‘Adventure is out there’ Expedition planner shares ‘exhilarating’ job

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Abbi is the Head of Expeditions at Rat Race, the UK’s largest provider of global adventure challenges, which means that she organises – and goes on – tens of expeditions every year. Describing her job in a few words, Abbi explained: “I plan extraordinary adventures in places you may not even know exist and take everyday people there to experience those once in a lifetime journeys.”

Abbi’s job at Rat Race “came slightly out of the blue”, with an “unique job application and interview process”.

The explorer told Express.co.uk: “The job description was sent to trusted operators and suppliers that Rat Race works with, it was never made public – it was asked if any of them knew of someone that had the correct experience, qualifications and passion for travel, adventure and endurance.

“My name was put forward to the directors and I got a call out of the blue asking if I would want to be interviewed. It was a shock but also an exciting prospect.

“After a couple of rounds of interviews, I was offered the job. It has been a whirlwind since then.”

Abbi’s love for nature and her years of experience in the outdoor industry massively helped when applying for the role and, later, when undertaking it.

She explained: “I have been an outdoor enthusiast for as long as I can remember. I grew up on Dartmoor National Park. It’s in the blood, it is part of who I am.

“After leaving university I worked as an outdoor education instructor and expedition leader in a freelance capacity – working for multiple companies, charity and event companies in a myriad of roles.”

Abbi now plans “once-in-a-lifetime trips” for Rat Race, taking participants on adventures from the Outer Hebrides to the Caribbean.

The 34-year-old also enjoys planning trips for herself when she isn’t guiding others. Preparing for these adventures – both solo and as a team – is essential.

“The events and expeditions I organise for Rat Race are meticulously planned – research, spreadsheets, communication documents, risk assessments, webinars, packing lists,” Abbi said.

“However, my own adventures may look a little more chaotic – I will always have a plan, but I also like to see where an adventure will take me. When adventuring alone or with family and friends there is more flexibility for the unknown.”

What Abbi likes most about her job is “getting to meet a wide spectrum of people from all walks of life and see them united with a common purpose”.

“None of our adventures are timed,” she said.

“We don’t care how fast you are and when you take that element out of a physical challenge you get to see a real team bond form. I also enjoy seeing an adventure concept come to life, to be able to follow it from the very first idea thrown around via email to a fully-fledged sold out expedition that delivers on every level for our customers is a level of job satisfaction I’ve never experienced before.

“Then, on some of these expeditions I have to physically lead and be at the front of the pack keeping pace, staying strong in both body and mind while also maintaining the headspace and awareness that I am responsible for the welfare of up to 40 other people. Seeing what my body is truly capable of and learning how far I can push myself is always an empowering thing.”

Abbi went on to describe her job as “exhilarating, exciting, unique, emotional, intense, and fulfilling”. As well as feeling empowered herself, the explorer loves empowering others too – especially women.

“On expeditions, this traditional expectation that ‘men are stronger and faster’ doesn’t exist and we often have women out there leading the field,” the 34-year-old said.

“With regards to our adventures, we’ve seen a real increase in the past 10 years as we’ve evolved our portfolio. Our demographic has steadily increased from a 25 percent female participation to almost 45 percent on average. We’ve also had some big adventures where it’s been much higher. Our recent jungle trek in Dominica was delivered by myself and two other female Rat Race crew members and our participants were 65 percent female.

“It is so important to us that we represent and empower women to take on these adventures – the Rat Race work force is 58 percent female and we have females in leadership roles at director level, event management and our entire marketing team is female. In many respects I think this makes our events more approachable and dilutes the typical macho or military image that the media often puts out there when it comes to adventure challenges.”

Having visited all parts of the globe as part of her work, choosing a favourite destination is difficult for Abbi, but, she said: “If I had to choose, it would be Guatemala. We have a Sea2Summit event, and the country and landscape blew me away.

“The daily mountain bike is epic and the accumulative result of reaching the summit of Volcan Tajumulco from sea level under your own steam is second to none.”

One of the adventurist’s other favourite trips included an exploration of the Exuma Archipelago in the Bahamas – but by kayak. After every trip, Abbi and her team review and reflect. “Lessons are learnt, reports are written, and, naturally, trips become more and more flawless after multiple deliveries,” the leader said.

“The biggest obstacle we face on most adventures is the weather – something you can’t control and you’re at the total mercy of. We will always air on the side of caution, and you need to make those tough decisions to change the route, pull a section, or swing in a contingency at the last moment if the weather gods decide they’re not in a good mood today.

“Then, there’s the small learnings that sometimes participants teach you when something goes wrong for them. In 2019 we had a guy show up to Mongolia to run 100 miles across a frozen lake without any kit.

“His bag had got lost and it wasn’t going to get to him in time to take on the event. So, we rallied the all the kit we could from other particpants and some local guides, but he was very tall with very big feet and his shoe size did not exist in the country. He ended up doing the whole thing in the pair of jeans and set of brogues he had worn on the plane to travel.”

Inspired by other adventurists, books, and people she meets when she goes on solo expeditions, Abbi keeps notebook pages filled with ideas for adventures. “I have hundreds of notes all over my house and in multiple bags. I hope the spark for adventure and ideas will never diminish,” she said.

So, what words of advice or encouragement would the expert explorer give to someone who wanted to give a Rat Race adventure a go for the first time?

“Adventure is a mindset – it creates a positive attitude and a drive to have knowledge about the world around us and how we affect that world,” Abbi stressed.

“My advice is to get outside – I encourage everyone to be in nature, and the best way to do that would be to combine it with some movement, walk, jog, bike, dip in some water. There is an adventure suitable for everyone, whatever sport is of interest, whichever fitness level, hot climates, cold climates, long adventures, short ones. You will never regret giving something a go. Adventure is out there for everyone.”

For more information on Rat Race and their 2022/23 bucket list adventures, head over to ratrace.com. 

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