Justin Laycob and the Origins of Southern Explorations


Justin Laycob in Ecuador

Justin Laycob, Founder and CEO of Southern Explorations was studying Spanish and – like many students pursuing a degree in a foreign language – was slated to spend a semester abroad to really dig into the language. The University of Oregon had set him up with an exchange placement in Spain when – as fate would have it - a well-timed envelope from friends in the Southern Hemisphere sent his life on an entirely different course.
“Some buddies of mine were guiding rafts in Ecuador,” remembers Justin. “They actually mailed me a bunch of pictures of themselves on the rivers down there, so I changed my plans.”
Fortunately for Justin, and for the future Southern Explorations, the University of Oregon also had an exchange program in Ecuador. Re-routed and dreaming of the whitewaters of South America and Central America, Justin made his way to Quito, Ecuador. He spent six months there studying Spanish, then decided to stay another five months as he and his friends took to the rivers of Ecuador.
“That’s really what sparked my obsession with Latin America,” says Justin. “I was completely in love with the whole place.”
After a semester back at the University of Oregon, Justin again returned to South America, this time landing with a program in Chile. He studied in Chile for six months before heading back out into the wilds of the continent with his brother and a group of friends, making unforgettable stops in places like Peru and Bolivia, cementing his infatuation with South America and Central America once and for all.
When that expedition came to its end, Justin returned to the U.S. to graduate, then he took a job working for an adventure travel company teaching whitewater kayaking in Colorado, before joining an environmental agency in Portland, Oregon for some time. 
However, Latin America still beckoned. Determined to return, Justin took on a one-year contract with yet another travel company, this one bringing him back to South America once more. 
“I wound up staying for several years after my contract ran out, just freelance guiding for all sorts of travel companies, doing some safety kayaking, really getting to know everything I could about the adventure travel experience, basically travelling all around South America adventure guiding and whitewater kayaking. I was down there forever.”  
By the end of that years long tour of South America, the people in his ever-growing network started contacting him for his expertise, seeking out specialized trip advice and looking for that exclusive inside scoop of where to go and what to do all across the continent.
“At the beginning, I was guiding groups of friends and family. I was really just doing it for the fun of it all and making a little money to cover my bills while travelling.”
But before too long he realized he had a potential career – and maybe even a company – on his hands.
“I had all the connections, it was now about making it official.”
And make it official he did.
Justin moved from his home in Bolivia to Seattle - “because I really liked the Seattle area and had a bunch of friends there” - and within a few years Southern Explorations was in operation. Though Justin had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles across several years and multiple countries, the real adventure was only beginning.
In the decade to come, Justin brought in a host of South America and Central America travel experts with similar sensibilities and a taste for adventure to join Southern Explorations’ dynamic team. His company grabbing the attention of National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Frommer’s, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more, while delivering on Southern Explorations’ promise to provide adventurous travelers with personalized, finely-crafted, and completely immersive experiences that capture the imagination much in the same way those pictures of Justin’s friends whitewater rafting on the rivers of Ecuador first opened his eyes to the promise of Latin America back when it all began.