My search for outstanding people who do unusual and positive things is an ongoing thing. Danielle Weiss from G.A.P Adventures recently put me on to another interesting individual: Richard Belliveau, an international traveller, adventurer and tour leader with G.A.P in South America, who’s been instrumental recently in a unique fundraising project: Together with a group of friends he climbed Mount Orizaba, a volcano in Mexico, to raise funds for a project that benefits street kids in Peru.
At his young age, Richard has travelled the world, has led adventure groups on different continents, has worked with children who just came out of transplant surgery, and now he is dedicating a great portion of his time to fundraising for good causes in Latin America. His key insight is “Never underestimate the power of a dream!”
Let’s Richard tell us how travel has opened his mind and how his experiences led him to become a mountain climber (with many more mountains to climb), all for a good cause.
“Rich “Jet” Belliveau: International Adventure Specialist & Mountain Guide. Proud to be Canadian”
1. Please tell us a bit more about yourself and your background.
I was born in Surrey, British Columbia less then a quarter century ago – yet I remember recently I was told that I had “aged very gracefully” – whatever that means. We then moved across the big landing strip we like to call Central Canada to the Laurentian Foothills north of Montreal, and I ended up in a parking lot in Calgary somehow many years later with a car full of sports gear, and a brand new oversized backyard… Any more details would be asking for trouble.
Dawson College, Concordia, University of Toronto, Mt-Royal College, University of Calgary, University College of the Cariboo… Been there – done that. I could say I have a V.I.P subscription to the educational system in Canada, but I guess it would be safer to say I’ve attended – or almost – all of these fine post-secondary institutions before finally deciding what my real calling was. I held my first job at the age of 12, and quite frankly I don’t think I’ve been without work for more than two weeks ever since. From serving drinks in Crescent Street bars in my hometown of Montreal to teaching kids on the slopes of the Swiss Alps, I’ve tried my hand at it all. I’m always up for a challenge, and I’ll never say no to adventure. My entire life I’ve always strived to be the best at what I do, and I’ve always pushed as hard as I could to make it to the top. That is something my parents taught me, and luckily it’s something I’ll never forget.
2. You have been travelling, living and working abroad for many years. Please tell us more about that.
At the age of 17, I got wind of my first possible job all the way across the pond in Switzerland. I took the opportunity head on; I applied as a sports monitor in an International Language School’s summer program, and that’s what got the ball rolling. After an intense season, I flew home on the last possible day of the summer break, and I knew for sure the second I stepped off that plane that this landing was only the first of many to come. Working abroad is as contagious as a piece of good chocolate cake; once you start it can be difficult to deny yourself the pleasure again and again. For the longest time, my only concern while in College was holding a job (or up to three at a time!) to make enough money to afford my next flight out. I worked as a rock climbing instructor, skiing & snowboarding teacher as well as a camp counselor. I have opened & managed restaurants, bars, outdoor equipment shops & specialty stores, I’ve even dabbled in corporate sales! I tried all the jobs that seemed like fun, and that’s where I realized I was not in the right place just yet. I wanted to be a guide, I wanted to lead backcountry expeditions & hikes, rafting trips, African safaris, anything as long as I was outside and free as the wind.
“This pic just goes to show we’re just your normal, average everyday people who love to have fun. Mike is being his usual funny self with our good friend Mary as the driver simply disregards the disfunctional behavior we keep throwing his way in his 2-passenger cab – which we gladly filled to maximum capacity.”
3. Where do you work now and what do you do?
I am currently writing you from the comfort of my suite lofted amidst the treetops in an eco-lodge in Aguas Calientes, Peru. I’m sitting on my balcony listening to the sound of the river rushing below as I watch the sunset over Machu Picchu. Sound cool?! I’m a Tour Leader for G.A.P Adventures presently based in South America, but as of May I’ll be back in Canada running our West Coast trips for the summer – then it’s off to Africa I hope!
When I’m not lying on the beaches of northern Peru or tunneling down the rapids of the Apurimac River, I can sometimes – not very often! – be seen working on my laptop or something that may look like a normal job. I have what most would call a dream job, and it took me a long time to gather the experience required for it, but now I’m in charge of taking groups of travelers from Lima, Quito, La Paz & other great places to the ruins at Machu Picchu, the beaches of Mancora, the jungles of the Tambopata Reserve or the Galapagos Islands. My time off is usually spent on the shores of the Caribbean in Colombia, or riding horses in the valleys of the pre-Colombian Peoples, or even climbing the 6000 meter plus peaks of the Andes Mountains.
4. You made a comment that sometimes travel can be a form of running away and that in recent times you have come to terms with some of the issues that made you want to run. Please tell us more about that.
I’m sitting in a café in Cusco eating my breakfast working on some articles, and I can hear the people at the table next to me talking about where they’re from & what they’re doing now. The question of education has come up many times, and I now remember why it is I ran away the first time, and why it is I keep running no matter where I go. Everywhere I go during my travels, I always seem to find people who have something in common with me. These guys are clearly a bunch of friends who just met here in tourist-town, and they quickly realize they are all – or almost all – on the same page.
None of them have any idea what it is they want to do, and they all decided to leave their homes to come explore the world in search of their real calling. I believe they might understand the concept of running away better then I may think. So I ask them what they think, and I get the same answer I was expecting. “I’m not ready to go to school, I have no clue what I want to do, I’m tired of all the pressure everyone is putting on me to get a formal education… What is so wrong with wanting to travel the world & see amazing places?” I feel the same way; I have run away every time the pressure has become too much for me to handle. Every time society’s unwritten rules get a hold of me, I dodge all the punches & just run away to place where I can be myself, where I can be free to do what I please, and where I am the teacher: I am the one opening the book on a new page in life, and I get to write in it what I please. I make the rules, I make the lesson plan, and I decide if I have passed or failed – by my standards, not society’s.
“Me on the summit of Orizaba with my kids flags flying high”