Join the hippy trail, but only if you're hard enough

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The Independent Online
Overland adventure company seeks tour leaders: all round good guys and girls to take groups of travellers to the extremes of the planet.

It is the sort of job advert that should - and does - attract hundreds of eager applicants. But few are up to the mark, according to long-haul adventure travel operator Encounter, which says it can no longer recruit expedition leaders of the right calibre. An appeal this year attracted more than 100 responses - but not one was successful.

Most of today's applicants are too selfish, too greedy and more suited to clicking and dragging a computer mouse than to dragging a group of 30 adventurers through the jungles of Borneo.

Encounter has 27 expedition leaders on its books and wants to employ up to 40. But despite an annual 800 applications from the 25-35 age group, the number making the grade is falling. "We want our clients to have the experience of a lifetime so we only want to employ the best," says Encounter's Moira Welikanna.

Unsurprisingly for a company set up in 1964 as a trailblazer for the hippy trail to Afghani- stan, it blames a shift to Nineties values. "They don't want to give, they just want to take. "

On offer is free travel and accommodation and a wage of pounds 65 to pounds 125 a week for leading tours from Morocco to China, South America and India. But the demands are daunting. Apart from possessing the "people skills" to keep a group of strangers from each other's throats for up to six months, you must have a grounding in first aid and be able to change a wheel on a 10-ton truck perched halfway up a mountain.

"Expedition leaders must be totally self-motivated," says Ms Welikanna. "They need huge inner resourcefulness." But for those who do make the grade, "the rewards are amazing. I know it sounds corny but it really does change your life".

If you think you've got the right stuff, write to Moira Welikanna, Encounter, 267 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 9JA.

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