On an Austin-Lehman Adventure

By Kasey Austin

(Guest blogger for Taking the Kids)

I get asked all the time…. So what is it like growing up in Adventure Travel? About all I can say is simply… it’s always an adventure!

My earliest memories go way back to Alaska, everything from ice fishing with my dad to spending time at a remote fly-in camp and hiking trails frequented by moose and other larger than life critters! Especially to a 4 or 5 year old.  You see, I have always been my dad’s “Adventure Buddy” even before he got into the adventure travel business.   

I remember every detail of our first Family Adventure Vacation to Yellowstone National Park shortly after my dad bought Backcountry Tours out of Bozeman, Montana.  The first thing he wanted to do was create a family program, and I was always eager to let him test it out on me.  I was 5 years old when we headed into Yellowstone for a week with kids (and their families) from all over the United States. We spent the week rafting, biking, horseback riding and hiking. Our guides were amazing! We learned so much and had a ton of fun – I just knew this wasn’t the last time for me.  Funny thing is, it’s been 16 years or so and I still am friends with several of the kids I met on that very first trip, and in fact have since traveled again with a few of them and their families. 

My own experience confirms how important traveling with your family really is and the amazing and everlasting memories these trips create!

But back to my “story”.  As I said, traveling with my dad (and brother and mom) has really been a highlight and a focal point for me growing up.  Seems every chance we had we were off to check out (and develop) a new adventure travel destination or join a group on a tried and true program.  And to be honest, it really didn’t matter to me which it was, as long as I was included.  I just knew I was hooked!  

Rafting with Austin-Lehman Adventures

Seems the trips started getting more and more exotic as the company grew and so did I…  I remember my dad telling me one year as I was ready to head back to school (I think it was 7th grade) after spending 5 weeks in Peru and Ecuador, “when the other kids ask you what you did this summer, just smile and say ‘not much’”.  But I know these travels really helped me in school…  whether it was 8th grade Spanish and remembering what I learned in Costa Rica or just having the confidence to stand in front of the Science Class and sharing the difference between a Glacier Valley and a River Valley (learned on one of my first Montana Family Adventures), it was always easy for me to relate something I learned while traveling to what I was learning in class!

I am who I am today as a direct result of each and every trip my family has taken these last 17 years…  It was one of our first trips back to Alaska to join our new Alaska Family Adventure when I was about 12 that I really “knew” what I wanted to do with my life!  I remember declaring mid-way through our Glacier Cruise; “I am going to grow up and be a guide just like Matty K”.   I came back from that Alaska Adventure all excited about my future in Adventure Travel….  In fact I penned an article for a Family Travel Magazine – take a look at: “Kid’s Talk About Adventure Travel”

Well, that Alaska trip was now over 10 years ago…. After High School I enrolled in the Elementary Education Program at the University of Montana and spent my summers guiding.  Interestingly enough I had a chance to guide a few Montana Adventures with Matty K (he still sees me as that 12 year old with all the energy… ) My summer guiding has taken me back to Alaska, Grand Teton National Park, Montana, Yellowstone too many times to count, and one of my new favorites – the Black Hills of neighboring South Dakota….  You can check out my guide profile at: Kasey Austin’s Guide Bio 

The story just doesn’t end there (even though that might be a good one in its own right).  My evolution in the Adventure Travel Business has just kept getting more and more interesting.  After graduating last spring from UM, I went off to guide for the summer as planned, with every intention of teaching somewhere in Montana that fall.  As the guide season was wrapping up, my dad approached me with an offer too good to pass up!  How would I like to join him (and my mom) in the office and be our Field Operations Liaison?  What that really meant, I had no idea and I am learning as I go! My first “official” duty was to join my dad on a trip to Chiapas, Mexico for the Adventure Travel Trade Association World Summit.  While in Mexico we pulled together an amazing Yoga retreat at a great coffee plantation named Argovia, Finca…  but that was just a start! Now with a few months under my belt, I get to work with our guides on making sure our trips are the very best, I communicate with our partners around the world making sure they understand the ALA way, and of course I will still get to guide a few trips each and every year.

So the adventure continues and I am along for the ride….