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O.A.T.: Our Story

Alan and Harriet in the Israeli desert.

People are always asking us how we got involved in this business. And it’s a heck of a story, with many twists and turns. Off-the-beaten-path travel is much more than our philosophy on discovering the world. To us, it’s a way of life. And the path that led us to Overseas Adventure Travel began when Alan stood on a mountain top more than 20 years ago …

In 1988, I traveled to Mount Rainier in Washington state for a mountaineering trip. After an exhilarating 500 foot glissade, I had an epiphany, which I shared the next day when I went on a walk with Bob Weiler, the leader of the trip and Vice President of Outward Bound. It was a beautiful, sunny August morning. As we took in the amazing views and breathed in the crisp mountain air, I told Bob that I felt my future was not on a mountain peak. I wanted to get people to travel to places other people didn’t go, see things that others hadn’t seen, dream things that other people didn’t dream. I wanted to take Americans to places Americans don’t go.

In Kathmandu, Alan and Harriet saw colorful prayer flags flying from the dome of Boudhanath Stupa, a Buddhist pilgrimage site.

That realization became the key to our vision: to be the leader in international travel for mature Americans and change people’s lives. We knew, even back then, that we could do it. But we also knew that the very people who would find this type of travel appealing would still need some convincing. How do you get people to invest their time and money in traveling so far from home?

This question stayed with us as we traveled through Nepal later that fall. Talk about an adventure. Actually, it was quite dangerous. We saw people who weren’t up to the physical challenge of the climb struggling as they made their way back down … at 19,000 feet there was a gravesite. But despite the potential hazards, the rewards of traveling to Nepal make the adventure worth the risk … exhilarating climbs, with one spectacular view after the next, and the wonderful local people. And when you travel off-the-beaten-path, you also meet fellow, like-minded travelers along the way—as Harriet did in Nepal:

While hiking in Nepal, Harriet met a woman who inspired her to appreciate every step of a journey, instead of focusing on the destination.

While I was hiking, I came upon an especially beautiful place with an amazing view of the mountains. It was a steep place, and an older woman (probably around 80 and also from the U.S.) was there with her local guide. She was just sitting on this big rock, and I stopped for a moment to talk with her. She said to me, “You young people. You’re always in such a rush. I’m just enjoying sitting here, looking at this view.” My goal, as I’d seen it, was to get where I was going—because I might never be there again. But from that point on, I was careful to appreciate every small step along the way. And in Nepal, there is so much to appreciate—whether you’re hiking a remote trail or negotiating the wonderful frenzy of Kathmandu.

After we got home, we still hadn’t figured out how we were going to get Americans to travel to remote destinations like Nepal. But we were certain there were people who wanted to have these kinds of experiences. Certainly the two of us, our friends who joined us in Nepal, the 80-year-old woman Harriet met on the trek. We wanted to take them, and others like them, to places other people didn’t go … to help them see, touch, and feel things that others could only imagine … to replenish their spirits with new experiences, new memories, and new dreams.

That was more than 20 years ago, and since then, by focusing on value and excellence, we’ve helped so many adventurous Americans discover the world, going where Americans don’t go. By making their dreams come true, we’ve realized our own, and have had so much fun doing it.

And we’re thrilled to share our story …

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