Adventure Travel World Summit Opening by Mei Zhang

When I first came to the Adventure Travel World Summit in Quebec last year, I didn’t know anyone. I was one of two people from China. And the other person, I didn’t know either. So I had no idea what to expect. I was feeling a bit like an outsider.

Then I went on the beautiful adventure day hike, donned on my comfy Eddie Bower down jacket. On the hike, I met my best friends since, Judith Fein, and Andy Levine (@Duvine) We shared the joys and pains of running your own business, and shared tips on how to crack open the Travel + Leisure A List. I was feeling like, hey, I like this. This is a bunch of hiker/business people that I could hang out with. It’s sort of like my tribe.

Over the next few days, I met more people; shed tears over other people’s travel stories. And most importantly, fell in love with adventure travel business again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, when back at home base, I often get bogged down by the mundane details of a cancelled flight, a 3am client phone call or the balancing act of figuring out staff year end bonuses. The business often became just another business, with the glamour and fun of adventure already worn off.  It’s at times like this, I asked myself why I was in this business. It’s a lot of work and it doesn’t pay much. I could be a venture capitalist in a different life.

Then I come to an event like this one, and realize that I just love connecting with people. I love the great outdoors and enjoy sharing with others what I love. How lucky I am to be able to make a profession out of a hobby? And, even better, there are a lot of us like minded people here. We are the lucky bunch, and we just love what we do!

So, when Shannon invited me to join the ATTA advisory board, I was delighted. Now I have more excuses to go on adventures, connect with like-minded people. Just like last night, I met Frank Murphy from Tahiti. How often do you get to meet someone from Tahiti? Not to mention someone with an Irish last name (@tahitimurphy)?

The them of this year’s Summit is Share & Inspire. I want to remind us all that sharing and inspiring is a two way communication. Everyone has a story to tell, and a simple story may inspire another person in a way you didn’t expect. So, I want to encourage all of you to extend your hand and meet the one next to you. Share your story and enjoy the conference. And who knows, next year, you may be on stage doing what Praveen and I are doing right now.