Today I caught up with Sara Freeland, Owner and Lead-Guide for Freeland Hiking Co. Sara operates some wonderful hiking tours in the Blue Mountains and in the Royal National Park. In 2019 Sara launched her business, and to say she’s had some major challenges getting her business going is an understatement. Like all businesses at the moment Sara’s has been impacted by COVID 19 pandemic. Before that, it was the 2019/20 bushfire season that closed a lot of the Blue Mountains.
We asked Sara a series of questions about her business and her experience in adventure tourism.
Sara, what are your qualifications or experience in adventure tourism?
I have a Certificate III and IV in Adventure Tour Guiding and a Certificate III in Outdoor Recreation.
How long have you been in the industry?
Since 2016. I essentially had a quarter-life crisis and realised that mountains made of rock are WAY cooler than mountains made of money, and I discovered what makes me truly happy. Prior to my 20’s, I had never hiked, camped etc.
What drove you to start an adventure tour business?
To design the life I want to live. One that is connecting with new people, sharing my passion and spending my days outdoors where I am most happy.
What do you like most about your role?
This is easy. Sharing with others my passion for nature, and being outside. If I can help even just one person grow a deeper connection to nature like I have and discover their own true happiness, then I would consider that a success.
I will always be in debt to my guides on my first hiking experience, who opened up this whole world for me. It’s a pillar of my business, to educate my guests because I think learning and understanding is the first step towards respect and a deeper connection.
Which tour do you enjoy the most?
I personally love my Ruined Castle Overnight Tour, for a few reasons. I call it the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ experience. You can escape the city, and get out into the bush in just a few hours. It’s the perfect introductory walk for anyone looking to try overnight hiking for the first time, as the time spent walking with a full pack is relatively short. You also get to climb two incredible mountains and experience a wide range of Sydney’s landscapes; rainforest, eucalyptus bushland, sandstone cliffs etc. It’s just long enough to really switch off and disconnect from the world for a moment.
Do you have a funny or interesting story that’s happened on a tour?
Well I tell really funny (terrible) Dad jokes, so you could say that it’s always a funny experience on my tours…
But specifically on one of my tours, someone was quite afraid of snakes, and I assured them that I had NEVER seen a snake on this particular tour, and that it was highly unlikely we would see any today. Well, of course as Murphy’s Law goes, we saw 4 snakes on that trip, and I will never live down that in their eyes.
What keeps you fit, happy & healthy?
This is going to sound totally cliche, but just being outside makes me happy. I live right near the ocean and swimming in the water is a daily routine for me (lock-down is really hurting my soul as my beach is currently closed).
I also train in a CrossFit gym 5 times a week and walk around a lot.
Have you always been the adventure business? If not, what else have you done?
No, in my old life (pre-quarter-life-crisis), I studied accounting at Uni and was working in a ridiculously highly paid and soul-sucking job. Thank goodness I got out nice and early, and now I am trying to build the life I want to live.
When Australia is up and running again after the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you think we will have learnt from this experience?
I have learnt ALOT. I went on the typical rollercoaster ride of almost shutting down the business, deciding it was all too hard, and then surging with insane enthusiasm to completely redesign the whole thing from scratch.
Thankfully, we’ve settled somewhere in the middle, where I am going to be making some smaller changes, releasing some new tours and attempting to target the domestic market a little more. I think people are going to be bursting at the seams to get outdoors and experience life after this. I also feel that people will be more focused on supporting small, local businesses who have been so hurt by this crisis.
Lastly, what’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic is over?
The very very first thing will be to swim in the ocean!!!!
And then my partner and I have already got our Project Lockdown escape plan in place, and we’ll be heading straight out to the bush to spend a few days reconnecting with nature and celebrating the end.
Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing some of your thoughts and story.
If you want to follow Sara check out her Instagram page… @freelandhikingco
To find out more about some of her current tours we offer in Break Loose… Click here… Freeland Hiking Co