The seed for GeoEx, also known as Geographic Expeditions, was planted on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest by a group of trekkers in 1981. Huddled in a cold tent at about 16,500 feet and thrilled to be there—at the time, fewer than 300 Westerners had been allowed in Tibet and this group of 15 was the first American contingent ever allowed into the Tibetan backcountry—they cajoled a spunky Jo Sanders, the trek’s master permit-wheedler, into starting her own adventure travel company specializing in travel to recently forbidden parts of Tibet and China.
A year and many adventures later, Jo had InnerAsia (as the company was first called) off the ground. Her collection of supporters and advisors grew from that group in the tent (which included Tom Cole, longtime GeoEx leader and scribe) to include the likes of Al Read, a pioneer in the adventure travel business, and George Doubleday, who had a vision of what adventure travel would become. When medical issues forced Jo to turn over the reins to Al and George, she knew her seedling was in good hands. George made strategically magnificent hires (among them Shana Chrystie, Brent Olson, and Scott Montgomery, all still with us, and Jim Sano, our erstwhile president-extraordinaire) and amiably established GeoEx as one of the planet’s great travel companies.
Along the way, we pioneered adventure travel to places that most of us had only dreamed about and forged bright new ways to experience them. The Kangshung Face of Everest. Far western China. South Georgia Island. The length and breadth of Bhutan. The mountains of northern Burma. Kilimanjaro’s Western Breach. Snow leopard haunts in Ladakh. New corners of Patagonia. Etcetera. And today, based from San Francisco's beautiful Presidio, our staff of 50 or so continues to lovingly craft and smartly run trips—from treks and expeditionary cruises to safaris and cultural tours—to all seven continents.
With more than 30 years of experience under our belts, we’re still convinced the world is brimming with new travel gems, still in love with travel and convinced of its worth. Our solidity and success a source of pride (and, for our old-timers, amazed glee), we’re still chomping at the bit, still deeply charmed by our well-peopled world, and tickled at how far we’ve come from that little tent in Tibet.
Photo: Jo Sanders, GeoEx (Inner Asia, back then) founder, among some new friends on the trek in Tibet that launched our story. She explains that "Galen [Rowell] took this photo on our 1981 trip with the first group of Americans into the base camp area of Chomolungma."