This is to all Community Partners!
Now, why I wrote this story is because I also want to thank you all for contributing all your energy to this huge project – Much more than just creating a podcast and a place to present our content, but creating and living a supportive community with people that have a positive mindset, are driven and empowered to charge towards their dreams (that’s you!). Together we further developed our philosophy and took the definition of our principles, values and mission to the next level.
This story is not just about the process of creating a website with its’ foundation and features, it’s also about the internal transformation that I, and hopefully all of you, went through while defining the journey that everyone experiences at the ranch. I will share with you my perspective of creating Trails to Empowerment.
Everything started a year ago with the objective to rebrand Chilcotin Holidays according to the principles of Story Branding, a marketing strategy that Stephanie Lee from California has introduced us to. A core group of our has diligently worked on adjusting content, redefining the structure and implementing it on all our 3 websites. The outcome was a success and we had a good number of enquiries this season. The key thing about this though is not how many enquiries we received, but about the fact that they qualified themselves through a new application process that we implemented.
I personally wasn’t involved in working on the new content as last winter I took care of the enquiries. Nevertheless, the community encouraged me to participate in the project whenever an opportunity occurred. I was invited in our Slack channel, where we shared marketing related inspirations. At some point, we stumbled on the “Remarkable!” book – and that was the turning point. This book articulates the culture we live and breathe at the ranch every day. Realizing that this is what we’ve been looking to promote since many years, it was intensely shared with the community and its’ principles have been worked into our questionnaires and on the websites.
The first time I listened to the audiobook, it took me a while to grasp what I was hearing, but some key phrases, such as “creating value”, “wanting the best for one another” and making responsible decisions in “clutch situations”, kept popping up in my head. After the 10th time listening to Remarkable!, I had internalized the concept and understood my motivation to stay involved with the ranch: I’m not driven by a pay grade, my intention is to add value to my environment. In my case this means, I want the people and nature around me to thrive. I always knew that money can’t compensate my lack of purpose, but now I knew why.
Further along this journey, we came along the “Transformational Travel Council”, causing the same reaction: “This is exactly what we do and these guys promote it on their website”. We all know that our Wilderness Trips are more than just an ordinary adventure; you get challenged in a way that you’d never have expected, you’re thrown into the deep-end and have the choice of making the best out of the opportunities and have an experience that transforms your life – no matter if you’re a guest, a Guide School student or staff.
Ever since then, we realized that going through this transformational process is universal, but not everyone is ready for this journey with self. That’s why we developed our “Wilderness Readiness Survey”, that has been reshaped and tweaked until today to make sure that everyone who wants to join our community, on a Pack Trip, a Guide School or in an Internship, is willing and mentally prepared for taking their lives to the next level. With the launch of Trails to Empowerment, we are proud to use this survey as a self-selection process equally for guests, students and staff for ensuring the best experience and anticipated outcome for all participants that join our community at the ranch. With the Wilderness Readiness Survey, we developed the “Hero’s Journal”, the “Transformational Journey Review”, our “10 o’clock” meeting procedure and our “Application Questionnaires” for guests, staff and students.
Around May, when the Pack Trip season started, Kevan decided to buy a new camera for taking marketing pictures. It turned out (probably by accidentally pushing the wrong button 😉) that the camera takes amazing videos that are much more authentic than pictures. Everyone had fun playing around with it, and on one trip, when there was no time for doing it at the ranch, the weekly TJR has been filmed in the mountains. These videos, taken with blue skies amid the blooming wildflowers around Eldorado Camp, turned out to be empowering and inspirational content. For sure the outcome was more valuable than anticipated and expected, it happened naturally because that’s what we do: Empower people by exposing them to challenges of the wilderness and nature.
In the meantime, we discovered another source of inspiration: Podcasts. We could relate especially well to the content of “Brendon Burchard” and “Impact Theory”, so their episodes were passed amongst our community and ran hot on our phones and car radios.
After a while, we started connecting the dots and realized that in the conversations we have on video we talk about personal transformation – just like the podcasts do! So, why not have our own podcast?
We threw some shit at the wall and set up a subpage on our wilderness jobs website for the podcast. At the same time, we kept recording literally everything on trips in the mountains. We were collecting so much material that we asked ourselves: And where do we present those amazing visuals? On just one subpage, there was no space. That’s when we decided to draw up a whole new structure, where the standalone podcast website was going to be the “tip of the iceberg” followed by the three pillars of our philosophy that we identified: Personal Development, Nature Connection and Conservation and Stewardship.
The basic concept seemed to make sense, but it was lacking something; the core and its personality. With this website, we created much more than just a platform to host our podcast. It unites our shared philosophy, represents our community and tells our stories. It inspires people and empowers them to start their own journey of transformation. Without a clue, we have just created a community website, and it just happened naturally.
How did we come to that conclusion? Well, besides creating all the videos, podcasts and stories, we’ve been working on understanding our mission, vision and philosophy. Most of the time, we knew the direction we wanted to go. The question was, how do we articulate it outwardly? How do we get people to understand that this place might be what they’ve been looking for since a long time? How do we communicate our communal principles, that we believe in each other, want the best for each other and expect the best from one another?
In close teamwork, we were cranking out the write-ups and discussed them in exciting powwow sessions (Kevan’s favorite events). Our Principle list, the 5 stages of perpetual motion, 5 levels of involvement, priority identification questionnaire, meeting procedures and risk management – We’ve done it all! We went over it, and over and over, back and forth… and finalized the versions for going on the website.
Gladly, I was at the ranch so we could work together more easily than over phone and email conversations. Working on the big picture for our community and with our community, has been an incredibly rewarding process for me. Coming back to the ranch felt like home from the start, but working with everyone to create this unexpected outcome has been an incredibly valuable experience that I’m still processing. (:D) Not only did I have a chance to walk through a major project from the start to the launch, I’ve learned how to deal with timelines and reduce my anxieties.
I hope that you all, who have contributed your insights, energy and passion to Trails to Empowerment, have benefited as much from this process as the people out there, looking for more in life, will from your dedication. With your work, we will impact the lives of many other people, that go through the same process we all went through – together! And even if we only impact the life of one other person, it has been absolutely worth it.
Being a part of this community is a gift that I appreciate every day and I’m determined to go to the next level and transfer our philosophy to Rewilded Minds, Chilcotin Holidays and WSF. Also, I finally found my fantasy: I hope I contribute as much to your lives as you guys do to mine! I’m incredibly thankful for all your efforts, you made working on this so enjoyable and easy. I wish I could have stayed at the ranch longer (I still wasn’t ready to leave!) and I can’t wait to spend Christmas with some of you guys!
I want to give special thanks to:
Kathrin, for being the best planner ever, double-checking everything, chasing after our dream (by chasing other people), having the overview and keeping everyone in the loop.
Jasmin, for inspiring us with all the books she has read about braving the wilderness, the remarkable culture and living intentionally; questioning our content and drawing charts, graphics and structures in all colors and keeping the office out of trouble.
Charlie, for “cranking out the shit” (content, as Kevan refers to), writing hundreds of pages while going through the thought process, inspiring us with her countless blog stories and charging forward with her own book – you’re unstoppable girl!
Maaike, for starting our video editing run, producing incredible content that inspires us all.
Juanito, for producing crème de la crème videos with his editing skills and supporting us with your “relax and breathe” mindset – this has kept us all sane!
Kristin, for introducing Brendon Burchard to us, contributing your amazing videos and pictures and caring for everyone’s physical balance by taking us on adventure hikes.
Edyta, for working away on all websites, podcast platforms and social media channels, sharing your skills and knowledge and providing constructive feedback for perfecting our Trails to Empowerment website.
Marilen, for jumping into the project, supporting Kathrin with the social media schedule and getting up to speed with our bigger picture plans.
Manon, for mastering the day to day challenges at the ranch, taking responsibility for the essentials and keeping up with our philosophy – you inspire me and I’m in awe of your level of charge!
Ed, for your oh-oh’s, setting us up technically, constantly assessing the risk and contributing valuable insights to our community.
And Kevan, for facilitating this unique environment for 30 years, empowering people and persevere in blindly following a the mission to create a remarkable culture. Thanks for your trust, creativity and charge forward (aka throw some shit on the wall) attitude. You set the stage for us to do the impossible every day.
To everyone else that has been contributing, from the ranch or across the globe, even if it’s just one feedback email, thanks for moving it forward, we couldn’t have done it without you!
And remember – This is only the beginning of something bigger than we can imagine now, just like before we created Trails to Empowerment! I hope you’re as excited as I am!
Author: Fenja, Germany