For seven years and counting, OARS’ International Adventure Consultant Mindy Gleason has been named one of the top travel specialists in the world by Condé Nast Traveler. Maybe it’s her 23 years with the company, or the fact that she’s been on more than 50 trips around the world, but one thing is for sure, she knows how to find the perfect vacation for people.
How did you end up working for OARS?
I had just done a trip in Cataract Canyon—a private trip with a friend who had actually been affiliated with OARS I lived in Jackson, Wyoming and thought it would be a great counterpoint to my ski job in the winter. My first job was as a receptionist. I came back for a second summer and I was offered full-time employment. It was time for a change.
How do you help people choose the right trip?
I think it’s asking the right questions and listening. Sometimes you really have to draw information out of people. People might have a river in mind, and then you find out more about them and what they’re really looking for, and you end up going in a totally different direction. It’s amazing. Sometimes it goes 180 degrees from where you start.
You’ve been on at least 50 trips in your 23 years with OARS. Which experience has stood out the most for you?
Sometimes I’ll say, “Oh, my favorite trip is the last one I was on.” It’s the most alive for you. But I went to Peru last September and that was an amazing trip. Peru really stuck with me. I think it was the whole culture. It’s so vibrant there. We did some trekking and Machu Picchu. I spent the night in Lima, as well, which is a huge city, but it’s cool because it’s on the ocean. And I really liked Cusco because Cusco is such a mixture of the old and the new. I would say that these days my passion is for the international trips, but I’ve always loved being on rivers.
Which river trip stands out most for you?
The Yampa River. For many years I had a colleague who described it to me as a mini-Grand Canyon. I wouldn’t really say it’s a mini-Grand Canyon, but it’s spectacular in its own way. One of those things is fabulous geology and unique scenery associated with the geology. There are hikes with overviews that will just knock your socks off. And it’s the last free-flowing stretch of the Colorado that is run commercially.
Is there one place on your radar that you haven’t been to yet and you’re just dying to travel to?
Morocco…that’s pretty high on my radar. Morocco has always been in my imagination. Africa, in general. And Crete sounds great because I really like kayaking. Lodge to lodge would be really fun.
What do you love most about your job?
Well, I still learn something new almost every day. I’m still learning about the places, about people, about the industry. But what I really like is hearing back from people that I’ve personally worked with to tell me how great the trip was.