How a Canoe Trip 30 Years Ago Transformed Anne & Kurt Kutay, Founders of Wildland Adventures

Dear Friends,

In 1987, Anne and I, founders of Wildland Adventures, birthed a new travel concept we call The Wild Style.  We wanted to travel deeper, not further; to experience a world that craves our understanding and compassion rather than our judgment; to visit communities that seek to welcome us rather than entertain us. Starting out, we questioned if we could build a successful business around accomplishing these goals, but over 30 years we achieved a delicate balance of introducing guests to remote destinations while preserving the culture they’ve come to experience. The Wild Style requires more effort to deliver. Our field research to make inroads into local communities and find guides who delight in our quest for life-changing travel takes time but results in big rewards for the guest.

Our impetus? While motoring up the Amazon River in a dugout canoe 30 years ago, we came upon the Yagua, an indigenous people of Colombia and northeastern Peru. From afar we witnessed the commotion as they ran into their huts in jeans and t-shirts and emerged half-naked in grass skirts with blowguns in hand to greet us. In that instant, while leading our first group tour we decided:

At Wildland Adventures, authenticity will be our highest priority;

that we will approach our world and the people and cultures we share it with

embraced in an ethic of honesty and sincerity.

When we approached the Yagua in gratitude with respect, what otherwise might have been a one-sided tourist parade was a heartfelt cultural connection. This was not a group of individuals living in the past, but rather an indigenous community transitioning into the modern world. We laughed together while learning how to use a blow gun and the façade between us faded as we began asking deeper questions about them as individuals. How did they live today? Provide for their families in the jungle?  They were excited to share their traditions, customs and present-day lifestyle with a group of eco-tourists genuinely interested in learning more. 

Later, as our canoe drifted back downriver to our reality, we were returning home with a new-found understanding of the hardships faced by indigenous peoples. We began to understand their challenges in overcoming inequities and prejudices, as well as their struggle to reclaim the basic human rights necessary to participate in modern life while preserving their own cultural heritage. Our interaction on that sand bar in the middle of the Amazon River was their opportunity to earn income and share their culture with the outside world.

Today we continue to seek out rural communities where we can bring the benefits of ecotourism to help support local people while promoting the conservation of wildlands.

Over the course of our 30-year journey, we have held firm to a truth that travel is one of the most important paths to a growing global community which sustains – rather than degrades – life on earth. Thanks to our travelers, we’re expanding our global family. We do this not between nations but through conscientious individuals and communities who care about Mother Earth, economic inequities and social injustices.

Our Wild Style of travel opens the possibilities of exploring, as author Joe Robinson describes, “…the vast incognita territory within each of us.”  When you travel in gratitude with an intention to experience the world in sincerity and good faith, every adventure becomes your own personal journey to discover something in yourself.

Our purpose is to return home from a trip not only knowing the world, but our place in it.  After 30 years of travel with friends and family, our children now show us by example that to be transformed by travel is to transform the world. They remind us that our adventures down an open road help us shed our baggage, summoning us to cultivate love and renewed purpose.

Thank you for your support over these past 30 years. Please check your inbox in the coming months for how we plan to celebrate moving forward into the future.

With kindest regards,

Kurt and Anne Kutay

Wildland Adventures

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