The Story Behind Summit & Blue : Interview With MD Richard Edwards
Summit & Blue was born out of a desire to explore and go on an adventure. Four years ago, our MD Richard Edwards made the bold decision to go it alone and set up an adventure travel business in an extremely competitive market. We sat down with Richard to find out a bit more about the origins and goals of the company, his personal and professional aspirations, and why he is a fully signed-up member of the ‘Just Go For It’ club!
Tell us a bit about yourself….
My name is Richard Edwards and I am the MD and co-founder of Summit & Blue. As a child of a ex-pat parents, I was extremely fortunate to be exposed to a variety of cultures growing up as we lived in many different countries including Africa, Mauritius, India, Canada, the USA and much of Europe. Exploring the world and what it has to offer is very much a part of who I am and I hope to pass this passion on to my two young boys – a pair of exceptionally inquisitive little chaps who are great fun and permanently on the go!
What inspired you to start Summit & Blue?
Summit & Blue came about when I reached a career crossroads four years ago. A lifelong love of sport and the outdoors combined with over twenty years experience working in the travel industry led to me to realise that I was well-placed to offer something a little bit different – namely, unique and personally crafted activity-based holidays created and delivered with top quality service and attention. My vision for Summit & Blue was to offer truly exceptional holidays in outstanding places to like-minded individuals.
Tell us a bit about Summit & Blue…
Ted Simon rode a motorbike around the world over 4 years and in his book Jupiter’s Travel’s he wrote “I am learning that it is remarkably easy to do things but much more frightening to contemplate them.” I believe that Summit & Blue is the bridge between ‘contemplation’ and a world of new adventures, standout memories, and lifelong bonds that lies just over the other side. If we can help inspire you to go beyond contemplation then we have achieved our goal.
How difficult was it to take the bold step into the unknown and set up on your own?
I have learnt that sometimes you just have to get on with it. You can speculate, theorise and discuss ideas for as long as you like but at some point you have to make a decision. And the only person who can do this is you.
Self-belief is certainly fuelled by the support of those around you and I’m extremely lucky to have such a good team around me at Summit & Blue that gives me the confidence to step over that bridge from contemplation to action.
The older I get the more I realise that unless your decisions are stopping others from getting what they want, then you really just have to go for it!
Three years on from the birth of S&B, how do you feel the company has evolved from your original concept?
It is fundamentally important to be honest, stick to what you know and stay true to your original concept as it is your Base Camp. It is your powerhouse, your place to recharge and keeps you going in the right direction, enabling you to deliver a consistent type of product and style of service.
It is also equally important to remain open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Continuing to explore is exceptionally important to us both as a business and individuals as it gives us fresh inspiration to pass on to our guests.
Listening to our clients, their previous experiences and future aspirations is also invaluable as it throws up all kinds of other ideas of how we can deliver even better and more extraordinary experiences. If someone told me that you could watch bears feed on migrating salmon from the safety of a paddle board a few years ago I wouldn’t have believed you. That fact that Summit & Blue can send you on such a trip just a short distance from Vancouver Island I still find even more incredible and exciting!
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the travel industry today?
There’s no doubt that the recent political and economic uncertainty has had a profound effect on consumer confidence. However as a wise man called Albert Einstein once said ‘in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity’ and that is how we choose to look at things here at Summit & Blue.
I also believe that people who love travelling and adventure rarely stop travelling but they may just do it differently. After all, everything is relative. One man’s walk in a National Park is another man’s walk in the park and that’s perfectly ok with us. There is potential for individual adventure to be found at every level.
For many people travel is all about finding those hidden gems and staying ahead of the crowds. Which destinations are worth visiting now before they become too popular?
I would definitely suggest you put Greenland on your list straight away. It’s an exceptional place and a true wilderness but it is increasingly in popularity and with the potential for the North West passage becoming ice free during the summer, I suggest that you get there quickly before the crowds! We are particularly excited by some of the authentic experiences being developed by locals that include sea kayaking amongst icebergs before overnighting in luxury safari style tents that come complete with showers!
As far as other off the beaten track destinations are concerned, you don’t necessarily have to be going somewhere totally new to experience something totally different. Sometimes it can just be a variation on an existing theme.
Scandinavia for example is growing in popularity both in the summer and winter as its diverse seasons offer the full spectrum of outdoor adventure activity potential. The long winter season allows for a range of winter activities from ski touring to alpine skiing, ice fishing to dog sledding, Northern light gazing to ice climbing and everything in between. In summer there are amazing sea kayaking opportunities along one of the world’s longest coastlines with numerous archipelagos and fjords to discover. There’s paddle boarding, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, trail running, fishing – the works. And great seafood!
The Dolomites in the South Tyrol may be sandwiched between two more popular destinations but overlook it at your peril. It really is one of the most amazing places we’ve ever visited, in winter and in summer. The truly spectacular mountains are a playground for hiking, climbing, skiing, mountain biking, road biking etc and the mountain refuges are out of this world.
Another under-the-radar destination is Oregon in the Pacific Northwest of the US. With exceptional mountains, funky cities, incredible desert, wild forests, beautiful beaches and endless wilderness, Oregon is every bit as impressive as California but crucially with less people and a more down-to-earth vibe. If you like multi-activity holidays you’ll love this place as you can ski, bike and surf all in the same day. And when the sun goes down, you can visit one of Oregon’s internationally renowned micro-breweries or vineyards for a cheeky craft beer or Pinot Noir – or two!
Do you have a travel bucket list and if so, what are your top 5 destinations?
Gosh that’s a tough one! There are so many places I would love to visit but top of the list right now would have to be:
The Lofoten islands
The Alhambra of Granada in Spain
Do you have any particular goals for 2017?
My main priority is to see Summit & Blue continue to grow as a specialist travel company offering memorable experiences to unusual destinations across the Northern Hemisphere.
And finally, how would you spend a year off if money was no object?
I’m not sure I can answer that, there’s just too much I’d like to do! Perhaps I’d fly a classic bi-plane across Canada, ride a motorbike across South America and then sail a classic wooden yacht somewhere warm….. Come to think of it, that sounds like a plan!
If you’d like to speak to Richard about any of Summit & Blue’s existing itineraries, to pick his brains on the latest goings-on in the travel industry or to finance his year off, then give him a ring!