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From accountant to professional traveler

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Submitted by:
Carol Patterson, B.Admin ’79, BA ’80

A funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming a Park Ranger. I ended up as a professional accountant! How did I manage to end up counting beans when I wanted to be counting bears? I’ve always been a huge animal lover, but my fear of bugs and cold places led me to the world of numbers.

It is a long story, but after many balancing more spreadsheets than I care to remember, I called on my inner superhero and made a major career change.

I walked away from a successful career as an accounting executive in the oil and gas industry to follow my dreams. I wanted a way to combine my love of animals and adventure travel with a lifestyle that didn’t include recycling bottles to pay the rent. I considered my options and my dreams, and I leapt.

Luckily for me, when I made my leap I landed on a plane. I had been volunteering at the Calgary Zoo as a docent, so I leveraged that into what I called the Flying Zoo program. I took whatever animals would fit into a Cessna 172 to visit children in rural communities. The lessons I learned as the Zoo’s first pilot eventually led to my role as Chairman of the Zoo’s Board of Directors and, from there, a new career as an ecotourism consultant, author, teacher and public speaker.

Today, I am still flying, usually economy class to emerging tourism destinations. I help people identify what they can offer tourists and the steps needed before welcoming the world. I have been chased by elephants, waded ankle deep in cockroaches in Borneo, hobbled across Bhutan on a broken ankle, and nearly froze to death on a llama safari; but I have found a way to do what I really want to do in life.

My travel writing on wildlife viewing, innovative rural experiences, and ecotourism is regularly featured in the Red Deer Advocate. I have also written several books including The Business of Ecotourism and Handle With Care: Developing a Nature Based Tourism Product in the North.

From my travels, I have learned how people can use adventure to reinvent their lives and businesses (Reinventure®). Now I speak to groups on how they can start the process of Reinventure® for themselves. To learn more visit www.carolpatterson.ca

 

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3 Responses to “From accountant to professional traveler”

  1. Diane Mullan says:

    What a great inspiring story!

  2. Robin McLeod says:

    I have an adveture/Cree culture eco-tourism busiiness plan that I thought I finished many years back. Lately I’ve been giving this BP some serious thought and give it a push and make it happen. I’ve always worked for other people in the political field and now I think I should do this and venture into this industry. It would be nice to get pointers from people like yourself to ensure I do it right…any help would be a big push for me. I’m at a crossroads in my career and would like to do this for my family…I believe it would be a good change

  3. Carol Patterson says:

    Hi Robin
    It is great that you are thinking of working in the field. Try finding some people who have a business similar to the one you want to work in and ask them what they like about their work and the biggest problems they face. If you can find a way to solve their problem, you may have found a way to make a living in tourism. A good place to learn more about informational interviews is the book What Color is Your Parachute? I found it a great help when I was trying to find my niche in tourism.
    Good luck!
    Carol

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