Three years ago, when one of the world's fanciest tour operators hired David Farnell to guide bicycling, walking, and wine-tasting trips through the French countryside, the recent college graduate knew he had stumbled onto something good. But it wasn't until last summer, as he was watching the sun set over Nantucket from the deck of the America's Cup-winning yacht Intrepid, that he realized just how sweet his paying job could get. "It was incredible," gushes the 27-year-old Massachusetts native, whose five-day trip included a chance to out-tack Ted Turner's rival craft American Eagle from Martha's Vineyard to Newport.
Despite his sunburn, Farnell was hard at work, studiously researching the Intrepid's plush amenities for his job as trip scout at Toronto-based Butterfield & Robinson. Ever since being promoted from trip leader in 1997, Farnell has spent three months a year concocting deluxe vacations for B&R's well-heeled clientele, a task that entails pedaling back roads of Burgundy in search of the most scenic cycling routes, taste-testing seared scallops at Michelin three-star restaurants, and taking careful notes on claw-foot bathtubs at seventeenth-century chateaux. When the experience meets his rigorous standards, he adds it to B&R's roster. When it doesn't, he shrugs it off as another almost—but not quite—perfect day at the office.
As if his job weren't enviable enough, Farnell recently headed into the backcountry of North America to begin scouting locations for B&R's newest endeavor, multisport expeditions for adventurous clients in their twenties and thirties. With the new territory came a promotion to one of five B&R program directors—and an extra helping of adrenaline: In September, Farnell embarked on a two-week research assignment to hike in the glacier-capped Canadian Rockies, mountain-bike epic singletrack near Whistler, and sea-kayak the remote Gulf Islands—all on founder George Butterfield's tab, of course. "George just puts advances on my credit card and says, ŒGo have fun,'" explains Farnell. So, will one of adventure tourism's most pampered guinea pigs ever feel the need to answer a higher calling? "Not unless I find a job with better perks."