Blog Archive

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I thrive on adventure and make fitness a regular routine, so imagine how excited I was to connect with The Wild Side of Travel on Facebook.  Meet Maureen Hutchison, the person behind this dynamic way to travel.  

Maureen hiking at Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile

Envision yourself swimming with sharks, ice climbing, sea kayaking, exploring caves, or cycling to a wine region.  While all of these options sound irresistible, biking to a wine region would be at the top of my list.

Maureen will put her heart and soul into planning your trip of a lifetime.  I had the pleasure of interviewing her, so take a looksie!
Global Hidden Gems - Do you have any future plans of hosting your own TV show?   I'm thinking of "Amazing Race" as I pose this question:)
The Wild Side of Travel - At this time, no. I think it would be a great experience to participate in the Amazing Race as it’s not only a great way of seeing the world but it’s an adventure in activity and skill. 
Kayaking in Mexico anyone?

Global Hidden Gems - What are your biggest challenges when planning a group trip? 
The Wild Side of Travel - It all depends on the size of the group. The majority of the groups I plan for are small in size that range from 6 – 20 people. Most people come to me with a destination in mind and I collaborate with them to put together the best trip possible that best suits their time, budget, and travel style. The biggest challenge is when new clients come to me for ideas for their next trip and everyone in the group can’t agree on the same location or idea. This is the phase of trip planning that takes a long time for me as everyone needs to be on board in the decision making process. 
It’s very important that I get to know each person of the group and in turn I do this by asking them lots of questions and have each person complete a travel questionnaire even before I get started.  The information gathered through my consultation and questionnaire is very valuable as it provides me with the tools I need to plan the perfect getaway for the group. It’s a very lengthy process but I enjoy it. It also allows me to get to know my clients better and in turn they get to know me as well.

What a spectacular way to see Switzerland

Global Hidden Gems - What are your favorite tips for staying active while traveling and during long flights? 
The Wild Side of Travel - I’ve been a personal trainer for over 20 years as my background is fitness and wellness. Even though I don’t actively train clients anymore, I’m still involved in some capacity in the fitness/wellness industry to promote active living and I enjoy giving people tips on how to stay active while traveling. The best piece of advice I can give to travelers who are taking long flights, is to drink plenty of water (avoid soda & alcohol when flying), and to keep moving. Many airlines want you to stay in your seat with your seat belt on which is great advice, but to avoid stiffness, I recommend getting out of your seat every few hours and walk around the aisles if you can. If you are on a long layover, walk around the terminal or research ahead of time if there are fitness clubs nearby the airport that you can use for a daily rate. Many airports are now offering rooms for people to go to meditate, practice yoga, or get a quick workout in.
Another tip I give to travelers is to get a map of the city or destination you are visiting and walk around to view the local sites instead of taking a taxi or tour bus. Not only are you expending calories and keeping the body moving, you might even discover some great local eateries or places of interest. 

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek in Peru

Global Hidden Gems - Are you a personal guide to individuals or groups on the trips you plan?
The Wild Side of Travel - I do guide some of my group trips. I will be doing more of this in the future, which will include women’s only active trips, couples trips and wellness/educational trips. I really enjoy hosting trips as it provides me with an opportunity to learn more about my clients and get to know them on a more personal level. It’s also piece of mind for some travelers to have a travel advisor with them on their journey just in case something goes wrong and I’m there to fix it for them.

Global Hidden Gems - I love the multi-generational travel approach idea mentioned on your website.  Do you foresee yourself planning those types of trips for families?
The Wild Side of Travel - 95% of my clients are 40+ years in age. Many of these people are well traveled or are in the early stages of retirement. They are at the point where they want to start creating memories for their family (children, grandchildren) and spend more time with them. So to answer your question, yes, I see multi-generational travel becoming even more popular than it is now and I see myself planning many of these trips. However, my focus will still be on including active and wildlife portions into the itineraries which is what I do best and what I’m trained in. 

One of the other reasons multi-generational travel appeals to me, is how travel brings families closer together, especially when they are experiencing a destination, or a moment together for the first time.  There is nothing more rewarding for me than when families return from a vacation together and describe the details of their entire trip to me. The expressions heard through their voices is priceless! This is one of the main reasons I started my business was to change people’s lives and create memories. I’ve done a few of these trips now for a few families and I will continue to do more in the future. 

Experience wild life in Mexico
Global Hidden Gems - If you could choose one outdoor activity, what would it be and why?
The Wild Side of Travel - This is a really tough question for me as I’m a huge outdoors person and I love to be active. Even though rock climbing, kayaking, and cycling are some of my favourite activities, I’ve been a trail runner for most of my life and for me, there is nothing like being outside in the forest, with nature, and alone with my thoughts. There are no rules when it comes to running and when you’re on the trails, you never know what you’re going to encounter. I think it’s the mystery of the unknown that draws me to the trails and keeps me going back.
Global Hidden Gems - If it's possible to answer, do you have that "one" place you have traveled to and would never grow weary of repeat visits?
The Wild Side of Travel - Another tough question. It’s hard to just pick one location as I have visited so many incredible destinations and each one is unique for its own reasons. The one place that always comes to mind when I’m asked this question, is Patagonia, in particular, Torres del Paine National Park. I love to visit remote places where few others have visited. These days, it’s very hard to find a destination like this as more and more people are traveling to off the beaten path destinations. If there was ever a perfect vacation, this was it! From waking up in the morning to look outside my window to view the snow-capped mountain peaks, to hiking, cycling, running, and horseback riding all day, and then returning to a world class lodge, Explora, to dining on some incredible food and world class wine. I would visit here yearly if I could. 

Cave dwellings in Italy

Global Hidden Gems - For those who are interested in starting a travel business, what kind of advice can you offer? What is the best way to get your brand out there?
The Wild Side of Travel - I think it’s always important to be passionate about you do in life. This is not the secret to success (I haven’t figured that out yet – LOL!) but it’s important to enjoy what you do for a living and for the right reasons. When I started in travel industry, I booked anything and everything. I learned the business from scratch and developed great relationships with my suppliers, which is essential in this business. Besides myself, my suppliers are the people that are going to take care of my clients when they travel.
I learned quickly that you can’t be everything to everyone. Decide on a destination or a niche that best represents you (ie. family travel, romance travel, singles, special needs, etc.) and stay clear on your intention. The travel business is constantly changing and keeping up with all the information on airlines, destinations, tour operators, cruise lines, and hotels is time consuming. Know your client and their needs and set clear goals on how to differentiate yourself from other travel advisors. 

Swimming with sharks in the Galapagos

If you want to learn more about The Wild Side of Travel, this is where you need to click: 

Maureen offers an informative weekly newsletter and hosts Twitter chats every Friday at 11am EST.  All the details can be found on the website.

All photos were taken (with permission) from The Wild Side of Travel's Facebook page.

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