By Robert Lucke
Like to take a trip to Bolivia, Ecuador, or Peru? Havre native Brian Morgan would like to guide you there anytime you want to go.
Starting his own company, Adventure Life, just sort of happened to Morgan. It wasn't really planned at all.
"I had an MA in economy from the University of Montana and had applied for jobs," Morgan said. "But it just wasn't what I wanted to do yet so I packed up and went to South America. I decided it was now or never.
"I arrived in Ecuador with a vocabulary of 10 words but within a couple of weeks I found a job with Care International."
Care International is a non-governmental organization which builds environmental projects in Third World countries. Morgan's job was to write a funding proposal which would provide local people with a better economy.
"That was the first time I worked for myself," Morgan said with a laugh. "I had to write the proposal and price myself. It gave me a good sense of confidence. And you know every time I went away I thought a lot about Montana. It is such a special place. South America taught me a lot about Montana. And my end goal was to have a career in Montana."
So when back in Montana and back to applying for jobs in his field along with working full time in Missoula, Morgan used his contacts in South America and with Internet access and a cell phone, started offering tours to various South American countries.
In just a year the company has caught on. Morgan's tour groups are in South America almost every month of the year. Tour coordination starts from Havre or Missoula.
"The Internet access allows me to be located in Montana," Morgan said.
And not a bit of this was really planned at all, he said.
"It all happened by accident like lots in my life," Morgan said. "My career and jobs, I had found nothing. I knew it would take some time to find something so I started working on one tour. It was to go to Ecuador and basically to have my way paid. I put up the tour posters all over the state and got not a single phone call. It flopped but that gave me some new ideas.
"Then I decided to approach it all a second way," he said. "I had two more tours and designed a web site. That was the beginning of Adventure Life. In February I got my first four bookings by e-mail. Then I got more than I was offering. I quit my job, got a line of credit and survived."
Morgan guided those first tours but then recruited friends he could trust as tour guides. He spent two and a half months in South America interviewing guides and looking for hotels and special places to stay. Morgan wanted friendly guides and out-of-the-ordinary living accommodations for a least part of each tour. Tour guides who could speak English was another must for Morgan.
"I spent weeks and weeks trying to find guides," Morgan said.
Reasons for success of Adventure Life? Several things according to Morgan.
"Having lived in Ecuador, I had lots of contacts in the travel industry and lots of service with the tours really helps too," Morgan said. "And we have different kinds of tours than most. My company bridges culture and language gaps. It helps too that there is tons of Internet. Things like rafting, long treks, you might find some of those on my tours."
Morgan's tours are small and even include staying with local families and participating in community activities.
Morgan credits his mother, Betty Ann Morgan for her confidence in his ability to get his company off the ground.
Going to South America with Morgan and company features nature based tours filled with local color.
"Not only that but my tours are better researched for half the price," Morgan said smiling.