I recently went on my first G Adventures tour in Northern Thailand. G Adventures’ business is sustainable travel – they use local vendors, transport and more to create authentic travel experiences for people, and ultimately to change peoples’ lives. I could talk for days about my brief trekking experience with them, but to give you a sense of it, I’ll just share one part:
We had been hiking in the mountainous northern region of Thailand for 2 days. It had poured rain for 80% of the time, and we were sleeping on thin mats in bamboo huts.
As we were approaching the northern-most village in our trek, complaining about our 4-5 hour hike that day, we began to see children walking in with adult siblings. They were energized and happy. Our guide explained that this was the only village that had a school for many miles, and that the children would walk for hours from their village to stay here for the week, being met on Friday afternoon by their siblings or family members to walk back home.
We continued our walk, and a tiny elderly lady hobbled out of her hut and spoke with our guide. It was his mother, and this was his village. Throughout our hike, we were surrounded by beauty and nature, but these two things really brought home just how authentic traveling with G Adventures truly is.
Needless to say, it was an amazing experience.
Prior to my trip, I also read Bruce Poon Tip’s book, LoopTail, and been inspired by the deeper purpose behind the company, and by the way G Adventures has redefined business and travel.
So… when I visited G Adventures Basecamp (the name for their headquarters in Toronto), I had high expectations.
When I arrived at Basecamp, I was immediately greeted by the purpose of G Adventures with a collage of posters in the entryway.
The G Adventures Basecamp Greeting
After heading upstairs, I was welcomed by name, invited to take a seat and told that Dave, the Mayor, would be with me shortly.
I sat down on a colourful couch next to a Macbook and watched the animated conversations going on around me. There was an energetic buzz that I could feel as soon as I walked in. People were chatting, having coffee, laughing. There was a vibe.
Within seconds, someone (the owner of the Macbook) sat down beside me and introduced herself as Jennifer, the G Usher (or Gusher) for the afternoon. She explained that it was her job to make sure that I was taken care of. She offered me a drink, popcorn or ice cream, but I was stuck on the whole concept of the “Gusher”, and asked her more.
Jennifer explained that, every day, two employees were selected at random to be stationed in the kitchen area to make sure that all guests were taken care of. I asked her what her “real” job was, how long she’d worked at G and what she liked about it. She explained that she managed partner relationships. Then she shared with me some great insight into what really makes G Adventures so successful – the purpose and values of the company, and how ingrained they are. What I call “Authentic Humanity”.
Without prompting, Jennifer told me how, regardless of the exciting organizations she’d worked for in the past (and she had some pretty cool jobs), at G, she knew that she was doing something greater – changing people’s lives for the better and helping the planet. She explained that everyone at G Adventures is a traveller, and that this connection drove passion for what they did as well as building strong relationships across the company, globally.
I felt like I’d already gotten what I’d come for within the first few minutes! I had been a little skeptical, thinking that my high hopes of a purposeful, connected, authentically aligned culture would be dashed when I actually spoke with people and saw them at work. So far, though, my hopes were being upheld.
Then Dave Holmes, the Mayor of G Adventures, joined us. He was genuine and friendly and happy to show me around. Plus, he has the coolest job EVA!
I learned so much from Dave and the G Adventures team that I’ll have to write a few posts. For now, some highlights of the tour and the space at G Adventures.
Adventurous Meeting Rooms
When their new office was renovated 2 years ago, Dave explained, they were given one parameter around the theme and naming of their meeting rooms. They had to be named after people who had changed the world or along the theme of adventure. Many companies have unique names for their meeting rooms, and some add some decor to add to the theme. But I have never seen such cool, creative spaces as I did at G Adventures! Check out a few pics from the Star Wars room and the Dr Seuss room:
Most Playful Interview Room Ever!
Then there was the room filled with balls, bright coloured seats, and a wheel with unique questions on it… Dave explained that this is where they conduct their final interviews at G Adventures. These interviews are really more of a discussion with three peers from across G. The catch… Seven times throughout the interview, the candidate spins the wheel, which might land on a question like “If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?” These discussions and fun questions help the three “interviewers” get a sense of how you’ll fit into the culture at G Adventures – and the room is just plain fun!
Innovative Timeline Story
Great organizations celebrate their story. I’ve seen timelines of various forms in different companies, but G adventures has a very cool way of highlighting the milestones they’ve achieved. In their stairwell, their story is illustrated through the use of intertwined purple, green and orange cords connecting to photos and descriptions of certain things that have happened through their history. The colour of the cords represent three different things:
- Purple cords are milestones in G Adventures business
- Green cords represent lives changed, primarily through G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation
- Orange cords highlight Bruce Poon Tip’s personal story (which is very much connected to the purpose and values of G Adventures.
There are a few more floors of stairwell to be covered with G Adventures story – I think there are several more chapters to tell!
In an upcoming post, I’ll describe how G’s values and culture live throughout the organization, and stories of GNN, Zombie Apocalypse, G Stock, Purpose Camp and more…
Many thanks to Mei (check out our selfie below) for helping me coordinate my tour and to Dave for being such an awesome guide!