One of the essential skills of professional guiding is customer service. A fun way to enhance the adventure experience is to incorporate special touches into activities that, while simple and unnecessary, are memorable and enjoyable for everyone. These special touches are known in the biz as ‘wow factors.’ You can take a page from a guide’s customer service playbook by similarly ‘wowing’ your friends during your own adventures.
Outdoor pursuits can take on many forms, from casual evening walks in your local open space to weekend getaways to epic expeditions that involve heightened risk and challenge. But one thing all adventures have in common is that they are meant to be enjoyable (type II & III fun counts!). There are plenty of inherent joys associated with outdoor recreation, though you can also kick it up a notch with special surprises for your adventure buddies.
As a memorable example, two winters ago I was cross-country skiing with three other friends. It was bitterly cold and there was a brisk wind. At lunchtime, we hunkered down in the trees together. One friend then pulled out a camp stove and cooked up a Backpacker’s Pantry Thai Noodle meal for us all to share. It was amazing to have something hot to eat and his kind act of cooking it up really brought up the energy of the group. It was a cool move on a cold day. Another example from the extreme end of this practice comes from another friend – she organized a brass band to greet everyone at the trailhead!!
Blow are some ideas of how you can ‘wow’ your friends on your own adventures. These examples are by no means prescriptive; meant simply to get your own creative juices flowing. What really sets the tone for wowing everyone is how hard you worked to make it happen. For instance, beers at the trailhead are easy and relatively expected. How about beers at camp on day 3 of a backpacking trip?! Similarly, things that took effort prior to the trip will also be more surprising and appreciated.
- Camp cocktails. Mix lemonade powder with the liquor of your choice. Add in a fresh piece of fruit and a mini tiki umbrella. Serve them as a lakeside surprise.
- Fresh homemade baked treats out on the trail.
- A whole melon. Pull it out of your pack and slice it up with the cutlery and cutting board you brought with you. Remember a ziplock so you can pack out the seeds and rinds.
- Bring hot drinks to friends in the morning while they are still in their tent.
- Aesthetics. Serve food in an appealing way with a colorful cloth to keep things out of the dirt. Create centerpieces from natural items.
- Read a poem or quote, or share a story. Choose something interesting and applicable to the area you are in, or to the activity you are participating in.
One word of caution – consider how your ‘wow factor’ will work in context of the wilderness experience. For instance, loud music, large rafts in alpine lakes, or bright camp lights can have significant impacts on not only your own group’s experience, but for others recreating in your vicinity as well.
Colby Brokvist is a professional guide who leads worldwide expeditions for some of the most acclaimed companies in adventure travel. When not working in far-flung destinations, he designs and facilitates guide training programs and is the Chair of the Polar Tourism Guides Association. His upcoming book “The Handbook for Professional Guides” is due out in winter/spring of 2022.