The Extraordinary Adventure Club isn’t a ‘travel brand’ per se; rather, founder Calum Morrison’s vision is to use travel as one facet of a comprehensive personal development programme, where wilderness-immersion and transformation travel experiences are just one part of a wider toolkit that aims to build personal resilience; access untapped potential; reconnect with the authentic self; and rediscover personal purpose. Oh, and clients must commit to a minimum of six months with the Club – not just your average vacation, then. Ahead of his talk at MATTER this September, Katie Palmer caught up with the ex-Marine and extraordinary adventurer himself to find out more.
Can you explain the premise behind the Extraordinary Adventure Club? Where did the inspiration for it come from?
I have lived, travelled and worked in wild and hostile places around the world for the best part of 35 years – first as a Royal Marine, then working for the Foreign Office and with international businesses. Throughout my career, I saw the way people drew strength and inspiration from their surroundings, affirming their values through interaction with the wilderness. I founded the Extraordinary Adventure Club (EAC) in 2012 to harness the transformational power of the wild. I had seen the positive effects, both mental and physical, that immersion in nature can have, and I wanted to take this one step further.
How has your background in the Royal Marines influenced the experience you offer clients?
My background in the Royal Marines allowed me to travel the world; to live and thrive in remote and challenging environments; to foster close relationships; and to treasure basic human instincts. This has all informed the EAC’s focus on the wilderness, on community, on disconnecting from technology and reconnecting to your innate sense of self.
Describe your average client: what leads them to seek out the Extraordinary Adventure Club? What do they all have in common?
There is no typical EAC client; they are united in their diversity. Age is arbitrary, as are personal goals, professional background and nationality. Clients are often high-achieving individuals in the corporate world who have lost their direction in life; members of the next generation unable to break a negative spiral; or nurturers who’ve dedicated their lives to others and along the way have lost their own sense of self. The common thread is a questioning of their identity and purpose in life, and an acknowledgement of the urgent need to recalibrate.
Why do you ask clients to commit to a minimum of six months for their initial engagement? How much more time are they likely to invest after that?
Each EAC programme is bespoke, but all begin with an intensive retreat in the Scottish highlands for an initial physical and psychological assessment. From here, as a team we will identify key personal development challenges and goals in order to create a tailored programme of coaching, therapy and mentoring. This will be complemented and furthered by a series of immersive wilderness expeditions to challenging environments around the globe. Clients need to learn to trust the team and commit fully to the programme, and this requires an ongoing engagement to facilitate lasting change.
Your programmes typically include wilderness expeditions alongside mentoring and psychotherapy sessions. How do the expeditions and mentoring complement one another?
The initial highland retreat identifies key development goals, which then inform the bespoke mentoring, coaching and therapy regimen over the coming months. As clients’ goals, fears, anxieties and hopes are identified and worked through, the wilderness expeditions take shape. The key distinguisher is that it is an entirely wraparound service – the team coordinate constantly to ensure that they are supporting the clients progress and development in a collaborative way. Expeditions could take place anywhere in the world, from the arctic tundra to searing desert, and are always specifically designed to further the client’s previous development work. These might mean gruelling physical challenges to instil confidence in a client’s own strength; isolation to grow a sense of self-sufficiency; or utter disconnection from the modern world to strengthen an understanding of the natural environment. Each client has a coach mentor who manages their progress, coordinates the team that support the individual throughout and accompanies them on trips to ensure that the developmental opportunities during expeditions are maximised.
You don’t reveal the details of an expedition before the client travels – why? How does this add to the experience?
Clients need to learn to let go of control – and to trust in the process. Through keeping destinations and challenges a secret prior to arrival at the airport, clients learn to trust the EAC team around them and relinquish their sense of control.
Every EAC programme is entirely bespoke and designed around a client’s psychological make-up and therapeutic journey. What might an example programme include?
Each programme begins with an induction retreat in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which will immerse clients in the wilderness, allowing time to meet the EAC team and begin the journey of self-discovery. The learnings of this retreat inform the subsequent programme of coaching, mentoring and therapy, which in turn shapes the wilderness expeditions to come. The engagements last as long as required, with most clients committing to at least six months engagement and often retaining the EAC to support long-term development goals.
On average, what do your programmes cost?
There is no set price list for an EAC engagement due to the vast array of experiences and experts with whom we can work, but, as a guide, a six month programme usually starts from around £150,000. This entails hundreds of man-hours, multiple trips away, support of between four and eight experts at any given time, as well as complete access to the coach mentor who leads and supports them in their development journey.
What are the most important ingredients for a truly transformational travel experience?
Transformational travel experiences must cater to all of the senses. This requires more than beautiful sights, delicious food and sumptuous accommodation: transformation requires dislocation from the world you know. Through challenging every aspect of our clients — physical, mental, spiritual and emotional — we can achieve fundamental change, supported through ongoing coaching and support.
In terms of your career and the Extraordinary Adventure Club, where would you like to be in five years?
My hope is that over the next five years, the EAC will continue to grow as a team, to strengthen our links as a company, and diversify our offering in order to ultimately further our reach and help more people to transform their lives.
Katie Palmer is Editorial Manager for Beyond Luxury Media Ltd.