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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

More Meeting Attendees Embrace Adventure

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, often takes his team to unorthodox meeting spots. The best ideas, brainstorms and collaborations happen in unusual settings, he has found.

“A change of scenery and a bit of fun does wonders for getting people thinking differently and loosening up,” he has said.

I agree, based on a recent visit I made to Adventures on the Gorge (AOG), near Fayetteville, West Virginia. AOG is an adventure resort that riffs on nature.

Not only are you almost always outdoors, but in most cases, unless you are completely fearless, you are always doing something that is slightly scary.

I was there with a group of journalists, but our itinerary could easily have been adapted for a board retreat or other small meeting.

AOG sits on cliffs overlooking the New River Gorge.

In three days there, I rafted the New River; flew from hemlock tree to hemlock tree along a zip line and walked across the New River Gorge on a catwalk beneath the deck of the New River Bridge, the third-highest bridge in the United States.

I came away from my stay recharged, refreshed and ready to take on just about any challenge. And, as we oared and soared, my fellow writers and I, previously strangers, became a merry band.

As we weaved in and out of rocks and Class III, IV and V rapids, we worked together to steer the raft and occasionally to save a passenger gone overboard. We laughed as we rappelled down from a platform high in a hemlock tree in the pouring rain. We gave advice from below as our new friends climbed a craggy rock face.

In all our adventures, we encouraged and cheered and consoled one another. We learned that even the supremely confident have fears and that the seemingly timid can be unbelievably brave.

And although the phrase “team building” wasn’t flung about, as Brian Campbell, an AOG owner, pointed out, at AOG, “everything we do is team building.”

Watching disparate groups like ours bond, the leaders at AOG have realized that their product appeals to businesspeople. Amenities are being added each year with that market in mind. The most recent are eight Cabin Suites, duplexed hotel rooms set in the woods. They are a middle ground between AOG’s camping options and its array of rental houses. There will be more cabin suites to come and, further down the road, a hotel with conference space.

But in the meantime, AOG serves small business groups just fine. A deck next to the resort’s newish pool is perfect for a group cookout; our closing evening was spent at the Paddle House, one of the luxury rental homes. A couple of the resort’s four restaurants handled our other gatherings; they could do the same for meeting groups.

Ultimately, it was the many adventures and subsequent adrenaline rushes that made our stay at AOG stimulating. We all overcame something, even if it was simply the fear of meeting and getting to know new people. The words of several great Americans best sum up the trip’s benefits:

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” — John Wayne


Vickie Mitchell is the former editor of Small Market Meetings. If you have ideas for future columns, contact her at