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