Travel bonds father and son, leads to new Glenwood business
June 16, 2014
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — When international travel guide Jason Rash and his dad, David, spend quality time together, it's typically an adventure.
The pair wouldn't want it any other way.
"Raising Jason in Colorado, we spent a lot of time hiking and backpacking and just being out in the woods," David Rash said from his home in Iowa. "I remember taking Jason out in the outdoors when he was so young I had to carry him most of the time. My family is always doing activities together like walks and bike rides. It's just that shared activity that we love."
This Father's Day, that's what dads and sons will remember across the country — the shared moments, the things they love, and the things that are better when guys do them together.
One such memory for the Rashes came a few years ago when the father and son rode bicycles for a week across Iowa. The now-40-year-old and his active 63-year-old dad tackled the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), the oldest and largest bike-touring event in the world.
"It's Iowa's version of Ride the Rockies," Jason Rash said. "We did a father-son ride. It took seven days and more than 750 miles. My dad is amazing."
Both Rash and his dad enjoy active outdoor lifestyles that include road biking, hiking and guiding international trips for Jason's business, Aspen International Travel Co. He started the Glenwood Springs tour company in April with his dad's brother, Ron Rash. The uncle-nephew pair — along with supporting guides who include Jason's father and Roaring Fork Valley locals Glenn Beaton and Betty Shurin — offers trips in any area of the world.
"My dad was supposed to guide a trip to France but had a bicycle accident where he shattered his hip. I came in as a pinch hitter and led the tour," Jason Rash said. "He is planning to guide a trip to northern Italy in the near future."
The company hosts trips that take travelers of all experience levels to international locales such as India, France, Italy and Spain.
"People create their own fears and that's why we started it, just helping people get over their fears about traveling," Jason Rash said. "My uncle and I really wanted people to know it's not that hard to go backpacking through India for 10 days, and that India is actually really safe."
Jason Rash and his uncle, who has trained with Aspen Ski Co., American Mountain Guides Association and the National Outdoor Leadership School the Leader in Wilderness Education (NOLES), share a passion for the outdoors and traveling. Jason Rash said he relies on his uncle's expertise, focusing more on travel logistics, web marketing and photography.
"We want to do trips that don't isolate people. We're not an extreme guiding company, and we just want to make it a more personalized experience," Jason Rash said. "When people take our trips, our guides are waiting there at the airport for them. That way people feel more comfortable traveling from the start."
He said he once enjoyed taking more risks in his outdoor sportsmanship, but his own fatherhood has changed his outlook.
"Having an 8-year-old son really has put my mortality into perspective," Jason Rash said. "I got into photography about a year ago, looking for something not as dangerous as my other hobbies. I sold all my climbing gear about five years ago. I felt like that was not as selfish."
Rather than rock climbing the Colorado Monument in Grand Junction or ice climbing in Ouray, Jason Rash said he now focuses on photography, planning Aspen International Travel Co. trips around his new passion, commandeering the company's website and social networks.
Since he was a teen, Jason Rash has envisioned a life traveling the world. He said his dad always encouraged travel and an appreciation of the outdoors. He hasn't stopped living the dream.
"Growing up in Colorado, I remember when I was younger and seeing a map and thinking, 'Wow, the world is so big,'" said Rash. "When I was 15, I had a map of the world on my wall in my room. I kind of manifested it."
A 1991 trip to Costa Rica served as a life-changing experience for Rash. He toured areas including Montezuma and Dominical, once a small beachside fishing village now popular as a surfing tourist attraction.
"I went on my own to Costa Rica for six weeks and I kind of just got this bug to travel," said Rash. "Back then, it was not developed at all. Everything was very remote. I visited these really tiny places."
After graduating, Rash joined the Marines where his ambition of world travel truly took flight. He was stationed as a Marine security guard in locations including Jordan, Africa and the United Kingdom.
"I joined the Marines for two reasons: I wanted to travel and I wanted an education, and I was able to do both before I ever finished," said Rash, a Southern Illinois University alumnus. "When I was stationed overseas, I used that as a base camp to visit other countries. I went to Switzerland and Greece. A lot of the guys would be homesick and go back home, but I took it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to other countries."
While stationed in Sierra Leone, Rash said he often took in the majesty of the West African landscape, despite being in a region that was under rebellion.
"I was there in 1997 during one of the coups that surfaced," he said. "It was amazing. They had the most beautiful beaches in the world and it was unfortunate that the country was so war-torn. There were just skeletons of buildings that were once there. The tourism industry was just destroyed."
Rash has traveled to more than 20 countries worldwide. He is often asked what has been his favorite place in the world to visit, and Sierra Leone always comes to mind.
"Every place has its own beauty, and I think of the beaches," he said. "That's the amazing part of traveling. I just always try to immerse myself in the culture and try to be part of it. It's like when I first traveled to Jordan. I went there and I loved it. It had profound impact on me."
Rash lived in Japan in 1993, near Hiroshima, and said he immediately took to learning about his unfamiliar international surroundings before technology was so mainstream.
"I bought a car and there was no GPS then, so I just grabbed a road map and started going," he said. "I traveled the countryside in that car."
France, where he recently led a tour with a small group of baby boomers, is also a country Rash feels especially connected to.
"It's one of my favorite places," he said. "If I could move to France tomorrow, I would. The culture, the people. I've never had a bad experience."
Rash said starting a travel guide company has been years in the making. He originally worked in his passion for rock and ice climbing and outdoor ports into the adventure tour business plan, focusing on trips for Americans to visit Jordan, where he lived for 15 years. He speaks fluent Arabic.
"I wanted to be a liaison between Jordanians and the American people," Rash said. "But then my uncle said, 'Why go to just one place? Why not get people out of their comfort zones?'"
David Rash said the new business is not a stretch for his adventurous son.
"That's always been a passion of his, travel, and enjoys history, food, seeing things, art," he said. "I think it's incredibly exciting."