Sunday, 11 September 2016
25 years and counting!
I've not been a very regular blogger lately...well by lately I mean for the last year or so really. I could give all the usual excuses but why bother....you all know I've been busy and the blog just slipped off the To Do list.
But I'm back - I love writing, and I'm much more motivated now to tell you all my news on the blog regularly. And there's a lot to tell.
2016 has been a Big Year for Trekking in the Alps and Provence as it's 25 years since I got my French Accompagnateur diploma and was able to set up my business here in France. Before that I had a Blue Peter Badge
but then I got a really pretty badge...
and it opened the door to the rest of my career..... since then I have worked alone, building my business, seeing where it takes me.
At the start there was no real plan...I had come from being a Teacher of Outdoor Education in the UK, working in outdoor centres with kids and adults, teaching all that is outdoor...hiking, climbing, caving, even skiing on that one day a year when there was snow on the local golf course! But that was all in the context of education. Here in France it was a different deal...I was going to organise people's holidays!
And so I have done for a quarter of a century. And for 95% of the time that has been a total blast, a wonderful journey for me, learning how to help people to enjoy their time in the mountains, to push them just enough so that they achieve but also to be sympathetic during those hard and painful climbs (or descents).
I'm sure I haven't got it right all the time nor for every person...the rare "incident" reminds me of that! But the fact is a good 80% (maybe more, I haven't actually calculated) of my clients return...year after year and we become firm friends....that's really the BEST part of my job. Because I do everything myself I build up a strong relationship with my clients and even though people are bound to do other things, they all fully understand that (barring any serious misdemeanor) they have signed up for life and even if they have to take 20 years off to have kids and stuff, they can still come back after that.
One of these people, Flora, this year described my client list as the Trekking in the Alps Community and she is spot on. People meet on my trips they make friends and they decide to come back together. This year I have taken it a step further and asked all my regular snowshoe clients where they'd like to go next winter...I decided not to draw up a programme until they told me. To my great surprise and pleasure my winter trips are already 99% full, before the programme even hits the website!!
I know I've already mentioned it...but 25 years (yes 25!!!) is a very long time. I never ever thought I would get this far with my own business. I don't work for anyone else (no-one has asked me!!) but in those dark moments when I wonder if I will get enough people on trips my loyal friends have encouraged me not to sell out, to hold firm and stick with the ethos of Trekking in the Alps and Provence...a small one person business providing personal service, listening to clients and trying to get it right for each person that laces up her / his boots to hike with me.
So where do I go from here? During my trips this year my head has been full of nostalgia...each trip has brought memories flooding back, such as the first time I did the Tour of Mont Blanc (backwards with 13 adolescent French kids but that's another story), the Tour of Monte Rosa when we never saw the Monte Rosa, the tiny 2 person group comprised of an anarchist and a South African Peanut farmer with me in the middle trying to keep the peace, the Chamonix Zermatt trek where two people met and fell in love (and later married)....the list is long and maybe I will tell some of these tales at some point on this blog.
People have been asking me for as long as I can remember, "How long are you going to continue doing this"....the question used to come as a surprise and I would wonder if they were thinking I was looking a bit knackered. But in this anniversary year it's an obvious question. And I have no idea!!
I do know it won't be another 25 years.....well, never say never, maybe I will be able to offer Softies Treks from one chairlift to another! But I know I'm not done yet. Over the years my trips have evolved and the last 5 years have seen a major change in location since we moved from the Alps to Provence. But the southern Alps are not far away and there is still a wealth of nearby mountain ranges that have not featured on my programme, as well as the regular trips that go each year.
So is it Trekking in the Alps More of the same? Or as suggested by my lovely friend and regular client Bel, Trekking in the Alps Onwards and Upwards? Or as I rather like to imagine, Trekking in the Alps The Twilight Years?
Whatever happens, this year has seen some fabulous trips and I am not about to give up my office just yet. So watch this space!!!