You just never know about people you’ll meet. There I am, skipping into Second Cup for a couple of lattes to take to a meeting. And there, quietly sitting at his little G4 titanium Mac PowerBook is a young man.
Well, Mac users tend to gravitate towards each other so while my milk was frothing, I asked how he liked the G4 and we began to talk about operating systems. He said his company, Gap Adventures, is featured on the Apple website because the entire company has been Mac powered since 1990.
And that was the beginning of my introduction to Chris Srigley. son of Sam, weekend and summer resident of a farm in Minesing, weekday resident of King City… when he was a kid, that is!
So what? you ask.
Chris was sitting at his ‘desk’ at Second Cup, working on reports and emailing them over his wireless network back to the Calgary office. He’s been with GAP Adventures for four years. He started with a desk job, as distribution coordinator. He wanted less time in the office and found the perfect job opportunity. This year he’s making his living squiring 10 people at a time in a 19-foot zodiac powered by a Yahama four-stroke 50 HP, up and down the shores of Antarctica, through Norwegian fjords, along the coast of South America. He’s also working as a naturalist. He’s part of an eight-person team facilitating landing and cruising of all passengers, discussion of natural and human history & geology to add to the lectures by experts on board.
Chris works on GAP’s Expedition Ship, with its ice strengthened hull, the world’s first purpose-built expedition ship. His tourists are not rubbing suntan oil on their bodies and soaking up rays. They’re not gathered at the gangplank to shop-til-they-drop at a port call.
His travellers are 100 in number on a ship that enters ice packs, all 246 feet of steel forging into celtic adventures in Scotland, polar bear experiences in the Norwegian fjords, the Realm of the Polar Bear expedition in Svalbard, an archipelago half way between the northern tip of mainland Europe and the North Pole.
“People take these expeditions for the sense of adventure. GAP is an adventure travel company… we go to the most remote places on the planet,” says Chris. The polar bear owns the arctic domain and a GAP expedition is a fantastic way to see them. “People get off the ship and do zodiac cruises and landings. We pull onto the ice and the bears come right up to the ship.”
“There’s a big difference between an exhibition and a cruise ship.” Chris is comfortable at the business end of a boat; the family cottage on Key River at Georgian Bay gave him years in big waves with a tin boat. After high school, he studied Snowboard 101 at Lake Louise for a few years and then linked up with GAP in Calgary. This is just the best, possible life.
So who is GAP? It’s Great Adventure People, started by Bruce Poon Tip in 1990. This visionary saw a market for adventure tourism, for eco tourism, for people who want to see the exceptional. A Gap expedition today costs between $2500 and $10,000, has 100 guests and 53 crew. Chris Srigley is one of them.
He’s the guy explaining the wonders of the world his guests have entered. He’s also an awesome photographer. He works from ship eight months of the year, with each expedition lasting an average of 10 days, some longer due to repositioning. Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Newfoundland, Antarctica, the west coast of South America, the Panama Canal–just imagine!
GAP’s single ship is busy, always. Sometimes it’s chartered by companies, sometimes the guests have booked directly with GAP. (www.gap.ca)
Best part of his job? “The pay is good because you can’t spend your paycheque. The passengers are unusual, interested in learning. I’m a full time employee with a future.” And, you sure can’t beat the perks!
Downside? Hard to maintain a serious relationship when you’re away four months at a time.
“I travel constantly. I get to take pictures and experience amazing things. Our passengers come for 10 days, go home and remember it for the rest of their lives. I get to go over and over and over again.”
What a life! Congratulations to you, Chris, for living the unusual! And, thanks for sharing!