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How I Returned with the Elixir

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Pack Trip Guide in the Mountains

On the 24th of May 2019, I left my home in Belgium to intern at the Chilcotin Holidays Guest Ranch in the Chilcotin Mountains of Canada. I always wanted to be a horseback guide and when I got the opportunity to choose my internship, I did not have to think long about what I wanted to do. I am an International Tourism Management student in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. My study prepares you to work in the tourism industry, which is something I am really passionate about. I am interested in eco-tourism, because it is a form of tourism where you show people the environment without harming it. This is why Chilcotin Holidays was the perfect place for me. 

The ranch shows people the Chilcotin Mountains in a sustainable way, teaching its guests about the beautiful flora, fauna and history in the area. Why it should be preserved and shown to spread awareness about the importance of conservation. Besides this, the trips are all about offering its guests a transformative travel experience. During the trips the guests take, they are asked to fill in a Hero’s Journal. What is a Hero’s Journal? 

The Hero’s Journal is based on the hero’s journey, a twelve-step guide that highlights all the steps a person goes through whilst experiencing a transformative trip. And not just a normal transformation, a transformation that people will take with them for the rest of their lives that they can share with others and motivate others to become the hero of their own journey. 

The owner of the ranch, Kevan Bracewell, once asked me: Do you want to be the writer of your own story? Or are you going to let people write it for you? Which got me thinking, about what I really want and what I want to accomplish. I personally have gone through this transformation, and am living proof that the hero’s journey is, in fact, a real thing. 

After my trip to Canada, I took all the life lessons learned at the ranch home with me. At first, it was difficult coming back home into my old environment and being surrounded by people that haven’t changed and mindsets that were similar to my old mindset. I was passionate, wanted to share my knowledge with everyone and realized fast that you can only share it with people that are ready for it. 

After a while, I was not sure anymore how to live the life I wanted, I lost focus on what I thought was important and was scared that I would fall back into some old habits. However, one of our year courses at my university required us to create our own tour operator and trip. It was a competition, where you had to create something original and present this to judges at the end of the year. The judges were professionals in the travel industry and worked for some major names in the Dutch tourism world. 

This sparked the fire again and I immediately knew what I wanted to present in the end. I explained to my partner that it would be a super original idea to offer transformative trips to people, since travelers now want more out of a trip. They want to experience something great, something that gets them out of their comfort zone and motivates them to keep on taking steps in their own journey. She thought it was an amazing idea, and we started working on our concept together. Offering transformative trips into the Scottish wilderness. 

At first, our teacher was a bit skeptical. What is transformative travel actually, how will you make the concept understandable? Luckily, thanks to the knowledge acquired at the ranch and actually living the idea I knew exactly how to word everything and where to look for more inspiration and ideas. 

Quickly we found the perfect name to fit our concept. TrailBlazers! Why? 

A trailblazer is a pioneer, an innovator, a lifelong learner, a mover and a shaker. A leader who builds a path for others to follow, and most importantly a better world for others to live in. By going on the transformative trips offered by our company, our guests would become real trailblazes! The trips we hypothetically offered would follow the steps of the hero’s journey, which are:

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. The Call to Adventure
  3. The Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies and Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. The Ordeal
  9. The Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. The Resurrection 
  12. The Return with the Elixir

By getting people out of their comfort zone, pushing their own boundaries and limits, eventually they would undergo a transformation, that will give them the opportunity to return home and share their knowledge and experience with others. To motivate others to become the heroes of their own journey and live their lives differently. 

Working on this project everyday strengthened my bond with myself and with what I had learned at the ranch. I felt inspired again every day and motivated to share an experience that I had gone through myself. People around me started to listen to what I had to say about the concept and were interested. Some of my acquaintances are now interested in going on a transformative trip themselves or to become more invested in themselves, setting their own goals for themselves, realizing what is actually important to them. I started to pick up myself more and became more invested in myself, my goals and my path again. Another quote that helped me was: Your best friend is someone that keeps you accountable. So why should I not be my own best friend? 

And if that wasn’t enough, my partner Imelda and I won the competition! Our judges were enthusiastic about our concept and saw potential for the future travel industry. 

My adventure in Canada ended almost a year ago now, but I am still living my own adventure. Every day, I still feel connected to the ranch. I feel like they have helped me become who I am now and helped me with my accomplishments, living in order to reach my full potential. 

Being a guide in the Chilcotin Mountains has been a real challenge for me that included a lot of highs and lows. It has made me stronger, more focused and has given me the courage to brave the wilderness! It was all so worth it, and I am grateful every day. 


Maaike, Belgium
May 2020