Spotlight Adventure Champion: Explorer X

26 February 2023

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry, having been members of ATTA and leaders in the community for a minimum of 15 years. They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole. To honor their commitment to their ethos and lasting contribution to the adventure travel industry, we are spotlighting Adventure Champions through a series of interviews.

Explorer X
Outbound Tour Operator
Headquarters: USA
ATTA Member since 2007

Introducing Michael Bennett, Ed.D, Co-Founder of Explorer X:
©Explorer X / Co-founders Michael Bennett and Jake Haupert

Explorer X is a close-knit family of adventurers, experience designers, and wisdom-seekers dedicated to helping our clients Travel Better and Live Better. As explorers ourselves, we know what our clients crave: Mindful travel experiences, meaningful conversations, time in nature, cultural and culinary adventures, and opportunities for learning and growth.

Think of us this way: Anthony Bourdain (the irreverent yet savvy traveler) meets Joseph Campbell (the wise and sage-like teacher).

Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?

Simple: The people. From Shannon and the ATTA team around the world to the incredible people we have connected with through ATTA – Destination and DMC partners, journalists, technology companies, and other collaborators – being a part of the ATTA community has been instrumental in our personal and professional growth.

How has your company changed over the last 15 years?

We've been the driving force behind the transformational travel movement over the past 10 years, aligning everything that we do with these principles and practices. We know that when you 'Travel Better' – more mindfully, intentionally, slowly, and engaged – you experience incredible opportunities for learning, growth, and transformation ... in other words, to begin 'Living Better.' And we integrate that approach into every trip we plan and every interaction we have with our travelers.

What is the greatest force that drives you to work everyday?

Making an impact on our travelers' lives. We know how powerful travel can be for folks – when they get out of their 'ordinary world' and begin exploring, extraordinary things happen. Perspectives shift, empathy builds, and inspiration to create change in their lives and in the world is sparked. By challenging our travelers to embrace this Travel Better, Live Better philosophy, we are effecting positive change in their lives, in their communities, and in the world. And it's damn rewarding.

What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?

Find your balance between understanding and owning who you are as an individual and as a business (and who you are NOT) while staying nimble and flexible as the market for travel adapts and changes. Be water, as they say.

Along those same lines, I would say my biggest personal challenge and growth has been owning my own value and showing up with confidence and courage to do the work. For me, it was easy to second guess and doubt myself for a few years, and only recently – largely through Jake's guidance, support, and mentorship – have I been able to fully embrace who I am (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?

Two things: People are increasingly looking at travel as an opportunity to learn and grow as individuals – as an investment in themselves! – AND the idea that more and more people are open to exploring new destinations that are not found on most bucket lists. In fact, our Destination: Unknown program sends people to far-flung places – places that they absolutely love but would never have chosen on their own. This increasing openness to traveling more mindfully AND with a renewed spirit of exploration to go into the unknown is really, really exciting.