Staff Spotlight: Zach Johnston

Founding Director


Zach is a former Combat Army Military Officer and Senior Instructor in Leadership Development at the prestigious Officer Cadet School.

As an Alpine & Rock Climbing Guide, his career has seen him lead developmental & technical expeditions across the world, and start successful adventure tourism businesses in New Zealand. He is passionate about authentic, meaningful and constructive travel experiences as inspiring alternatives to 'off-the-shelf' gap programs.

What is your favorite travel memory?

It's a tie between the infamous Chilli Pepper eating competition of 2014 on Trek in the Sapa Valley, Vietnam; or, being accepted for marriage during a tree chopping ceremony at 4,200m in a remote village of Peru.

Both of these are my favorite because they relate to 'people' and our relationship with each other among our team (or travel family). The Peruvian Village had never been visited by tourists, and we were pioneering a development program for them.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I've become much more open and trusting. We have a team of people who are so very, very good at what they do. They continually inspire me with their expertise, creativity and positive love of life. While a positive love of life is not directly related to work, it is at the core of what we achieve with our travelers/guests/students in encouraging resilience, adaptability and empathy.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I ran into a former student in the Himalayas recently. She gave me a massive hug and started to cry. After I made a joke about her being so happy to see me, she told me that the knowledge, skills, confidence, and perspective we had helped her develop was the reason we were meeting at that place on that day.

She said she would never, ever have embarked on a solo journey, traveling in the style she was, doing the adventures she was, for the duration she was, as a young female. She also said that interactions, choices, and companionship she was enjoying was based on the values and perspectives she had learned during her time with us! Wow, I was blown away.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would hands down go on the Adventure Guide Program. For young, inexperienced travelers, it ticks all the boxes in regard to adventure, culture, travel, personal development, independence, social/friendships, education, growth, new skills, nature, outdoors, cultural exchange, introduction to employment skills, industries and real life, CV building - and so much more!

Where else do you get adventure travel experiences that open so many doors? It's authentic, meaningful, transferable adventure travel for life.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I'm proud of my team every day. They're true believers, and to have people with such dedication and understanding of our shared values alone is a proud moment. I see the sacrifice or lengths, daily, that they go for our participants and travelers -- it's amazing.

Our company is unique because we don't avoid challenge at the expense of growth. People can do more than they ever thought possible, that's the point of experiential learning; we resolutely deliver authentic experiences, we do what we say we will, and we are the global specialists because we only do what is unique, that we are good at, and that changes lives. We don't value volume or expansion over quality.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think it's really easy to market values and design philosophies, but incredibly hard to stay true to them, or deliver on them. The companies that can make the sacrifices, and stick out the hard times to stay true, are the successful ones.

Ensuring that you can provide true experience, expertise, and leadership through your leaders and instructors only comes with time and training.