Who's behind Days on Trails?
Days on Trails was born out of passion for true trekking adventures. The founding members – Dieter Van Holder and Alex Kendall – met during their training to eventually become UIMLA International Mountain Leaders. Both had quite a few years of guiding under the belt already and soon found out they shared a common dream.
“During our years in the field in countless mountain ranges, we had seen boundless opportunity. Opportunity to keep exploring. To take people into stunning wilderness and link up trails, deserts, forests, valleys, glaciers, moors… through trails that have been handed down to us by our ancestors. And if there are no trails, to find flow in the landscape.
Our heart goes out to multi-day adventures. Great loops in – or traverses of – regions with emphasis on the journey experience. Traveling on foot, you can explore places you’d never reach in any other way, and at a pace which allows you to truely take it all in. Not only the natural environment, but also the local culture.
At Days on Trails, we truely believe that many wonderful places are hidden in plain sight. People in search of “off the beaten path” experiences often end up walking the same handful of bucketlist treks, that keep appearing in top 10 lists in magazines and websites. We’ve seen first hand how areas – that are no doubt beautiful – turned into “the beaten path”. We walked among crowds, knowing that valleys beyond the mountain were just as beautiful but with no people to be seen for days. We could fill our calendars a lot easier if we offered treks like “Tour du Mont Blanc” or the “Laugavegur”, but we don’t.
We want to take you to the blind spots on the map. We want to travel to lesser known areas. We want to show that any person in good basic health can have good trekking experiences. We want to share our craft with you so you always know what decisions we’re considering and why. We want to share our knowledge about the mountain environment so you too can see what we see!”
Whether you’re a novice looking to have an experience at the edge of your comfort zone, or a trekking veteran that wants a carefree holiday, we invite you to join our trips. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in our portfolio or if dates don’t match, don’t hold back to simply send us a message. We will gladly set up tailor made trips or otherwise support you with our expertise.
We offer more than just our scheduled departures!
- Bespoke guiding & consultancy. Every itinerary on offer can be modified to suit the needs of private groups. Do you have a time window but you’re not sure where to go? Maybe you want to have a certain type of trekking experience or a dream destination? We can make it happen. Custom programs built from scratch don’t necessarily equal very expensive. Simply contact us and we’ll see what’s possible!
- Youth groups and educational travel. Both of us have training and experience in education and working with young people. As part of our behind the scenes activities we work on the Duke of Edinburg Award and serve as consultants & guides on several school programs. Feel free to contact us to enquire about options!
Who are we?
Dieter Van Holder
Dieter has been leading or teaching in one form or the other for the last decade. After graduating as a high school teacher he volunteered for the Belgian armed forces where he was trained as a non-commisioned officer in the infantry. He eventually moved on to become a teacher and spent several years teaching students from 12 – 20 years old.
Growing up, he spent a lot of time in the Stubai Alps in Austria and the urge to go to the mountains was never far away. He spent most of his free time in the Alpine clubs and eventually became an instructor. Over the course of several years, he graduated as UIAA Instructor Mountain Walking & Trekking and UIAA Instructor Winter Mountain Walking & Snowshoeing. Many nights were spent bent over maps to prepare trekking tours in the European mountain ranges or the British Isles.
Eventually he took up guiding full-time and became a glacier & wilderness guide in Iceland and Greenland. He spent 3 years guiding on hard ice, glaciated summits and wilderness areas both winter and summer. In the course of this career he acquired Association of Icelandic Mountain Guides certifications specifically targeted at the Icelandic glacier environment. He also finished the NOLS Wilderness First Responder course. Advanced first aid training tailored specifically at dealing with emergencies in areas away from immediate medical assistance. In between he kept working at the UIMLA International Mountain Leader with the goal of a long career in trekking guiding.
Dieter enjoys hiking, mountain biking and trail running. He lives in Belgium but is rarely ever there!
- UIMLA International Mountain Leader
- UIAA Instructor Mountain Walking & Trekking
- UIAA Instructor Winter Mountain Walking & Snowshoeing
- AIMG Jökla 2 (hard ice guiding)
- AIMG Fjalla 1 (glaciated mountain terrain guiding)
- NOLS Wilderness First Responder
- EO-MTBING aspirant (mountainbike guiding)
- Flemish Trainersschool Instructeur B / Trainer B
- Bachelor in secondary education (Dutch – English – geography)
Alex has been leading people in the outdoors for over 10 years, starting with a wet December trip to Dartmoor in southern England many years ago, with around 15 students. Since then he has led hundreds of walking trips and expeditions, gaining the Mountain Leader award in 2011 and the Winter Mountain Leader award a few years later. This culminated in the International Mountain Leader award, and the experience and ability to lead trips all over the world.
While mostly leading adult groups on walking trips all over the UK, from the Devon coast right up to the Highlands of Scotland in winter, Alex has led young people on expeditions to the Himalaya, Tanzania, Southern India, Zambia and Oman. He has travelled personally in China, the US, and much of Europe. While studying for his degree in Biology and Masters in Conservation he was involved in two expeditions to the Borneo rainforest, and led an expedition to Svalbard for a month of mountaineering, for which the team won the Arctic Club award, which is given out once per year in the UK.
Alongside personal outdoor experience, Alex has worked on logistics for two other outdoor companies, helping to organise over 200 trips every year. He also writes guidebooks for Cicerone Press, starting with The Snowdonia Way, which was published in 2017.
Alex enjoys walking, wildlife-watching, mountaineering and running, whether short fell-races or longer fast-packing journeys. He lives in the Yorkshire Dales in northern England, and is most likely to be found running in his home hill range, the Howgill Fells.
- UIMLA International Mountain Leader
- Winter Mountain Leader (UK)
- Outdoor First Aid
- RLSS Water Safety Level 3
- MSc Conservation and Forest Protection
- BSc Biology
Certified guides are the beating heart of our company!
How do you as a guest, know that the person you entrust yourself in, has the experience, training and personality to take the best possible care of you? When joining a trip, you trust us with your valueable time, your physical safety and psychological integrity. We take this very seriously!
We work exclusively with guides holding internationally recognized certifications in guiding and first aid!
Guiding is synonymous for a constant complex decision making process. A guide is first and foremost a person with a broad personal experience. This experience is a prerequisite to be allowed to start multi-year courses. During the curriculum, aspirants are trained and tested, on a wide range of technical skills, environmental knowledge, physiology and group managment. A certified guide has proven to meet internationally agreed upon standards, that have been brought into existence to protect guests hiring guided services. The guide’s decision making process is the basis of enjoyable and safe experiences in remote areas!
Our trips are designed by the guides themselves!
Every guide has areas (s)he’s enthousiastic about and eager to share with others. We want to take you places we like to visit ourselves, and like to do it the way we’d do it ourselves. Guides are free to propose trips themselves, design them and then lead them. Not the other way around where an agent buys a collection of standard services and then finds a person to follow a dotted line and hand out vouchers.
What we do for responsible sustainable travel
- The ecological pillar
Here we follow the Leave No Trace principles. As the cliché goes, we take only memories and leave only footprints. We follow the guidelines of the national parks we travel in. We plan ahead & prepare. We travel & camp on durable surfaces. We take every measure to dispose of waste properly. We leave what we find, minimize campfire impacts and respect wildlife. We will not pretend international travel doesn’t come with a significant carbon footprint, but hope to offset this by bringing home people that experienced pristine natural environments (and unfortunately environmental impact) first hand. Our biggest contribution lies in education and raising awareness.
- The economic pillar
Where possible, we will always try to support local businesses. We are guests of the locals and in return for their hospitality and knowledgeability, we use their services where possible. Booking services with big international chains does not directly benefit the local economy and where possible, we avoid this.
- The social pillar
This topic is complicated since it touches on a broad spectrum of issues: the violation of human rights, modern-day slavery and disrespect for cultural traditions are just some of the things that ill-informed tourism can lead to. A lot of things go on behind closed doors that you wouldn’t be aware of, so rather than feeling guilty, we do what we can to educate ourselves to ensure we’re better informed on our next trip. It’s also important to be aware of the cultural traditions of the place we’re travelling to. To start with, being generally respectful towards the people there and showing an interest in the country is important and allows us to recognize any cultural differences or misunderstandings.
Company and legal information
Days on Trails is a collaboration of independent guides and Georgia Hardy Tours Inc, 20 Eglinton Ave West, Suite 1104, Toronto, ON, M4R 1K8.
All trips are designed and guided by the guides themselves. As a minimum, all guides have certifications matching legal requirements of the trip destination. Each guide has public liability insurance and the guides themselves are liable for the execution of the programs and what happens while on tour.
Georgia Hardy Tours Inc. is a travel agency licensed in the province of Ontario, Canada. Established in 1987, Georgia Hardy Tours, Inc. is a premium travel company that specializes in educational travel for students and adults.
In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the TICO will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking. All payments are made to Georgia Hardy Tours and the paying customers are financially protected by The Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund in case of airline bankrupcy or travel agency bankrupcy. TICO registration #2747543
Georgia Hardy Tours also provides third party support in the form of airline booking for all guests and offering insurance packages to Canadian and American guests.