Meet The Team
Aspiring Adventures is the brainchild of Steve Wilson and Katy Shorthouse. Over years guiding and managing small and large tour companies, we worked out small is better when it comes to running great trips. You benefit with small groups, flexible itineraries, personalised service, and handpicked adventure guides who are the best in their field. And Steve and Katy benefit by still being able to guide many of the trips themselves. Aspiring’s reason for being is to run great trips for real people: that’s what we love to do!
Growing up in rural New Zealand, I lived my life in the outdoors from the very beginning . As I got older and got access to more toys I found more ways to enjoy the outdoors – I’ve lived, hiked, snowboarded, dived, wake boarded, paddled and biked in over 40 countries. Other passions include playing the saxophone (rather well), dancing salsa (rather poorly), and cruising in my 1972 Daimler Sovereign.
I started guiding adventure trips when I was 23. At 27, I found myself General Manager of a multinational travel company with over 70 staff. In that position I learned that the reason I enjoy being in tourism is sharing experiences with other travellers, and crystallised what I aspired to: something small, something real, where I get to design and guide trips I firmly believe to be the best they can be, in the places I’m most passionate about. For me that’s the point. Voilà, Aspiring Adventures!
I was born in New Zealand, and grew up in Australia. My love affair with South America began in 1996 when I spent a year backpacking from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego and back. The next turning point came in 2001 when I abandoned a career in journalism and became a hiking guide in Tasmania. In 2003 I brought my passions together and began guiding, and then operating, multisport tours in Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Chile.
Cusco seems to exert an irresistible pull on me, and apart from a stint in New Zealand, where I met Steve, I’ve been living and working here ever since. The more I learn about Peru’s food, culture, and outdoor opportunities, the more I love it. When I’m not leading Aspiring trips, I can be found hanging out with my daughter Nina, hiking, mountain biking, reading Victorian lady novelists, and wishing there was a ski field within 1000 kilometres of Cusco.
Heather NZ Office Manager
Born in the deep south of New Zealand, Heather is the backbone of our New Zealand office. She takes care of the accounting side of things, posts out brochures, keeps track of gear, helps with bookings, and generally keeps the office ticking over. When Steve is off leading trips or on one of his adventures she runs the whole show. Either she or Steve will pick up the phone when you call us.
A keen sportswoman, she’s competed in hockey tournaments in Australia, New Zealand, Holland and Argentina, and spends every moment she can on the golf course. She’s hiked several of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” and ranks Peru’s Inca Trail as one of her favourite hikes of all time.
- 2010: to improve my Spanish (spent three months living in Peru and took lessons)
- 2011: to run a marathon (ran in the Wanaka marathon… well behind legend runner, Mal Law)
- 2012: to learn to paraglide (What an amazing sport!)
- 2013: to expand Aspiring trips into Canada, Ecuador and Patagonia
- 2014: to summit Mt. Aspiring, one of the toughest climbs in New Zealand
- 2010: to complete a big self-sufficient hike (hiked unsupported for 21 days through the Australian Alps)
- 2011: to dedicate summer to hiking and biking in New Zealand (mountain biked daily, hiked four multi-day hikes and cycled the Otago Central Rail Trail)
- 2012: to get back on a mountain bike after giving birth in August (yay! So happy to be biking again!)
- 2013: to take Nina on a multiday hike
- 2014: to take Nina on the full Qoyllur Riti pilgrimage trek
- 2013: learn to play the banjo
- 2014: To lower my golf handicap to single figures
Meet Our Guides
Aldo Sánchez - Peru family adventure guide
Aldo and Katy have been working together for eight years. Born and raised in the steamy jungle town of Quillabamba, Aldo moved to Cusco to study to be a guide and has been based here ever since. For many years a trekking specialist, he’s now branched out into guiding our family trips where he wins hearts and minds with his endless patience and knowledge of Peru, and his football skills.
- to travel the world
Sally Laurente - Peru adventure guide
Sally grew up in rural Peru and now lives in Lima. She first met Katy and Steve back in 2007 and we’re very happy to have her on the Aspiring team! Sally is a humble, patient and informative guide, with a deep passion for Peruvian culture. She loves hiking, and has a particular affinity with the Peruvian jungle having spent a few years living and working in the Rio Tambopata area.
- To travel to New Zealand and Australia
Luis Portal - Peru adventure guide
Working with us since 2012, Luis has a thirst for knowledge and takes every course on offer, in areas as diverse as archaeology, rainforest conservation, anthropology and community tourism. He has a passion for Peruvian popular culture, participating as a dancer in Inti Raymi and wowing our guests with his ability to explain arcane details of costume, history and ritual at the cultural events we attend.
- To finish his project of investigating and compiling Andean music
- To do more development work with Amazonian and Andean communities
Ronald Cusi - Bike guru
Ronald has an indispensable Aspiring team member since our very first trip. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about bike routes around Cusco, and about keeping bikes functioning on them. In between competing in downhill races, maintaining our bikes, and accompanying our groups whenever they go riding, he’s currently studying to gain the official tour guide qualification.
- To bring more people to the sport of mountain biking
Aspiring Adventures is about sharing unique experiences in places we know and love. What distinguishes us from the pack is how we do it and what we do in between the famous sights. We know what’s worth seeing, and we’re passionate about making every moment of your trip memorable. We fill our days with action and real cultural experiences: the absolute best of what these places have to offer, from world famous attractions to local secrets.
How we do it
- We only run a few trips a year, so our guides are fresh. Every trip is different, so our trips are fresh.
- Our individually crafted itineraries are based around local special events.
- There’s always time to explore by yourself if you want. We’ve noticed the people who come on our trips like to do that.
- We make a point of allowing time for personal contemplation on our trips.
What we do in between
In our years of guiding and travelling all over the world, we’ve noticed that people love to find out about daily life in the places they visit. Moments of real human contact are just as important as awe-inspiring sights, and often more memorable. This is part of why we choose to stay small – because what we are doing simply can’t be done on a large scale. To give just one example, you can’t turn up with 30 people to stay in a real local home every week (well, you can, but it’s no longer real). So yes, it can be challenging at times – this is real adventure – we need to be flexible from time to time, and you’ll enjoy your trip more if you are too.
Are you up for it?
As well as getting an inside view on local life, you’ll have the opportunity to push your physical boundaries, if you want to. Here’s how we see it: you can get a nice view by taking a bus up a mountain. Or you can hike up it, and that same view takes on a whole new meaning – it’s a moment of pure joy. We’ll take tired, sweaty joy over bus-based photo opportunity any day. If you feel the same way, our trips are for you.
Aspiring Adventures trips
…are not about bubble-wrapped, watered down, presented and packaged versions of the places we’ll experience together. On an Aspiring trip you won’t be insulated from the environment, you’ll be part of it. We’ll never herd you into a bog-standard ‘Site Tour’ to follow a number on a stick. In many of the places we’ll take you, it’s not even an option.
It’s not just a holiday – you’re going to learn more about the world and yourself.