This past year has been a time to re-discover our own back yards. Confined to our own countries, regions, cities… or even neighbourhoods, we have been “forced” to explore and re-appreciate what is closer to home. How bad I say?!
As an industry of people with heightened potential for “wander lust”… I for one have certainly fallen victim to the “Far away hills are surely greener” phenomenon at times. Always looking to travel, to see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences, we risk missing what is right in front of our very noses. This pandemic has certainly shoved this right back at us, and “forced” us to look at what is in our immediate surrounds. For many, this has been liberating, inspiring and dare I say, surprising. Sense of place is so important - something that we talk about a lot when putting together incentive programmes. But it’s important to have our own sense of place too, knowing where we belong and what we represent. To be grounded. To have strong roots from which to grow and prosper.
Inspired by Colette Baini’s story of discovering one of her favourite incentive experiences back in the 1990s, right in her own backyard (Australia’s mighty outback!), I invite us all to reflect on the experiences we cherish most in our own surrounds.
Colette Baini’s Story
Back in 1998 I wanted to create an off the beaten track journey that skipped past major cities, avoided all traditional luxury and instead brought a robust life-changing outback experience to regular corporate Australians. An experience that would be branded into their memories forever.
The reward was to be presented to a group of auto sales executives that had excelled in the sale of a particular work truck that they marketed as ‘unbreakable’. The outback seemed an undeniable match.
I flew to Alice Springs and met the mom-and-pop owners of a million-acre cattle station that had been in the family for 6 generations. The couple were considering opening a tourism operation on their property as a back-up business during a crushing drought. The location was the stuff of dreams. The connection with the owners was instant. I used their property for the next two decades for some of the most outstanding incentive experiences presented in Australia, to domestic and international travellers alike. This couple became the key storytellers of my reward trip and in fact the centrepiece of the whole program.
The overall reward was a 6 night trip that commenced at the top of Central Australia in Crocodile Dundee Country, Kakadu National Park with an adventurous fishing expedition. We journeyed down through the Northern Territory to our cattle station outside of Alice Springs where the 30 auto sales executives rode horseback, quad bikes and bull catchers, flew in the heli, or ran the camp kitchen. We mustered cattle out the back of the MacDonnell Ranges before camping outdoors in Aussie swags by the campfire, branded the billion star experience.
The trip wrapped up at the majestic Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Here blokes melted into their artwork as they were guided by famous aboriginal artists teaching them to communicate their journey through dot painting.
This trip was thoughtfully connected by the greatest of Aussie characters, joke-tellers, fishermen, producers, artists and farmers, all telling great ‘yarns’ in their own voice. We took a stroll through our own back yard and discovered an unimaginable world so different from our every day. The participants were bonded for a great many years as they recounted with joy their life altering experiences on this unique reward trip. This was ‘city slickers’ Aussie style.
Have you re-discovered any forgotten gems during this past year? Have you found beauty and excitement where you least expected it? As we get ready to charge out the gate again and explore so many pastures new, let us not forget the learnings of home and the strong roots we’ve been watering. These roots will continue to ground and inspire us, personally and professionally, well into 2021.
Written by Sara Hosford, SoolNua & Colette Baini, The Conference Room