getting drunk and talking about politics – always a fun thing when Europeans and Americans come together…

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Probably it was just the beginner’s luck (I like to believe it was my left-over knowledge from statistics school science) and I made my ten dollars to become fourteen in the end! I have to admit that I didn’t care in the end of the night. It was fun hanging out with friends and having a good time.

Believe me – the following day I was useless.  My hangover was so bad that I decided to not drink for a while. But I guess that’s how your first Vegas experience should be!

If you have never been to Vegas, why not jump on one of our trips in the Western US this autumn? Las Vegas will be ending and starting point for some of our adventure trips and you will be able to combine city highlights with all the outdoor fun in the National Parks of North America!

We have left boiling hot Nevada and are almost at the border to Canada. This is our green campside next to the Beaver River in Montana.

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Across the Desert

In the previous post, we traversed from Tucson through the heat of Phoenix and up to the mountain town of Flagstaff. There we found a bunch of vagabonds, artists, teachers, and fellow travelers. As I am a former resident of this unique and eclectic town, it’s always a good time to return to a place where old friends and embellished stories are abound.

Gang at Hulabaloo

This post is about our journey from the mountains back into another desert. Did you know that the United States was covered by so much desert? There are actually 4 different deserts covering the US: Great Basin, Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan. This time of the year, the deserts reach highs in temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit! (44 degrees Celsius.)

When we fabricated our overland vehicle, we had in mind that we would run trips down south during the spring/fall and “The Last Frontier” during the summer to avoid this sweltering heat. That means we are traveling through these deserts without A/C! Well, sweating a little never hurt anyone and we’ve got the coolers stocked with ice to keep cold drinks and food.

Sitting behind of the wheel of a vehicle always gives me the greatest sense of freedom. As long as you’ve got money for fuel, you can travel thousand of miles and kilometers across this amazing country.

Taking some time

Traveling these distances also gives your mind time to wander. This time through, my mind wanders to the movie Casino. Some of you may remember the scene when Joe Pesci is beaten with baseball bats and dumped into a hole dug out in the middle of the desert. We are driving through huge open areas of desert with Joshua trees spread out evenly to allow themselves to get enough moisture without having to compete with its siblings. I assume that the many dead bodies left by the mafia back in the day have nourished these sporadic areas of ground to allow for the trees to grow.

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I never said I didn’t have a weird mind. Haha! On to “Sin City!”

Vegas Baby

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Going North!

After over a year of preparation we are finally there: A few days ago Dave and I started our 4000 mile journey up to Alaska. ATKA, our remodeled school bus, is ready to hit the road and we are, too!

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Packing up Atka in Tucson – we are ready to hit the road!

We left Tucson in Arizona saying good bye again. Good bye to some really good friends who helped us a lot during the last few months, but also saying good bye to the beautiful mountain and desert scenery with sunshine almost every day. It helped a little to know that Tucson will be soon reaching the 40 C mark (100 F), so we are off to some slightly cooler places now!

Our first drive day took us up to the mountains of Flagstaff for the weekend. We spent two great days with friends and enjoying the slightly cooler mountain climate along with the Hulabaloo festival.  Thanks to some friends we had VIP tickets which meant free beer!!

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David and me in Flagstaff chilling out at a festival with some friends

Today we traveled for a few hours on the historic Route 66. For some Asian tourists, our remodelled school bus was the highlight of their day;)

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A chinese tourist group checking out our remodelled school bus

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A quick lunch break in Seligman along the histroic route 66

Our next destination is Las Vegas: Meeting friends and attending the Pow Wow International travel show before we truly start navigating NORTH. Alaska here we come!

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Spotlight on Infinite Adventures

Friends of Infinite Adventures founded their own small, independent publishing company specialising in adventure and travel writing. The first book “It’s not a holiday” has funny stories from years of overlanding.

Infinite Adventures have been interviewed by Black Frog Publishing about Overlanding in North America. Check out why you should go on an overland trip in Alaska or the Western US: Black Frog Publishing – Interview with Infinite Adventures

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Proudly presenting Atka!

A few months have passed and we have been very busy getting our overland vehicle ready. Still a few things to do, but we don’t want to wait any longer… proudly presenting Atka – the guardian spirit! Dave will come back and finish the story about how we started Infinite Adventures. But I couldn’t hold back – too excited about our remodelled school bus!

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Travel Bug

One of the great things that happens when you’re traveling with a group of adventure travelers, is how you start discussing everyone’s prior travels; which then leads to the planning of your next adventure before the current one even ends. This was the case after one of my groups and I had finished trekking with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. It was the #1 experience of my life being surrounded by these amazing animals. Being completely surrounded by a family of 14 gorillas, allowing us to watch their interactions and just be a small part of their lives. There is no better feeling than seeing wild animals in their natural habitat.

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 This amazing experience gives everyone enormous amounts of adrenaline and after sharing each individual experience, the conversation continued to previous travels that had led people to similar interactions with wildlife. What I shared with my fellow travelers were my experiences I had had in Alaska.

Alaska, “The Last Frontier”, is abundant with stellar scenery, native and fishing cultures, all kinds of activities (from mellow to extreme) and wildlife to rival the best safaris in Africa. When you go to Denali National Park, there are no trails. It’s a wilderness that gives the adventurous soul a trailblazing experience unparalleled. Climb a mountain, hike through a flowered valley or follow the meandering path of the braided rivers while increasing your chances of seeing a bear, wolf, moose, caribou, fox, and so many other unique wild animals. Want to see the highest peak in North America? Hop in a seven-seater plane and soar over the national park and Mount McKinley with phenomenal views of glaciers, moraines and pristine wilderness.

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Just by discussing this one place in Alaska, I had my passengers hooked on the next adventure and they wanted to do it for 2013! Well, the company that I used to work for had only small passenger vans and these people were used to having their space in the large overland vehicle we were currently using. This was the perfect inspiration for starting my own company. The question was, could I get it up and running in time?

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An Overland Vehicle

Spending the last few years working for Dragoman throughout the Middle East, Africa and South America, I realized what the North American travel market is missing: Overland Vehicles. Driving these former cement trucks (refurbished into overland adventure vehicles) throughout these developing countries creating a home base for our passengers is exactly what is missing in the North American market. All the adventure companies are running around with 15-passenger vans and trailers attached to the back of them. Why are they not building vehicles that can carry more passengers with virtually the same fuel mileage?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my van when I worked with Trek America, but I was always in the driver’s seat, had enough leg space (as if that’s very difficult), the air-con or wind blowing in my face, and control of the music. No complaints on my end. But, the passengers were cramped up on bench seats that even a vertically challenged individual like myself could find uncomfortable traveling distances of up 400 miles in a day. The windows were big and visibility was good, but they don’t roll down and are tinted to the point of screwing up most pictures because your camera feels it’s too dark.

My ideal would to take a stripped chasis and build it from scratch, but who has $250,000 to invest in something like that? So, it was a compromise, not going with an old cement truck but with an old yellow school bus. One of the safest and sturdiest vehicles on the road. Our vehicle doesn’t need to be fast but it does need to be spacious and certified to carry groups of 20 passengers.

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Natalie and I purchasing our new bus, soon to be remodeled into an overland vehicle.

When the finished product arrives in February, it will have:

  • Viewing platform on top of vehicle for taking 360 Degree pictures of wildlife or landscape
  • Wood rack to carry firewood for campfires
  • Interior tables for at least 8 pax to write journals or play cards during the ride
  • Refrigeration to cool drinks and food
  • Individual overhead lockers for personal belongings and day packs
  • Overhead lights and speakers (to switch on and off individually)
  • Individual seats (no benches) which recline and are fitted with seatbelts
  • Tons of windows which are not tinted and open for maximum view and possibility to take photos at any time
  • Space for 6’6 (198 cm) men to be sitting comfortably
  • On-board safe for passenger passports and money
  • Safety rating of the overland vehicle (According to an April 2002 Congressional report, statistics show that school buses built after 1977 are 8 times safer than passenger vehicles due to their reinforced side panels, accurately distributed center-of-gravity, and seating design + speed governor at 62 mph)
  • Overland Vehicle that withstands the worst gravel road conditions
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