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Passion & Purpose: How Two G Adventures Staff Found Their Dream Jobs

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Many companies create mission and vision statements and have pretty words on their website about core values. The intentions are no doubt good, but the realities of business often lead to straying from those aspirations.

At G Adventures, the core values are not relegated to a poster on a boardroom wall or page on the website. They’re front and centre, worn on the T-shirts of Chief Experience Officers and Global Purpose Specialists 

The five core values are:

Love: We love changing people’s lives.

Lead: Lead with service.

Embrace: Embrace the bizarre.

Create: Create happiness and community.

Do: Do the right thing.

These are lived values at G Adventures, and for many G employees, they’re the reason they wanted to work for the company in the first place.

G Adventures

G Adventures GlobalPurpose Specialist Jenna English and CEO Juan Carlos Martinez. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

TravelPulse Canada joined a G Adventures Canada Fam to Belize and Guatemala. As well as our wonderful Guatemalan guide Juan Carlos Martinez, we were accompanied by Global Purpose Specialist Jenna English, well-known to Canadian G-selling agents. I sat down with them to talk about their careers, and it was a fascinating conversation.

G Adventures Fam

A photo from the hiking shoot that helped Jenna English get the attention of G Adventures’ Talent Agency. (Photo Credit: Kaspi Creative, Peterborough, Ontario.)

Jenna English: Waging A Campaign To Get Hired

Like many young travellers, Jenna valued her independence. But her brother had taken five G trips and finally convinced her to join a small group tour. “Just try it,” he said. “It will take the hassle out of everything. You’ll meet people and we’ll feel better knowing you’re safe.”

Jenna took a 16-day Mayan Sun tour, loved it, and booked another within three months. She researched the company, read founder Bruce Poon Tip’s socially conscious business book Looptail, and watched his TED Talks.

“I was drawn to the values of the company. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.”

Thinking she might just have been lucky on her previous trip, Jenna booked another, a 16-day Classic Costa Rican Adventure. “I was floored. It was better than the first.” While on the tour, her CEO Aryeri Herrera (aka RJ) received a ‘golden ticket’ to GStock, an annual gathering of top performing employees.

“This was in May and GStock was in September. I told RJ, ‘When you get to Base Camp (G head office in Toronto), I’ll be on the other side of the door to let you in.’”

G Adventures

Jenna English with advisors on a G Adventures Canada fam to Belize and Guatemala. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

That’s when Jenna launched a campaign to get hired. She applied repeatedly, posted YouTube videos on why she should be hired and made daily affirmations that she would work for G and change lives.

Jenna did some work as a model for stock photography, and was hired for a hiking shoot. She says that for three hours she told the photographer and the other models all about G Adventures and its products and approach. “I sounded like a crazy person, I’m sure.”

But the photographer was impressed. “Do you already work for this company?” she said. “Not yet,” said Jenna. The photographer then asked permission to send Jenna’s photos to G, along with a letter recommending her. The next day, G’s ‘Talent Agency’ called and offered an interview. Under her interview shirt, Jenna wore a G Adventures t-shirt given to her by CEO RJ for good luck.

“I’m meant to do this,” she told the interviewer. With that kind of passion, it’s no surprise that Jenna got the job in the Inside Sales department, and later became a Global Purpose Specialist, working with travel agents across Canada to give them the knowledge and resources to sell G Adventures.

She’s never looked back. “It has lived up to what I hoped for and more. When I look at the impact of Planeterra (the G-created non-profit that uses community tourism to change lives), and the impact of employment in destination countries, I’m just so proud. Just by picking G, our guests can change lives too.”

G Adventures

G Adventures CEO Juan Carlos Martinez. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

Juan Carlos Martinez: “I Want That Happiness.”

JC, (aka Just Chillin’) grew up in Antigua, Guatemala, a small city surrounded by volcanoes in one of the poorest countries in Central America. An avid reader from a young age, he yearned to expand his horizons. A hard worker, he had a job in a bookstore and another as a stock keeper in a hardware store. When the store was busy, the backroom staff were called to assist with sales.

JC’s naturally inquisitive and helpful personality soon led to some customers requesting him for assistance, even though he still working in the stockroom. One of them was a Swiss-German guy running a tour company in Guatemala. As JC was an avid outdoorsman and cyclist, the seed of an idea was planted. There was only one problem: he didn’t speak English.

But the tour operator saw something special in JC. He told him to go learn English, but the cost of lessons was prohibitive. “So he came to me and said ‘We’re going to hire you. But we can only pay you a little more than you’re making now, because we have to teach you to learn English and teach you how to drive. We’re going to make you from scratch.’”

JC seized the opportunity with both hands, worked like a demon on his English and became a tour guide. “I was a skinny little kid. He changed my life and I will be forever grateful.”

The local tour operator got a contract with a major competitor of G Adventures, and JC spent 15 years leading tours. When he had no work for four months, he reached out to a G CEO whom he knew from the road. He was politely told: “We don’t want people from (G’s competitor), because we have a different culture.”

G Adventures fam

The G Adventures Canada fam group was hosted by the Belize Tourism Board for a dinner in Belize City. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

He then asked JC why he wanted to work for G. “I need to pay the bills,” was his honest reply. But it wasn’t what the CEO wanted to hear. “You don’t know our culture, our core values,” he told JC. “But everyone I know from G seems happy, and I want that happiness.” It was agreed that JC could join the G training program, which he aced, and the rest is history – a happy history both for JC and the G Adventures guests who get to enjoy his professionalism, deep knowledge and sense of humour.

“My previous employer was taking more than it was giving back. G was different. Many companies say the good things but don’t really do anything.”

JC told me a story of meeting a poor Mayan woman as he was cycling on a trail prior to his G employment. He stopped to speak with her, and she told him she needed a small amount of money for a prescription. He gave it to her, and she responded by giving him small gifts that were worth double the amount he gave her. He then gave her more money, said goodbye and stopped at a viewpoint further along the trail, where he cried for the hardships of the people of his country.

“That gave me a dream, to do something in tourism to help somebody. When I started with G, I saw that my dream was already in existence. I bought Bruce Poon Tip’s book Looptail and it was the best $10 I ever spent.

“I love to travel, but you cannot be happy seeing dying people, starving people. It’s not comfortable. With my experience I could work for any company. But I don’t want to work for any other company. When I see what G is doing for other people, through Planeterra and through their tours, it feels great.”

As a very young boy, JC worked looking after cattle for a local farmer. The farmer shared his lunch with a local boy who had been harassing the cows. “Why would you do that? That kid is not nice,” said JC. The farmer, appropriately named Angel, told him: “Use half of the bread to feed your body, the other half to feed your soul. It was a great lesson. I believe in karma, just as Bruce Poon Tip does. You cannot buy one more second of life.”

G Adventures fam

G Adventures Global Purpose Specialist Jenna English, (left) with TravelPulse Canada’s Bruce Parkinson and G Adventures CEO Juan Carlos Martinez/ (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

Writing mostly about mainstream travel for 30 years, I often return from trips feeling uncomfortable about the impact of tourism on local communities. I’ll return from this one with fond memories of the genuine smiles of the people of Belize and Guatemala, and big respect for a company that proves tourism can be successful and profitable without being exploitive. And I have two new friends in Jenna and JC, beautiful souls who have chased their dreams and captured them.


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