“I was ski coaching in Wanaka when an American friend of mine who was travelling around New Zealand suggested we both apply for a guiding job with B&R in NZ,” he recalls.
“B and who?” he responded.
As it turned out, we were in the market for a charismatic local who could both welcome and immerse our travellers in New Zealand, so we snatched Rob up pretty quickly. His friend who suggested the job was… well, not as lucky.
“Unfortunately, you needed to have a special license to drive foreign tourists around, so I got the job and she missed out,” he says.
But in hindsight it might be B&R who owes Rob’s friend a debt of gratitude. After nearly a decade spent guiding he’s now back home in his native New Zealand, harnessing his local knowledge to craft the sort of incredible journeys he used to lead.
And the friend who introduced him to B&R?
“I had to buy a few rounds to make up for it but we’re still very much on speaking terms now,” he says.
Good to hear. (After all, we’re in the business of making friendships, not ending them.)
Years in Travel Business: 11 years formally, informally 16 years (i.e. running around the world ski-coaching and working on super yachts)
Years with B&R: Since 2005
Countries/Regions of Expertise: New Zealand, Australia, Bhutan
Countries visited: North of 30 countries
Countries lived in: Japan, USA, Canada, France, Spain and of course New Zealand
Trips planned: 70-plus
Trips guided: Over a half century I reckon…(Ed. Note: We think that’s New Zealand cool-guy speak for “more than 50.”)
Q&A with Rob Grieve:
What’s your preferred method for immersing yourself in a country or region?
I think first and foremost for me, it starts with trying to release any fears or preconceived ideas I have about any place I’m in. I think that in doing so, everything (like the locals, the language, the cuisine, etc.) opens up and you suddenly find yourself in the most amazing situations with incredible people. I really feel that fear so readily shuts down our willingness to step outside that all-too-easy comfort zone. So actually, it’s FOMO, that’s my driving factor – Fear Of Missing Out!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or done while on a trip?
Thrown myself off a bridge attached by my ankles to a large elastic band, in the hope that one of my travellers would follow. (Needless to say, they did not.)
What was the worst trip you’ve ever taken?
A trip to the dentist.
Fair enough, but don’t discount the importance of oral hygiene, Rob. OK, time for favourites. Favourite trip you’ve ever designed?
Depends on the country and aside from my NZ bias, I do love a good trip around the underestimated wonders of Australia, from the lush coastal regions to the wild and rugged southern coast, inland to the dry heat of the Red Centre and on up to the beautiful, tropical tip in the north.
Favourite hotel in the world?
Whare Kea Lodge in Wanaka, New Zealand. It’s just so simply, yet incredibly, done. The setting, the views, the lodge, the food, the ethos behind it – pure bliss.
Favourite restaurant in the world?
I honestly cannot answer this – so many to choose from. Does it help if I answer that my favourite food is Japanese?? (Ed. Note: Not really, but duly noted.)
Favourite bar/wine bar/watering hole in the world?
You just can’t beat the back deck of our place on a hot summer’s day – great views, good beats, excellent choice of drink and I don’t have to leave the house. If I did have to leave the house, Sunset Ashram on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza is a pretty special place to watch the sun melt into the ocean.
Favourite bottle of wine?
Matariki ‘Quintology’ Hawke’s Bay 2009 – a stunning Bordeaux style blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cab Sav, Cab Franc and Malbec. Amazing.
Commune with Kiwis
Huge, yet compact. Imposing, yet friendly. Wide open, yet intimate. The dichotomies of New Zealand take some time to process, but the results? Pure serenity. Click below for an itinerary designed to get you in deep and up close, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
to set up a meeting to contact Rob.
Are there any destinations you haven’t been to, but want to visit?
South America somewhere – anywhere. I’ve heard such incredible things about everything there. I also want to take that completely unoriginal photo of the really small people in the palm of your hand on the salt flats. Really.
What are your three most underrated destinations?
Australia, Bhutan and my favourite book shop, Unity.
You guided for B&R for yeas before becoming a Trip Designer. Can you pinpoint one moment that really leaps out at you?
There have been great moments, and there have been scary moments… I think one that stands out was being caught with my co-guide in the middle of Christhchurch, New Zealand when the huge earthquake hit in February 2011, levelling many parts of the city. The streets and buildings all around us crumbled, people were killed and luckily we were unscathed.
We were getting ready to pick up a biking trip and a few of our travellers had already arrived and went through the ordeal too, so dealing with the emotions of that, coupled with what the travellers were all expecting, was a tough situation. Loads of travellers were delayed and re-routed to other cities as you can imagine and there was talk of cancelling the trip, however we all assessed the situation and as guides, decided to carry on. We all had the most amazing trip – the small things were completely irrelevant and everyone just focused on the positives of being alive, in a stunning place, experiencing an amazing trip and loving it. That was pretty cool.
Our co-founder George Butterfield tends to make a lasting impression on people. Do you have a favourite George moment?
Standing on the top of Chelela Pass in Bhutan at a height of 13,000 feet, having just wandered up the ridge line with our prayer flags in tow, on the second-to-last day of our Bhutanese adventure. It was a magnificent Himalayan moment to share with a very contented George and crew.
What’s your most embarrassing travel story?
For some reason on one trip, I thought it would be a good idea to attempt to take my camelback bag off my back while riding along at speed. Needless to say, things didn’t go according to plan; my pack swung into my spokes and I proceeded to ‘self-quake’ off my road bike (it was the Christchurch earthquake trip – hence the name) to the amusement of my travelers (after they made sure nothing was broken, of course). What a clever guide, leading by example as always.
What items are absolute musts on your packing list?
A fantastic book, my noise-cancelling headphones for the plane and an open mind (but that doesn’t take up any space which is a bonus).
And finally, what’s your favourite trip you’ve ever taken?
A superb birthday trip for a fantastic group of Canadian ladies around Australia. But then there was the Bhutan trip with George and company. Oh, but then there was…