The first thing to understand about Pura Aventura is that we are, at heart, a family business. Admittedly, it?s a modern, pan-European family with two branches, one Spanish (the Martíns) and one British (the Powers) as well as some crucially important non-family members at the table. But it feels like a family.
The continuous involvement of the founders? fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and grandparents gives Pura Aventura a great deal of its character. We take our work very personally and the ethical way we operate is a source of great pride to us all.
Our story started in 1994 when Thomas Power, living in Chile at the time, went south to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. While there he met Spaniard Diego Martín and Basque Xabi Etxarri. Together they trekked pretty much every trail in the park.
During this time the plan for Pura Aventura began to take shape ? active holidays in comfort to the most amazing destinations in Latin America and Spain. The groundwork was done over the next few years until, in 1999, Pura Aventura was launched.
Since then our range of destinations has grown to take in most countries in South and Central America. What hasn?t changed is the way we work closely with a carefully curated network of partners to create holidays which are intelligently tailored for each client.
Over the years we have featured in every major publication from the Times to Tatler as well as headlining no fewer than four travel programs on the BBC. However, we remain a small, tight knit and loyal team.
As one particularly kind client put it, ?Individuals make the company, they are incredible!? so here?s a little more about the main individuals within Pura Aventura. Whilst this list covers the people you are likely to come into contact with if you pick up the phone today, it does not include those people who have been absolutely invaluable over the years but have now retired or moved on. Nor does it include the many part time support staff we have, from designers to writers to financial advisers. Finally, it doesn?t include the veritable army of people who work to make our holidays across Spain and Latin America run as well as they do.
What we believe
We believe in adventure. Not just the adrenaline-coursing-through-your-veins kind, but the deeper, richer sort too. We believe that people who travel as ‘adventurers’ with their minds open to new sights, sounds, tastes and people, come back feeling more alive than when they left.
To travel is to live
So when we say, “To travel is to live”, it’s not us being grand or clever, it’s what we believe. If you follow everything we do back to its source, what you get to is our conviction that travel is transformative. When we travel, we return as better versions of ourselves.
It is therefore our job to only create holidays which sit comfortably within this belief. There are three parts to this work.
First is our network of partners and people across Spain and Latin America. You should take a moment to read how we workin order to understand how our holidays are materially different to most.
Second are our clients, you. You can read about our clients but the truth is that it all comes down to whether or not you agree that travel is about being more alive. If you do then you should like how we work.
Of course, every client is subtly different. What you consider to be wonderful will pass others by. That’s why we start from scratch, always taking the time to create a trip that’s right for you.
Which leads us neatly to the third part of the equation: us, Pura Aventura. It’s our job to be experts, to have experienced the things we have in our ‘toolkit’. It’s our job to take time to understand you and to then make intelligent connections as we create a great holiday for you.
For us to do our work properly, we need to know something of you. This is why we want you to call us, to write to us.
Whether you’re thinking about walking in Patagonia or there’s something about harvest time in La Rioja that you’ve always liked the sound of, we can help you get there.
Finally, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the line, ‘To travel is to live’, it isn’t ours, we’ve borrowed it. Here it is in context:
To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote:
To travel is to live.
– Hans Christian Anderson, in ‘The Fairy Tale of My Life’
Thomas is one of the founders of Pura Aventura and has been the cornerstone of the Brighton office from the start. It all started back in 1992 when working for Oxfam as a fundraiser. One day his boss looked up from her desk and suggested that he would be well suited as a tour guide.
Taking this clear ?go away? as a piece of positive advice, he got himself a job guiding around Europe, primarily Spain (but also Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, UK, Belgium, Morocco? you get the idea.)
This footloose and fancy-free lifestyle gave him the opportunity to travel in the off-season i.e. winter. There seemed no more sensible place to go than South America. In his first 6 month jaunt he landed up in a small village in northern Mexico, the following year he fetched up in Santiago de Chile working for the UN Population Agency.
It was while he was here that he started to see images of Torres del Paine National Park and decided that he had to go. That first visit to the park lasted 6 weeks, during which time he met Diego Martín and the ideas started to flow.
Thomas?s conviction that travel is transformative remains undimmed. He is very much still involved in the day-to-day running of the business, particularly sales, marketing and product development.
Diego is one of the founders of Pura, as mentioned above, he and Thomas met in Torres del Paine where Diego was working as a volunteer park guard also getting to know Xabi Etxarri.
It was natural that Pura should start with a focus on southern Chile but it was Diego?s family house in Spain?s Picos de Europa mountains which led us to offer the somewhat niche combination of Chile and the Picos.
As the years have rolled on Diego worked to research and deliver new destinations across both Spain and Latin America. He also found time to guide our group holidays and to be there for our customers in the Picos.
In the past few years Diego has taken time out to set up the Bearded Vulture re-introduction programme in the Picos. This major task has led him to set up an amazing visitor centre and also to work in his beloved Picos conserving not just the vultures but also the traditional human lifestyles which underpin the survival of the birds, such as shepherding the high pastures.
In 2013 with the conservation work up and running safely without him and his organic finca well established, Diego has now been able to return to concentrate fully on Pura Aventura once more.
The third of the founder members of our team, many of you will know Xabi from La Rioja or the Pyrenees in Spain. Others will have been guided by him in Chile. Xabi hails from Navarra, in Basque Country. He is a qualified science teacher and physicist with a specialisation in astrophysics. After six years working in physics Xabi knew that a traditional 9 to 5 office job with all its constraints couldn?t fulfill him forever and so he decided to leave it all behind and go looking for something else, not knowing exactly what but knowing he was up for the journey. His plan was to leave his routine, his world, and find himself while looking for something completely different. He decided on Chilean Patagonia, sold his stuff, bought a one way ticket to Santiago and set off. The year was 1994.
Arriving in Natales Xabi set about hiking, thinking, reading and writing. He unlocked his passion for poetry and has since written 14 books of poetry which can be found in a published anthology (Antología del Nómada, RIL editores, Santiago de Chile, 2005). Same year he went to Torres del Paine National Park and trekked solo through the park, waking up to incredible scenery and spectacular nature and realising this was his calling in life. He became a trekking guide and later a nature guide, interested in nature & all aspects of science and passionate about mountains (he grew up near the Pyrenees).
Twenty years later he?s still living in the open air, leading groups through Patagonia?s enchanting scenery (and in Spain the other six months of the year, in Patagonian winter). His curiosity, scientific background and love of books has led him to become the naturalist he is, and today as well as guiding he trains nature guides in Spain and Chile.
Father of Thomas but more importantly a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountant with rather a lot of years? experience as Financial Director and then Managing Director of the restaurants of United Biscuits.
Mike has provided advice, support, planning, accountancy, software development and even childcare over the course of many years. He is very much a father figure to the business, we wouldn?t be here without him. Though latterly he has stepped back from the day to day, he remains part of the team, not least because we still use his database which he programmed for us back in 2001 so we need him close just in case…
Jaime Lahoz Ortiz
Just to prove that we like our guides to be well-rounded and interesting individuals. Some of you will already know Jaime from the slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees where he leads our ski groups. Others will have met him in the Picos de Europa where he helps out with our Family Adventure holidays. But there?s so much more to him than just that?
Ten years ago, Jaime was enjoying a career as cabin crew on Iberia with a touch of modeling on the side, as well as playing rugby for the Spanish national team. In fact he was on the verge of being signed up by Wigan to play Rugby League here in the UK when he was involved in a nasty traffic accident whilst travelling with one of Pura?s founders, Xabi Etxarri.
After a few months in traction next door to one another, they became best of buddies. That?s how Jaime came to be involved in Pura Aventura.
Nowadays Jaime?s first love is the snow, and photography. Much of Jaime?s photography ends up as front covers for snowboard magazines in Spain, Italy, Germany, the US and the UK.
He is a ski/board instructor and chooses to spend his time, when not travelling for photo shoots, in the intimate Pyrenean resort of Cerler.
Natasha has been with us since 2005. She?s in charge of keeping our accounts in order and letting clients know what is due and when. She also makes sure that all of our myriad partners are paid properly and on time.
Natasha is a wonderful mixture of serious and fun. On the serious side she was a teacher; has a slightly unhealthy interest in stationery and gets worryingly excited when she uncovers numeric palindromes.
On the fun side, she is an accomplished portrait photographer in her spare time and has sung vocals on over 200 songs written by her husband Brad.
We are delighted to say that Natasha?s perhaps our most evangelical supporter when it comes to saying that, ?To travel is to live?. Having spent many years travelling overseas only vicariously due to Brad?s fear of flying, in spring 2013 they bit the bullet and headed over to the Picos de Europa. If you don?t believe in the transformative powers of travel, speak to Natasha and she?ll convince you otherwise.
Sarah has been with us since 2006, and has proved so invaluable that she now sits on the board alongside the three founders.
With a background in publishing, Sarah?s great strength is in her eye for detail. Our hands-on approach to creating holidays means we prefer to deal direct with individuals rather than agencies, so for Sarah, this means handling heaps of detailed information, day in and day out.
Before we extract the violins however, let?s make it clear that Sarah has been organising holidays from an early age. With an eye for detail, a pile of brochures, a region and a budget, she would regularly draw up a shortlist for the family holiday. For Sarah, brochures, maps and atlases were favoured over the usual teen magazines, so the passion for travel and organising has been slowly but persistently weaving its magic.
We would also like to acknowledge the pivotal role played by Masterchef?s rejection of Sarah?s pesto sauce. If not for that she might have left to pursue kitchen glory. Just as well, since her pesto was such a ‘miss’ that the tasting chef spat it out. Close call…
Originally from Medellin in Colombia she found her way to us via Madrid and the Subway sandwich shop in Peacehaven. Not the most obvious path but we’re glad she’s here. Gloria’s role in Pura is primarily in operations so she is part of the team who make sure that your holidays happen as they are supposed to.
“I am originally from Medellin, Colombia the second biggest city in the country and known as the City of Eternal Spring (La ciudad de la eternal primavera). I came to Europe with the intention of staying for one year. But I fell in love with Spain and I lived there for almost 10 years working in the tourism sector and exploring the country.
Just like my colleagues here at Pura Aventura I am very passionate about the places I visit. I decided to come to the UK to learn English and signed up to a 6-month language course. Once again I fell in love with a place, this time Brighton, and now two years later I am still here.
I really enjoy living in Europe but I still miss Colombia a lot. Every time I go back there I am reminded that it is such a beautiful part of the world. I know it suffers from a bad reputation and I find that very frustrating. Colombia has so much to offer to the tourist – lovely people, two beautiful coastlines Atlantic and Pacific, jungle, desert and fantastic food. I miss the food!?
David?s passion for Latin America began at an early age, with a 5-week trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos when still a teenager. This spawned a love of wildlife, big landscapes and South America in general. Subsequent trips to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina over the next few years found him trekking, rafting, biking and looking after some rather stroppy capuchin monkeys.
He embarked upon a degree in Hispanic Studies, largely due to the fact that it was a four year course with the third year spent abroad. Spurning the more obvious charms of Spain, he divided the time between Santiago in Chile and Cusco in Peru, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to do some research on the Incas. After his third trip to Machu Picchu, he concluded that they were pretty cool.
Happily Spain?s charms did catch up with Dave eventually, and he spent 6 months as a tour leader in Andalucia, taking groups around cultural treasures such as the Alhambra and walking in the mountains. Along the way he developed a serious love affair with jamón.
For five years from 2006 David worked in sales and product for a well-respected tour operator, giving him the opportunity to discover even more Latin American countries along the way. Because the way we create our holidays is so detailed and complex, being a tour consultant at Pura Aventura is a highly challenging role. We are delighted to say that David has risen to the challenge admirably.
Laurent came to Pura Aventura as an intern back in 2010. He proved so invaluable to the team that he’s now back for good having finished his degree in tourism management and marketing. I say, ‘back’ but actually he’s based over in Mexico city, Laurent gets up at silly-o’clock in order to work the same hours as we do here in the UK office. On the plus side, he’s finished for the day by lunchtime.
Laurent’s main role is in running our ever growing social media presence and so spends much of his time monitoring the best news stories coming out of Spain and Latin America to publish on Facebook and Twitter which then get tied up into the Pura Weekly online newspaper. He also spends a good deal of time on forums answering questions for people about travel in South America. Then he compiles the best of our photos to present them on Pinterest and Flickr, as well as our Facebook galleries. And he puts together videos of our destinations. He is also key to maintaining and populating our website and our blog.
How we work
There are two ways to look at this: how we work with our customers, and how we work with our partners overseas.
Because Pura Aventura is an Anglo-Spanish company, there isn?t a neat division between ?us? in the office and ?them? overseas. We have always had direct relationships with a wide variety of key people on the ground. As a result, our holidays tend to have more colour and texture than others can achieve.
The way we work overseas very much informs the way we work with you, our customers.
This company started because we want to share transformative experiences in magnificent places with others. We can?t achieve that unless there is some meaningful interaction between you and your hosts.
Knowing our destinations in depth and having a comprehensive network of people and experiences in our ?toolkit? means that we can create nuanced and complex holidays built around you.
It also means that the smooth delivery of your holiday is a highly complex affair. In contrast to almost all specialist tour operators, we cannot combine the task of tour consultant (sales) with that of operations (delivery). At Pura Aventura each role is a full time job and we have to have as many people in operations as we have in sales.
All of this is what sits behind our being able to say that ?We don?t sell you a holiday, we make you a holiday.?