The World Needs More Ryan Connollys
There are people born to be entrepreneurs in this world and Ryan Connolly is one of them. I got to know Ryan as an associate at Techstars and while he’s not trying to build the next great venture-backed tech giant, he’s every bit as entrepreneurial as those who set out on that path. Three and a half years ago, after spending much of his adult career in international banking, he decided to go travel. He didn’t know where it would take him, or how long he would be away for. All he knew is that he had very little money and would need to work as he travelled. Over the course of three years he managed to travel to all seven continents and he even saved a few pennies along the way. It was during this time that he honed his skills as a guide.
He’s now worked as guide in the UK, Croatia, Austria, Iceland and the US, as well as picking up random jobs in various other countries to keep his wanderlust going. In short, he found his passion. Public speaking, the outdoors and travel all neatly wrapped up into one role. He’s never been happier. But it was only once he got to Iceland and started to train as a glacier guide, that he realized that this could be his life’s work.
Ryan shared with me that every single day that he worked as a glacier guide; whether snow, rain, wind or shine, he had a smile on my face. His enthusiasm was unwavering, and his thirst for knowledge knew no bounds. Each trip he ran was unique because he would have exciting new conversations with his customers about new information he’d learned the previous day, or he’d traverse into new territory in his bid to explore as much of the glaciers as possible. He’s never received anything less than 5 stars for any trip he’s run. Amazingly, in his final month at that company he received Employee of the Month for the most positive reviews. Ryan shared with me that the main reason he found joy in each trip is that he treated each new tour group the same way he would treat friends and family.
Thanks to social media, the secret about Iceland is out. It’s a spectacular place with glaciers, volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates within a short drive of an international airport. The number of visitors to the country have skyrocketed in recent years and that’s created a boon for the large tour operators. This is great for business but terrible for the experience. The bigger companies with their large marketing budgets were scooping up as many people as they could, and buying out their main competitors with the profits.
Ryan and his co-founders Dagny Stefansdottir & Scott Drummond decided to start Hidden Iceland based upon the idea that each and every trip should feel special and unique, and that the right guide can change a ordinary trip to a truly unforgettable adventure. Hidden Iceland blends the most well-known spots with unheard of places that require a bit of creativity to find. This means that even in the height of summer they can reduce the number of tourists in the places they go. They’ve created a unique and intimate tour experience that creates adventure without having to be an athlete. They’ve also gained carbon neutral status to help protect the places they help people discover.
I’ll definitely be using Hidden Iceland when I’m there later this year. I hope you will too!