Who We Are
In pursuit of a dream—building a world-class adventure travel company.
The history of Austin Adventures is really the history of founder Dan Austin’s passion to create the world’s best travel company.
Dan wasn’t born into travel. In fact, he got his start in construction management in places like Alaska and Hawaii. But along the way, he became enamored with global travel and the personal transformation it brings. Dan first cut his teeth in the adventure world as a commercial rafting outfitter in the mid-1970s, learning firsthand how to (and how not to) put a smile on a customer’s face.
A major epiphany took place for Dan during the 1990s that would set him on the path he is still forging today. It was a group bike trip in Wyoming that he took with Bozeman, Montana-based Backcountry Tours.
After his trip, Dan was sold on adventure travel. He leveraged his knack for business and customer service and, with the help of a few friends willing to invest, purchased Backcountry Tours. He had a vision and a talent for it, and in his first season increased bookings by nearly 50%. Three years later, he had the know-how and capital to launch a new concept of his own, a “higher-end” active tour company he named Adventures Plus that offered both biking and multi-sport adventures.
Then fate arrived at Dan’s door. At a travel show Dan met Paul Lehman and immediately struck up a friendship. They quickly found they shared a vision for creating the preeminent active travel company. Change was in the air. It was 2000, a new millennium, and Austin-Lehman Adventures was born from Adventures Plus. Headquarters were established in Billings, Montana, Backcountry Tours was soon acquired, and the dream was under way.
With a new vision to carefully expand the ALA brand of upscale, active, and culturally rewarding vacations throughout the world, new programs were developed in Central and South America and Southern Africa. In the fall of 2008, ALA acquired the distinctive 34-year legacy of Euro-Bike & Walking Tours and for the 2009 season added 26 new European biking and family programs to their portfolio. Future years saw the addition of tours to Morocco, Israel, Greece, New Zealand, and Slovenia, among other destinations.
In 2010, Lehman left ALA to pursue personal interests, but essentially, everything stayed the same—from the guides, to the staff, trips, and even the company’s name! With hard work, innovation and the support of an exceptional staff and loyal following of alumni travelers, it did not take long for Austin-Lehman Adventures to get noticed.
Within two years of inception, major publications such as National Geographic Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Outside and the New York Times were all taking note and singing the praises of ALA’s unique style of travel. In 2009, the readers of Travel + Leisure named Austin-Lehman Adventures the World’s Best Tour Operator—an accomplishment that was repeated again in 2010.
In 2012, Travel + Leisure awarded ALA with the title of Top Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter for Families. The same year, National Geographic Traveler recognized ALA trips in its list of 50 Tours of a Lifetime and the company received a Hall of Fame Travel Award from Outside Magazine. For a more comprehensive list of awards the company has won, go here.
In September of 2013, Austin-Lehman Adventures became Austin Adventures when the company was acquired by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Dan stayed on as president of Austin Adventures, and there were no changes made to the company’s management, staff, or location. In late 2017, Dan purchased Xanterra’s shares of Austin Adventures back and Austin Adventures is now a completely family-owned company.
This hallmark of being completely family owned continues to drive the ethos of Austin Adventures. Staff, guides, and guests thrive in a culture that values empathy, attention to detail, expedient and thoughtful customer service, and an all-around sense of western hospitality and friendliness. Guests have direct access to Dan, Carol, Kasey and Andy Austin, and it doesn’t take long before Austin Adventures guests become Austin Adventures family.
Austin Adventures Timeline
Inspiring friends, families, and adventurers through world-class adventure travel vacations since 1985.
Euro-Bike & Walking Tours is founded by Dr. Hendrik & Ellen Hoeve and Wim van Dijk, becoming the first U.S. bike tour company to establish operations in Europe.
Backcountry Tours founded in 1985 by Doug and Carmin McSpadden, specializing in bike tours in and around the Rockies.
Dan Austin takes bike trip to Grand Teton National Park with a small tour operator located in Bozeman, Montana. He is so inspired, he gathers like-minded partners and purchases the company, Backcountry Tours.
Austin sells Backcountry Tours and three days later decides he wants to be back in the adventure travel business. Adventures plus is started and operates out of Dan’s basement.
Paul Lehman and Dan Austin meet when Paul, an avid traveler and proponent of family travel, discovers Austin’s business. A quick friendship leads to a new partnership. Austin-Lehman Adventures is formed. ALA acquires Backcountry Tours.
Paul Lehman and Dan Austin join forces to form Austin-Lehman Adventures, a merger of Backcountry Bicycle Tours and Adventures Plus.
Austin-Lehman Adventures adds its first international trip to its portfolio: Costa Rica.
Austin-Lehman Adventures dives further into South America by adding Peru and the Galapagos Islands.
As interest grows, Austin-Lehman Adventures adds Africa to its trip list.
Rooted in a love of biking, Austin-Lehman Adventures acquires Eurobike tours.
Europe joins the Austin-Lehman Adventures portfolio.
Dan starts Wheels of Change (called Bicycles for Humanity at the time) and donates most of his mountain bike fleet to the cause.
Dan and Carol Austin become sole owners of Austin-Lehman Adventures.
Austin-Lehman Adventures moves out to the country to a location lovingly called, “the farm,” where it remains today.
Xanterra acquires Austin-Lehman Adventures and the company’s name is changed to Austin Adventures.
Continually focused on offering travelers not only more options, but the best options, Austin Adventures opens its Australia adventure portfolio and launches a line of small ship adventures.
With its foray into Southeast Asia, Austin Adventures now offers tours on all 7 continents.
Austin Adventures buys Xanterra’s shares of the company, making it family owned and operated once again.
Austin Adventures partners with positive lifestyle brand Life is Good to offer Life is Good Adventures. These tours include guides trained as Life is Good Playmakers and a variety of unique activities that emphasize the power of positivity.
Always seeking to enable guests to connect with nature, friends, family, and local culture in a real and meaningful way, Austin Adventures launches its Digital Detox tours in which guests pledge to refrain from using digital devices or talking about controversial subjects for the entire trip.
Austin Adventures acquires Wildland Adventures, a time-tested international adventure travel icon headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The acquisition adds a range of exciting new tours and destinations to Austin Adventures’ signature trip portfolio. By acquiring Wildland and its well-established operation and excellent reputation, Austin Adventures has expanded their destinations and offerings by 35 percent. Clients will have the opportunity to travel on an additional 40 vetted Wildland itineraries in exciting destinations.
In addition, Austin Adventures adds Custom RV Tours, Homestays and introduces virtual tours around the globe for kids.