Got To Get Out is a social enterprise adventure group, on a mission to get Kiwis and visitors active, outdoors seeing the world and making friends. We caught up with founder of Got To Get Out, and mad keen outdoors-man, Robert Bruce, and chatted about where Got To Get Out came from, where it is now, and what’s coming next.
Q: Can you tell us about the moment that the concept behind Got To Get Out was born?
A: Got To Get Out is really one of those ‘silver lining’ stories, when a challenging time in my life got turned into something really special. Before Got To Get Out was even an idea in my mind, I was running a marketing company which I had started in my early twenties. Eventually, I sold my company to a ‘network’ communications agency, meaning it was part of a global group of advertising and marketing companies. After a few years of running a very small part of this very large machine, this global company changed direction and I ended up jobless when they disestablished the whole department. This all went down towards the end of 2014. I decided right there and then at age 30 that I was sick of corporate life and I wanted to do something more meaningful, but I didn’t yet know exactly what my calling was.
With some spare time and money after the redundancy, I took myself off to the Himalayas to follow in the footstep of my hero, Sir Edmund Hillary up to Mt Everest Base Camp. It was during this trek – really my first solo outdoors adventure outside New Zealand – that I had a eureka moment on the side of the trail: my calling was to try and inspire people to get off the couch, get outdoors and get active. I didn’t know exactly what Got To Get Out would be in that moment – but I knew I needed to pursue this dream.
I started blogging, vlogging, and doing a bunch of social media posts during the trip (basically whenever I could find WiFi in the Himalayas, which is not very often. By the time I got home to New Zealand, I had a few hundred followers and people were telling me they were really enjoying my updates.
When I got home from Nepal people started saying “Hey you should organise some trips – I want to do what you are doing”. So, not long after my return to NZ I hosted our first Got To Get Out adventure.
Q: What’s the premise of Got To Get Out
A: Our premise is that to be physically and mentally happy and healthy, you’ve Got To Get Out. To me this means you’ve got to get moving, get outdoors, get into nature, get some new friends. We host trips that help facilitate that message – but we are equally happy if people use our Facebook page or website as inspiration to have their own adventures separate to us. I hear about that quite often – people say “I didn’t come with you, but I did the trip you suggested myself!”.
Since 2015 we’ve hosted well over 200 activities, and nearly three thousand different people have joined us on these trips. Some of the unique elements of our adventures are things like ‘circle of names’ where everyone has a chance to share to the group who they are / where they are from / what their favourite trip is. We also do ‘intention setting’ at the start of most trips and reflect at the end about whether we achieved what we set out to.
Q: So what was the first event?
A: Our first event was a road trip to Waitomo Caves, where we departed Auckland in a bus, went glow worm caving, and then on the way back popped into Raglan for surf school. A pretty ambitious first event looking back! The feedback from this first adventure was positive – the twenty or so attendees said they loved it and wanted more.
After the first paid event, I started offering smaller activities at no cost. I didn’t want to become an exclusive club or just another tour company offering expensive trips. I started slow with maybe a trip per month, doing things like day-walks in the Waitakere Ranges or overnight tramps into the Coromandel. It was pretty slow beginnings, and it took a couple of years of me working hard outside of my full-time job to build the community of followers.
Q: What hurdles have you had to overcome so far?
A: Truthfully, in my second year of Got To Get Out (around 2016) I was working full time and running Got To Get Out. I had two lives, I worked all weekend (and most evenings) on Got To Get Out, and full time during the week at my 9-5. The GTGO community at this point did not quite have a tipping point in terms of scale, so even though we had a few thousand followers, often the turn-out was very low and I was left feeling disheartened about the effort vs. reward of hosting these adventures.
There was times in those days when I’d think, “what’s the point of putting all this effort into running an event, if only a small handful of people show up?”. Sometimes I was the only hiker!
A big change that Facebook made back then was to introduce ‘groups’, which made it much easier for me to communicate with our community.
Q: What types of people go on a Got To Get Out adventure?
A: The people who come to Got To Get Out trips tend to be those with an adventurous spirit, who have trouble finding other people to get out with or who want to get back into the outdoors after a break. We often hear that the reason people have joined our trips is not for the trip itself, rather the opportunity to meet more like minded friends.
The majority of our crowd are 25-35 years old (though a range of 18-60!), and interestingly we get more females than males. It’s not clear to me why females are more willing to join our group trips, maybe they’re more willing to try something new in the outdoors, but prefer to do it as part of a group.
A new demographic for us is international students. We are partnered with a Study Auckland, a big council department that is tasked with promoting Auckland as a study destination. They are eager to see international students ‘get out’ into nature, meet Kiwis, and have an authentic experience. So we are seeing a lot more international university aged people joining our family – who we hope can become ambassadors for studying in Auckland and or New Zealand when they return home.
Q: What has been the best moment, if you can point to one, that has come about on a Got To Get Out trip?
A: In 2017, we took 7 Got To Get Out’ers to Mt. Everest Base Camp. What a thrill it was to take these people to Nepal, and to the unofficial birthplace of Got To Get Out. Following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary was a real treat for me as I am a massive fan.
Being at Mt. Everest Base Camp in -15 degrees with 8 Kiwis who have come there because of this group was really special.
Q: How can people get involved
A: Haha, well that’s a funny one – while I am trying to get people off social media and connected to nature, that’s where you find us! It’s a love/hate relationship with the digital world.
If you want to connect with us, go to www.facebook.com/gottogetout. If you are keen on joining an interest group then look up the Got To Get Out Snow Club, Got To Get Out Climbers, Got To Get Out Wellington, or Got To Get Out Adventures.