Enjoying the ice bubbles on Abraham Lake
These are the elements we bring together to create the adventure. This is our framework to determine which options will best work together.
Update – April 2021: We’ve done a lot of work defining what makes an adventure ours over the past few years. You can find out more about how we use the adventure framework here.
What makes an adventure? Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends”. Each adventure is unique, coming from within each of the participants. That means that there isn’t a list of elements that when combined together guarantees you’ll have a successful experience to offer.
We prefer to work with a framework, a series of questions we ask ourselves as we build a new adventure for our guests. It gives us both a starting point when we build new tours and a checklist to make sure we’ve considered all aspects of the adventure.
Here’s an overview of the blocks we combine together to create memorable activities that create connections between our guests and our region.
These are the elements we bring together to create the adventure. This is not about a list of things that must be included, but rather about asking ourselves a series of questions to determine which options will best work together.
The Hero & The Journey
Understanding our guests’ needs, combined with our knowledge of the destination allows us to set the theme for the adventure. That theme is part of the journey, connecting each stage as one adventure.
Defining the journey requires empathy. We need to look at the adventure from the guests’ perspective, considering what they want rather than what we want them to do.
The Shared Purpose
The adventure’s purpose is similar to the vision, theme or big idea that other frameworks use. The questions we ask ourselves are why do we want to offer this adventure, what are the problems we’re solving from the guests’ perspective and how might we help them.
The other overarching element is choosing the settings. That includes the location, the season, the time of day and the type of product (e.g. rentals, full-day tour, package, etc).
Once we have these in place it’s time to tackle the building blocks of the adventure. That’s where the smaller details come together to create the connections with place and people.
The Building Blocks
At its core, adventure is about sharing moments. For this to happen, we need to ensure that we have the right activity. Once this is in place we can focus on the type of moments we want to create, whether they are goosebump, aha, pride or connection moments.
The stories we share help give those moments meaning and create stronger connections. We use the word story loosely, referring to communication that is designed to interest, entertain or teach. Stories have the power to draw us in, creating an emotional connection with the facts presented.
This requires us to set up a safe environment, physically and emotionally. Physical safety is usually top of mind when talking about outdoor adventure and it is widely covered through risk management plans as well as under occupational health and safety legislation.
Going outside of our daily lives is mentally demanding and requires a level of trust between the guest and the guide. Creating a safe environment allows the guests to focus on the task at hand and to enter a state of flow that is conducive to enjoying the moments.
Creating a safe environment means a number of things, from showing inclusivity and diversity early on in the journey to ensuring that the guests have the information needed to be comfortable with their decision. This will vary from person to person.
It doesn’t mean removing all elements of challenge, risk or uncertainty. These are essential elements of an adventure. It is about setting expectations that are achievable, and as guides, it is our responsibility to be there for the guests to help them recover if they fail.
The logistics cover all the work that’s done behind the scene to create the experience for the guests, the customer service and the small details that have a large impact.
Finally, we need to consider the best ways to reinforce the memories. This can be done through a more in-depth debrief or simply through a conversation over hot chocolate at the end of the tour, sharing the highlights and surprises of the day. This is the step that makes a collection of activities into an experience.
The difference between the retail and purpose based approaches to experiences is one of mindset: a focus on the short versus the long term.
Authenticity, desirability, feasibility and viability need to be addressed at every step of the experience development process.
All of these activities have the power to transform participants. The difference is on what they aim to change.
The need to explain the difference between a travel package, an itinerary, a destination experience and a product experience is one that we come across often when working with others on new opportunities.
A look at two different ways to craft experiences we often come across, each of them appealing to a different type of operators and guests.