Bend History

A Brief History

Dave Nissen, Founder of Wanderlust Tours

Over the next weeks and months we hope to share with you a glimpse into the life of Wanderlust Tours. This will be a place to get to know our staff, visit the places we love, hear from our guests and partners, and get connected with what's going on in the outdoor world. But first, a brief history:

Wanderlust Tours started twenty-three years ago in Bend, Oregon. The world (and Bend) has changed quite a bit since then. In 1993 the population of Bend was 27,415. Deschutes was the only brewery in town and Cascade Lakes would start their operation the following year. Owner Dave Nissen was the dream behind the design of Wanderlust Tours. He had a vision and he and his wife, Aleta, worked tirelessly to make it a reality. To this day Dave continues to inspire people of all ages and abilities to get outside, to pause and breathe, and to reconnect with the natural world because it's so good for the soul (and fun too!). 

In that first year Wanderlust operated 6 itineraries. Most of them were hikes through the forest or snowshoe trips, and one was a canoe tour. The company owned one van (Van Buren) and took 87 guests out on tour. When asked whether or not he expected to still be doing this 20+ years later, he responded emphatically, "Yes." And then added that his expectations of success have absolutely been blown away. 

Dave Nissen on Volcano Tour at Newberry
Dave Nissen Snowshoeing in Bend Oregon

Milestones in Wanderlust History: 

September 1993: Wanderlust is born as a one man and one van operation. 

September 1995: Dave and Aleta, who dreamed up the company together, got hitched.

1996: The first Wanderlust employee is hired.

1998: Aleta Nissen joined the operation full time.

2000: Wanderlust received the Governor's Tourism Award from Governor Kitzhaber in recognition of their leadership, cooperation, and support for building sustainable tourism in Oregon. 

2005: The Gene Leo Award "Carpe Noctum" was presented to Wanderlust for inspiring and creative efforts in outdoor recreation.

2006: Dave and Aleta's daughter Annika was born.

2007: Awarded the "Excellence in Family Business" Award from the Austin Family Business Program at OSU for bringing people into the natural world and for promoting understanding of natural, cultural, and environmental issues in Central Oregon.

2012: Wanderlust moved into their current office location.

2016: There are currently numerous amazing staff and vans in operation (come on our tours to learn all their names- both the staff and the vans!) 

We hope you'll join us for an incredible adventure. Next week on the blog, Guide Courtney shares her week in Bend with visiting family!