In college, Merritt Hopper sold spring break travel packages out of his dorm room. The tour company promised to give him one free trip if he sold 10. He sold 150.
Long before this, Hopper was drawn to travel and sharing it with others. The Stapleton resident has been planning travel events for much of his life and now works at a luxury travel company downtown called Inspirato.
He says the major benefits of travel include: “Getting away from life for just a short while, being with friends and family, and having a constant reminder that the world is much bigger than Denver or Colorado or the U.S.A.”
One of his travel endeavors is attending every winter and summer Olympics with as many family members and friends as he can bring.
“We thought, ‘What a great way to see a different country every other year for the rest of our lives,’” he says, recalling first coming up with the idea in 2002 when he drove with his dad and two best friends from their home in Lake Tahoe to Salt Lake City.
The clan has grown vastly since 2002, tallying 85 people in London, 74 in Vancouver and 61 in Sochi.
The group goes the first week of the summer games and the second week of the winter games. In addition to watching Olympic events, the group explores the area. “At the end of every day it’s like a party. People go back to the hotel and don’t want to go to bed. They recap their days.” During the Sochi trip, they went to bed past 5am every night.
He says the Olympic experience is partly about competition, partly who you experience it with, and partly who you meet. From the recent Sochi Olympics, he highlights getting drinks and taking photos with new friends from Russia and Holland. “That’s really the Olympics—the world coming together and forgetting about all of our troubles for just a very short while.”
Traveling is a main priority for Hopper.
Growing up in upstate New York, Hopper’s family traveled primarily with two priorities—proximity and affordability. The Grand Canyon, Disneyland and Myrtle Beach are some of the vacations he lists. “There’s the whole cliché that life is too short. I think the people who want to travel will, and people who aren’t really sure they want to travel will always find reasons not to.” In his early twenties, he ventured out more and has made travel a priority ever since.
Hopper also organizes Race2Adventure, a 5K/10K trail run in different locations around the world. As part of another group, Hopper has organized a trip with friends to the World Cup in Rio in June.