When we tell people that we work in the outdoor industry, the normal reaction is ‘that’s so cool’. We may be biased, but we can quite confidently say that they are absolutely right. The outdoor industry is a ‘cool’ industry to be involved in and working as an outdoor instructor is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. It revolves around activities that we personally find enjoyable and that people (i.e. our clients) are keen to learn. These activities are what people choose to take part in in their own spare time outside of work or education purely for their enjoyment and leisure. This feels like one of the most obvious absolutely brilliant reasons to work in the outdoor industry but by no means the only reason….
1. Opportunity to travel for work
This is a big one for us! Being a qualified instructor opens up a great deal of opportunities all over the world. We have found ourselves working in France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and Finnish Lapland. We have friends who have worked in Thailand, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Alaska to name a few… all Instructing or guiding in the outdoor industry.
It is possible to bounce from seasonal job to seasonal job for years. If you aim to work for different companies in different locations every season, before you know it you have been able to travel the world whilst working. It is also not uncommon to hear stories of people who go out to work in another country, fall in love with the place and end up getting permanent residency because they cannot imagine their life anywhere else. When you travel for work, you may just find where you would eventually want to call ‘home’.
2. Experience different cultures & environments
Not only are you doing something you love for work, you also get to explore the area you are working in your free time as well as immerse yourself in different cultures and environments. When visiting somewhere on holiday for a week or two, we can only absorb so much of the culture and environment around us. Nothing in comparison to how much can actually be experienced by living somewhere temporarily for work. Being able to travel to new location and stay there half a year or so at a time whilst earning a living makes for a great opportunity to really make the most of what the area has to offer.
Whilst working in the Banff National Park in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, I wanted to go on a camping trip to Jasper - a small stunning town further north in the mountains. I delayed my trip three times because of bad weather over a month-long period. Luckily my patience paid off and when I finally made it there the weather was absolutely perfect! I loved every second of it and was so grateful for the ability to be flexible with when to go. Some people go on holiday to Jasper only for it to rain so hard the whole time that they can’t even see the mountains around them.
3. Working in the beautiful great outdoors
It may sound obvious, but another awesome reason to work in the outdoor industry is that you get paid to spend your working life in the great outdoors! Who doesn't like going to the beach? Or being surrounded by lakes and mountains? In the outdoor industry you’re lucky enough to call these beautiful and breathtaking surroundings your office.
Of course it is not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes the outdoors can be a terribly wet, windy and miserable place when we don't want it to be (especially in the UK!), but if you dress for the occasion and embrace the weird and wonderful weather, sometimes you end up having just as much fun. One of my favourite ever sessions teaching Kayaking on a lake was during a horrific downpour of torrential rain. The surface of the lake was covered in small bubbles created by the rain drops as they crashed down which made the lake look like a sea of little round crystals. The group of students I was teaching at the time went suddenly quiet to watch and listen to the constant tiny popping of the bubbles, mesmerised. So even bad weather can be good… sometimes.
4. Opportunity to understand more about the world around us
A big part of working in the outdoor industry, especially as an outdoor instructor is to understand the world around us. A large proportion of any outdoor instructor training course will usually involve topics on the weather, tides, rock formations etc. A whole lot of geography related background knowledge! So if Geography was your favourite subject at school, you’ll most definitely make use of what you remember from the classroom.
To someone who isn't outside every day at the mercy of the elements, this can be a shed load of boring information. However, to those working in the outdoor industry, a good understanding of the natural world is important and will impact any outdoor sport, wherever you are in the world. There is great satisfaction in having the knowledge to recognise and understand the environment and how it may impact your work. It will help you to run dynamic risk assessments on your sessions and monitor the environmental conditions as they change around you, overall resulting in a much safer and enjoyable lesson.
5. Positive impact on physical and mental well-being
Being an outdoor instructor can be a very physically demanding job, especially if you want to play hard doing the sports you love in your downtime alongside being on the move constantly at work. As a result of this, we would say that gym memberships are pretty far and few between for keen outdoor enthusiasts.
If your typical week includes plenty of walking, kayaking, coasteering, climbing, paddle boarding, lifting etc. this will give you a pretty well rounded workout leading to a good level of fitness. Having an active lifestyle will make you more tired at the end of each day and ultimately lead to better sleep. Lots of physical activity will also release hormones which will make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy.
6. More chance to see wildlife
Who doesn’t love animals? From cute furry little things, soaring majestic birds and giant sea mammals, all animals have their own special way of captivating us humans when we spot them in their natural habitat. As we’ve already covered - choosing a career in the outdoor industry can take you to some pretty amazing places, often with very diverse ecosystems. Spending so much of your time outdoors means you are more likely to bump into some of these fantastic creatures.
My favourite animal encounter at work was a curious sea turtle surfacing to take a breathe in the middle of my windsurf lesson. Admittedly, it did disrupt my lesson plan somewhat but left the students (as well as myself!) absolutely gobsmacked and high on life for the rest of the session.
7. Meeting like minded people
Finding new friends as an adult isn’t easy, but working in the outdoor industry you’ll find that you will meet many like-minded people. Whether that be the colleagues you work alongside or the people you teach, you will all have an interest in common - adventure activities. Getting to know like-minded people will lead to some amazing opportunities! You will be able to share your favourite hobbies together and maybe even learn news ones off of each other.
If you are anything like myself, you have a love for outdoor sports but your childhood friends don’t share that same passion. As much as you love your friends, they have no interest in going Kayaking or Coasteering at the weekend with you. Before I started working in the outdoor industry, I spent a lot of time on my own whenever I wanted to go and have some fun outdoors and on the water. Now I find it much easier to meet people who are a little bit more like me and enjoy those sports I used to struggle to find company for.
8. Sharing your passion with students
Talking of sharing brings us nicely onto the next great reason to work in the outdoor industry. Generally, we choose which instructor qualifications we want to complete based on what activity or sport we enjoy to do ourselves. Being able to teach something you genuinely enjoy and sharing your passion for the outdoors with groups of people is especially rewarding.
This does not just apply to beginners whereby you may be teaching someone paddle boarding for the first time, for example. If your students continue to return for more lessons to progress further, you can end up being an integral part of their progression from beginner to intermediate, and eventually (hopefully!) expert. It is like watching a seed grow from a tiny shoot to a fully blossomed flower.
9. Changing people's lives
There is no doubt that you will positively impact somebody’s life working a career in the outdoor industry. Not everyone will want to take up the activities we teach as a hobby, but even though you won’t be able to gift everyone with a new passion, you will most likely still be able to leave them with a memory that they will remember forever. This may sound very ‘fairytale’, but I witness it all the time while instructing. Sometimes it happens in the most unlikely ways…
I was once running a coasteering session in Spain for a school group who were with us for a week. One of the children in the group had been too scared to take part in any of the other activities up until this point. This poor lad had no self confidence in the slightest and was not very athletic at all. The coasteering route was a nice simple route at first which lead to, not a very high, but quite an intimidating jump for the less adventurous. For half an hour I sat with him at the top of this jump to encourage him to make his own mind up about whether or not he wanted to do it. When he eventually did take the plunge he resurfaced a new, more confident boy. Immediately, you could see a change in him which continued for the rest of his stay with us and I’m sure carried on long after he left us.
10. Personal Development
Just like with a job in any industry, there is always the ability to further develop your skills and complete further training in your chosen field. You cannot ‘complete’ the outdoors. There is always room to grow in this industry and climb the instructor or leadership ladder.
Spending a lot of time and effort to better both your instructional skills and personal skills will prepare you for your instructor courses and give you the confidence to teach sessions effectively and safely and have fun doing the sports you love in your free time. It requires a lot of hard work and practice but will lead to plenty of career progression and job satisfaction. As your portfolio of instructor certificates piles up, so do your opportunities for work!
We guess if you’re reading this post you are interested in making a change in your life… so if these 10 great reasons have caught your attention and you are interested in training to be an outdoor instructor, get in touch with us at Land & Wave! Our Outdoor Instructor Training gives you the qualifications and experience you need to work in the Outdoor and Adventure Industry. Why not make a change and work in the great outdoors?
Written by: Sam Blake and Shane Hawkwood
Sam & Shane are well-seasoned outdoor professionals who have worked around the world in the Outdoor Industry.