Today, I’d like to introduce you guys to Laura Baker of Ethos Adventure. Not only is Laura part of OMM’s #Adventure4Life team, but she also runs California-based Ethos Adventures, which in a nutshell, entails you giving them the location you’re traveling in California,  and they then plan out a step-by-step, wild and crazy adventure for you that unfolds it’s destinations as you carry on throughout the day.

After much success with her company, Laura is taking this “choose your adventure” concept to the next level, by creating an app for it. She’s smack dab in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign right now, which I encourage you to check out right HERE, and help her reach her goal be it by being one of her over 80 funders or simply be sharing it. At this point she’s received $12,000 from the travel and outdoor community support!

And so, without further ado, here’s a Q&A with one of the inspiring and full-of-life adventurous chicks, Laura, that the world needs more of!  – Laur

Interview with App Developer Lauren Baker

So Laura, let’s get to know the face behind Ethos Adventures and Choose Your Own Adventure App. Where are you from, and when did you first discover your love, or should I say addiction, for the great outdoors and adventure?

I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Yosemite’s backyard) where I thought that backpacking with your family and skipping school with your friends to find new swimming holes was all perfectly normal. I didn’t realize how much being outside was a part of me until I was in college and it still took me another decade to realize that just playing outside on the weekends would never be enough for me.

I have always loved outdoor activities. The thing that I could never live without is trail running…and backpacking…and surfing…and…shoot! What I can say with absolute certainty is that my “addiction” isn’t to just one activity or one place but to the exhilaration and challenge of adventuring itself.

When I was younger I used to associate that rush with the location or activity and as I’ve experienced more, I have come to realize that the rush is from the process—I could be kite surfing or rock climbing and it wouldn’t matter. It’s about pushing your limits and trusting your instincts. That’s what’s addicting.

Let’s talk about a bit about Ethos Adventures. You are an inspiring example showing that it is possible to take your passion for adventure and make a living with it. What’s the story behind how you started and developed Ethos from its humble beginnings into what it is today?

Thank you! I used to practice environmental law. I love environmental policy and legal theory, but being a lawyer meant that I sat inside all day and had to save the best adventures for my free weekends or precious vacation days. It just didn’t feel right, so after four and a half years, I decided to make a change.

When I first started Ethos Adventures I had my friends “test” custom hard-copy adventures and report back on what worked and what didn’t work. From there, I developed Custom Adventures into what they are today—someone names a location in California and I build an adventure designed to specifically meet their needs. They don’t know what will happen but open instructions throughout the day guiding them from one activity to the next. I have always envisioned developing a mobile app version (to save on paper and to be hip) but I’ve come to two conclusions on the way in which I do it based on client feedback:

(A) The “customization” part of EA adventures is what makes our adventures successful and unique. When you book a Custom Adventure you can add the parameters that you need—must be low impact, must cost less than $25, must be wheelchair accessible, must be dog friendly (yes, these are all real examples ☺). This sort of customization is part of what makes adventures accessible to people that they aren’t otherwise be accessible too. Thus, Choose Your Own Adventures was born! With a Choose Your Own Adventure, you customize it yourself. You don’t know how to swim, so you select all the non-water options. You’re tired after the first activity, so you choose a more sedate activity second, etc. You get the rush of the Adventure while still maintaining some level of control, thus creating a “safe” space within which to push yourself.

(B) I will always offer Custom Adventures. No matter how great the mobile app is, it’s really special to have something designed just for you. Sometimes you want an entire weekend away for you and your sweetheart, or a trip to a location where the mobile app isn’t available yet, or a group outing (I especially love bachelor parties), etc. For these situations, nothing beats a Custom Adventure.

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What do you think is most exciting about this “Choose Your Own Adventure” concept that both Ethos and your upcoming App have to offer?

A client recently told me that the best thing about the Adventure was that it was “fun.” That she didn’t get to do very many things “just for fun” any more and this made her feel like a little kid again. I think it’s actually that simple. As adults, sometimes we don’t have a lot of fun in our lives. Everything has a purpose and a destination and is either so well planned that there are no surprises or so poorly planned that we are stressed out about it.

So…I think the most exciting thing about our Adventures is not knowing what will happen. It’s exciting to feel like you are “all in” on something and at the same time have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s almost like gambling in a sense-it’s a rush.

You said in your IndieGoGo video, “The moments we spend outdoors exploring new places and challenging ourselves pushing our limits, those are the moments that shape us, the moments that push the reset button on our otherwise hectic lives” I couldn’t agree more. Tell us a bit more about your philosophy on adventure and travel after years of making it the primary focus of your lifestyle?

Oh man, I could talk about this for hours! I believe that “adventures” have many values; in the video I referred to two of them specifically.

(1) Adventures Shape Us: You know that saying, “you are only who you are when no one is looking?” I think that the truth is that “you only learn who you are when you are outdoors and faced with a challenge and no one is looking.” I know what I do when I am home alone, but what do I do when faced with a bear? How do I handle heights, rushing rivers and fatigue? That’s what makes us who we are—how we deal with unforeseen challenges.

(2) Adventures Push Reset: When I used to have a “regular” job I often felt like I had so much to do that I shouldn’t take a long a weekend, but I would periodically do it anyway. When I would return to the office, without fail, I would be told that I seemed different. I have no idea how I was acting differently, but I know that it was true because I always felt different. Being outside and engaged in something so removed from work always brings me back to who I am—I’m not a wound-up, stressed out maniac that forgets to laugh, smile or smell the roses! Stepping outside and allowing myself to forget about all the little work or family things for a moment allows me to put it all into perspective.

Some people might argue that using mobile technology takes away from the “rawness” of adventure. What’s your response to them? How does this new app keep the adventure “raw”? What are the benefits of wedding technology and adventure together?

Laura-Baker

I love this question! I love it for two reasons: (1) I’m all about the “rawness” of nature and find real value in unplugging in order to sync up with the environment. I prefer not to even take a watch when I’m in the backcountry. (2) I get to explain the App and it’s purpose in more detail! So the App absolutely should never replace your well-planned epic backcountry adventures. It should never replace that thing that you love and are THE master of doing. Rather, the App is intended to create awesome experiences where none would otherwise take place.

• For example, you are an expert at mountain travel but find yourself in a beach locale for a few days. You could spend a bunch of time googling what’s in the area, Trip Advisoring things to do and yelping who to rent a board from OR instead of spending all your time looking this stuff up, you could do a Choose Your Own Adventure- where everything has already been tested, reviewed and organized so that you can spend your time DOING it instead of researching it.

• For example, work was crazy this week. You’d really like to get outside and de-stress but you didn’t have enough time to plan anything. You could hit the same crag that you hit last weekend and the weekend before OR you could do a Choose Your Own Adventure—and be surprised! You didn’t have to make the plan and you get to do something that you never expected.

• For example, you are new to adventuring. You appreciate pretty outdoor photos and think outdoor wear looks cool but you haven’t tried most outdoor activities yet and don’t feel super confident in going out on your own. You could hire a guide or register for a group trip with a bunch of people that you don’t know OR you could do a Choose Your Own Adventure—where you will be told what type of clothing to wear, what gear to bring, where to go and how to get started. You don’t have to wade through the information overload on your own or shell out a ton of money, but you get to try new activities and learn as you go!

What has been one of the most life changing hours you spent in the great outdoors?

This is really tough. I want to talk to about one of the most challenging or exciting or epic hours because those are interesting. I think the most life-changing hour however, was an hour spent on a solo-backpacking trip in the Sierras when I was 20 years old. Nothing remarkable happened but it’s when I knew who I was. I was setting up camp, hanging food and starting a fire while watching the sunset reflect off a gorgeous lake and it hit me— this is me. I’m independent. I’m strong. I’m fearless. And I’m at home outside. It was just one of those moments when you know that everything’s going to be ok. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t had that moment. And I can’t imagine it taking place anywhere else.

Your goal is to raise $24,978 to fund the development of the Choose Your Own Adventure app. Tell us a bit about what your budget entails to see this development through and how you predicted those numbers? 

I consider myself an expert at adventuring and building adventures, but I am not a software developer. So I will be partnering with an experienced App developer to build a platform with which I can input the adventuring content for each location. The platform development for the App itself is estimated to cost $20,000. I added an additional $2,000 to cover the scouting costs for the first two locations and $2,978 to cover fees: Indiegogo changes a 4% fee if you meet your goal, a 9% fee if you don’t meet your goal and a 3% credit card processing fee on every contribution.

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When the app is launched, what will it cost for users on the iTunes store?

The App itself will be in the 0-99 cent range. While each Adventure will be an in-app purchase of $25-50 depending on the length and depth of the Adventure. In comparison, most guides today charge $200-400 a day and EA’s Custom Adventures currently start at $125.

What excites you most about diving into the app development world? Where do you see yourself taking this project?

The best thing about the mobile app is the ability to bring adventures to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the time or experience to plan something. I’m also super excited to bring this style of adventuring to places beyond California! Someday I’d like to add a service or activism component to the app as well.

Why should someone contribute to your campaign? This is your chance to give us some written inspiration and motivation to be as excited as you are about this!

When was the last time you were EXCITED? I mean really excited, like when you were a little kid and going to your first amusement park?

In exchange for your contribution to the campaign, you will get to do an Adventure. The number one most common piece of feedback I get after an Adventure is how “exciting” it was—you could be the one saying that!

I think we could all use some excitement in our lives! Otherwise, what are we doing here? There’s only a week left, so sign up for your excitement today!!!

About Laura Baker: 

Laura BakerLaura Baker owns and operates Ethos Adventures; a unique adventure company that creates custom self-guided itineraries that are kept classified from clients and revealed only as the adventure unfolds. Prior to starting Ethos Adventures, Laura practiced as an environmental attorney focused on air quality, transportation and environmental justice issues.  She grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park and has lived all over the country; Vermont to Hawaii. Laura has been planning outdoor trips since she was 17 years old.  She is an experienced orienteer and Adventure Racer, backpacker, snow-shoer, swimmer, kayaker, bicyclist, surfer and skier.  She is a lifelong trail and road-runner (Boston Marathon Qualifier) and certified running coach.

 

About The Author

Lauren Rains is the editor at large of Outdoor Minded Mag. She is struck by wanderlust, and spends most waking hours of her life either exploring the outdoors around the globe or working on various passion projects be it film to microadventures to cooking chili. You can read about her adventures in life, biz and travel on her blog TheMadToLive.com, and catch up with her on Twitter at @LaurRAINS.