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Pavel Rodionov’s idea of a perfect vacation doesn’t involve luxury accommodations, five-star dinners, or guided sightseeing tours. “I like to travel, but I don’t like typical touristy places,” said Rodionov, who graduated from Booth’s Executive MBA Program in 2013. “I prefer expeditions, like the North Pole.”

North Pole

In April 2014, Rodionov and his wife, Tatiana, spent six days making a 69-mile trek to the pole—on skis. They embarked on their adventure from Barneo Ice Camp, a fly-in basecamp atop the frozen Arctic Ocean. The couple traversed open ice fields, braved windchills reaching below -30 degrees Celsius, and slept in a tent.

“I wouldn’t say we were afraid, but on the second day, I lost all my energy and all my strength,” Rodionov said. He had to spend several hours in a tent, warming up and having some food and drink, before he was able to keep going. When the couple arrived at the North Pole, he planted the Booth flag.

“You don’t have night. It was absolutely beautiful—the sun and the white snow and the ice.”

— Pavel Rodionov

Traveling to the North Pole had always been Tatiana’s dream, and getting there was an unforgettable experience. “The sun was in the sky 24 hours a day,” he said. “You don’t have night. It was absolutely beautiful—the sun and the white snow and the ice.”

A Moscow resident, Rodionov works as the head of a government venture fund that invests in IT projects in Russia. It wasn’t until he met Tatiana that he got into adventure travel. “She’s tough,” he said. The couple, who have two sons, have gone on numerous whitewater rafting expeditions in the mountains of Russia. These thrilling “vacations” got Rodionov hooked on adventure travel. “I like to do things others can’t,” he said.

Before making it to the North Pole, Rodionov ascended Mont Blanc. The 15,774-foot-tall peak is the highest in the Alps, and that summit effort ranks as the most difficult of all of his adventure accomplishments. “Physically, it was very tough,” Rodionov said. “You needed to walk for hours. The weather was very bad. The wind was so strong that sometimes you couldn’t stand.”

Rodionov has also traversed Iceland in an all-wheel-drive vehicle. “It’s an impressive place,” he said. “There are lots of mountains, volcanoes, deserts, whales, birds, and lava fields.” He has also visited Kolsky Peninsula (also known as Kola Peninsula), a remote area in northwest Russia located between the White Sea and the Barents Sea. He traveled there via snowmobile.

As the head of Booth’s alumni club in Russia, Rodionov is preparing to take a group of 13 Booth alumni to Russia’s volcano-rich Kamchatka Peninsula this July. Some day, he hopes to make it to the South Pole. It would be a much riskier voyage than the North Pole expedition, as it’s far colder and drier there. “My wife and I, we’re thinking about it,” he said.

Rodionov believes adventure travel gives him advantages in the business world. “Such expeditions train you to be prepared in business and in day-to-day life,” he said. “Benjamin Franklin said that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I like this phrase very much. The most important thing I get from my activities is mental preparedness through difficulties.”