ROAM was founded in Canada and was originally called River & Oceans. Brian McCutcheon started the company with Jim Lavalley and Chris Wrazej in 1986 and we initially offered 4 river rafting expeditions to the Chilko, Tatshenshini, Firth and Babine rivers. Soon after, and since Canada’s coastline is the longest in the world, it made sense to start sea kayak tours to the Hakai, Johnstone Strait and the Gulf Islands.
By 1991, Jim who also started Rescue 3 Canada, a company dedicated to teaching swiftwater rescue classes among other things, decided to focus on that business. Chris went back to Invermere with his wife Shelagh and Brian continued with R&O in Vancouver while taking on sales and marketing contracts with Ecosummer Expeditions, Canadian Outback Adventures and Great Expeditions in order to pay the bills.
Our big break came in 1992 when two different Georges came into the picture. George Butterfield, of Butterfield & Robinson, and George Wendt of OARS. B&R was the champion of luxury travel while OARS was the biggest rafting company in the USA.
B&R gave us the seed money to expand as they pre-purchased all of our Tatshenshini expeditions for the following year. OARS began to successfully promote the Chilko River as the natural choice for folks who had travelled with them on the Colorado and Salmon rivers. Both company’s credibility helped push us to the forefront with magazines, celebrities and the general adventure traveling public. For this, we are forever grateful.
During the mid to late 90’s, we continued to develop unique vacations with activities ranging from whitewater rafting, sea kayaking and whale watching to heli-hiking and multi-sport activities. We worked closely with eh Murray family who had pioneered, Nimmo Bay Resort, and as “locals” we offered our travellers and other travel companies, well-planned expeditions with unprecedented access to pristine wilderness environments and to some places no other adventure companies dare to venture.
We orchestrated first descents down some of Canada’s most untamed rivers like the Klinaklini and Ram but also brewed up some peerless bravado on the luxury front. Some of our journeys through the heartlands of Western Canada are padded with pampering-five-star lodges, hot springs, naturalist-led wildlife tours, elegant meals and all the amenities.
In 1998, after we received a wealth of great press from Outside, Mens Journal and a number of lifestyle publications, George Butterfield approached Brian to buy the company. For the new millennium we were going to known as B&R’s Rivers & Oceans and developed an entire series of “safari style” river and kayak trips with all the bells and whistles imaginable. We had tents so large you could stand up in them, table dining, flatware and no trip was complete without crystal champagne glasses. The trips had unprecedented guide-to-guest ratios, chefs and wine lists most restaurants would envy. Business boomed and most were new guests to B&R.
Brian put on 20 pounds. The stock market crashed.
The two were unrelated but decadent adventure trips took a back seat for a while. B&R quickly bailed on the new concept and went back to its roots promoting France and Italy. Brian set out again changing the name to Rivers Oceans and Mountains (a.k.a. ROAM). The addition of “Mountains” better reflects the topography we travel and worked well with our catchy iroamtheworld website, which was so named to allow us our expansion into international travel.
In comes the other George. In 2001, George Wendt hired Brian to re-develop the marketing department at OARS. A household name in the US rafting industry, OARS was looking at re-inventing itself after the California tech market crash. Then along came 911 so all bets were off. After the rubble settled, OARS saw unprecedented growth from 2002 -2007 and Brian left the marketing post at OARS to focus on ROAM’s operations and expansion.
Since then, ROAM has cautiously moved operations into Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Africa, Bhuthan and Argentina while expanding into the boutique lodge operations in Western Canada. Our itineraries continue to veer from the norm and new programs and genres include horseback trips, skiing, surfing and ” voluntourism”.
More than 70 percent of our guests have trusted us to take them to exotic locations worldwide more than three times and another 10 percent have traveled with us ten times or more.