Montana man develops travel business
MONTANA LIVING — Brian Morgan wasn’t quite ready for the job market when he graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Montana.
Instead, he packed a few bags and headed for Quito, Ecuador. Fluent only in English and living on sparse finances, Morgan enrolled in Spanish language classes. With occasional consulting work keeping him afloat, he stayed in Ecuador for nearly eight months and fell in love with the culture, the land and the people.
In 1998, Morgan returned to Montana eager to share the exceptional beauty and culture of Ecuador with anyone seeking an adventure. He assembled a simple, homemade pamphlet promoting a trip to Ecuador and passed it out around the University of Montana.
Not a single person replied.
Brian Morgan Adventure for Life
Luckily for Morgan, the Web and e-mail revolution had taken off. By 1999 he “threw a web site up and people started coming to it,” Morgan said. His unique trips and travel services soon found an enthusiastic audience.
By March 1999, Morgan’s adventures to Ecuador had caught on. He received regular calls about the trips and as their popularity grew, Morgan enlisted the help of his mother, Betty Ann, who answered phone calls, e-mails and booked trips while he stayed in Ecuador researching hotels and other local businesses. By June, Morgan was living meagerly and working out of his parent’s attic in Havre, Mont. “I completely boot-strapped it;” said Morgan, “I put in more time than money.”
It was time well-spent. Now called Adventure Life, Morgan’s business is one of the most engaging eco-tourism companies in the country. Based in Missoula, Adventure Life offers more than 50 itineraries with magnificent journeys throughout South and Central America and Antarctica.
Most trips are limited to 12 people, ensuring a personal experience. From cruises in Antarctica and the Galapagos to kayaking in the Amazon, climbing glaciers in Argentina and exploring Incan ruins, Adventure Life provides exciting, culture-friendly journeys at a variety of ability levels.
“We’re different than a traditional travel agency,” Morgan said. “There are many companies like Adventure Life, but we specialize in 12 countries and know them very well. We don’t book airfare or hotels - we do all the stuff you can’t do on Expedia.”
Just look at one of their colorful and vivid catalogues. You’ll be propelled into a journey through the rainforest, a whitewater trip down a river in Peru or a trek to Mayan temples in Guatemala. Discover intimate details of each trip – the best times of year to travel, each adventure’s unique food and culture and the varying physical aspects to expect along the way.
Read about accommodations, trip highlights and the journey’s varied means of transportation including dugout canoes, vintage buses, Jeeps and trains.
“So many customers write and tell us they have a life-changing experience,” Morgan said. “The places are beautiful. A few trips are rustic or have a rustic night; it gives people a taste of what rural life is like in these countries. Some of the best experiences are the home-stays and host families.”
Ecotourism is a catch phrase Morgan feels is worn-out in the tourism marketing industry - but deeply defines the mission and practices of Adventure Life. “The definition is overused,” he said. “Ecotourism is more than a hike in the woods.” He feels the true meaning is about responsible tourism, giving back to the local economies and making a minimal impact on cultures and environment.
Through eight years of traveling, researching and hard work, Morgan built one of the most genuine adventure travel companies in the country — right from Montana. Adventure Life is now known worldwide and continues to grow. “It’s been fantastic building the company,” he said. “I love what I’ve done and I love what I do.
The most exciting part was creating the company – it was so much fun – and it’s still growing. It’s not any old company; it’s international travel and exotic cultures and people.”