Dear Advisor Partners,
From time to time, I enjoy sharing what is happening in our destinations around the world. From exciting experiences, and WGS® guest assistance cases, to some of the really unique activities being planned, the travel landscape is definitely active. Here are a few of the goings on with guests on location in some of the popular areas across the globe.
In Ecuador, tea time at a historic hacienda within Cotopaxi National Park, where you can find the highest active volcano in the world, surely has to make the list. Mint tea just isn’t the same back home. Then you have bird watching in Mindo Cloud Forest for the avid bird lover. This is where the birds stop being a hobby and become part of the quintessential safari. It’s so good to see the Galapagos Islands making a comeback especially on the land based section where customization meets exploration. With the recent news that fully vaccinated guests no longer need a PCR test to enter the archipelago, it’s clear the renaissance is under way.
Colombia, the country which remains one of my first loves, was started on my watch. You see, when I came to Big Five 19 years ago, our other destinations were there and operating successfully. It thrills me to see clients exploring and discovering this culture rich country. After a graffiti stop in Bogota, it’s on to Medellin. On the docket next, paragliding, mango ice cream and communas. And we haven’t even reached Cartagena yet with a must stop at Pergamino.
Across the water in East Africa, we see trekking wild rhino on foot in Northern Kenya before heading to Mara River, where the dramatic animal herds can be witnessed. Crossing over into Tanzania to explore the Serengeti, guests are taking African safaris in a very different way. The timing is just perfect as the many zebra have crossed over the Mara River and Sand River into the Mara reserve, while the wildebeest are not too far behind. The culmination is gorilla trekking in the lower Bwindi forest, happening upon a troop of gorillas, observing a silverback watching over the group as the young play and the females rest.
Looking north, we have Egypt, another well-deserved hotspot. The anticipation of the Grand Egyptian Museum opening later this year is just amazing. I always knew Egypt was on everyone’s bucket list, however the sheer excitement of visiting Egypt is more than anyone could have imagined. It’s a testament to Egypt’s rich history. The interesting thing is our preferred method of visiting between Luxor and Aswan by road has become the more popular method for so many, even in a warm month like June. I visited Egypt for the first time as a teenager and just fell in love with the rich history. And by the looks of it, others are having a similar reaction.
Each month, more of the world opens and one thing is clear, we haven’t forgotten how to do this, thank goodness! Enjoy the video and we’ll see you out there soon.
Dear Advisor Partners,
Have you ever had an event just jog a collection of memories about something? Well a few days ago, Morocco joined the growing list of countries allowing fully vaccinated guests to enter without PCR testing. When I heard the news, after looking for flights, I thought of a number. The number 24 represents many things: hours in a day, a binge worthy tv show , according to numerology, it is the number of harmony and diplomacy, yet, it is also the number of times a day you have to tell your teenager to do their chores. It also represents the number of times I have been to Morocco. Truth be told, the first time I visited, I actually wasn’t as amazed as I was on the following trips. You see, my mother was born in Sudan and having traveled through parts of Sudan, I craved the most authentic of experiences. So of course I went to Morocco searching for just that. Well as they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So I decided to return and boy, am I glad I did!
Now I should stop and explain that I also disliked my first visit to Colombia and Australia, both destinations I now adore, and the same can be said about Morocco. On the second visit, and each subsequent visit after, the magic began to appear. Whether it was the mountain biking in Asni, the ATV exploration in remote deserts, the coast line in Oualidia, or the marvel of the unknown in Taroudant, something just started calling to me. I remember being out in the remote Eastern Atlas Mountains on one of my earlier visits, before the luxury hotels had opened, and thinking to myself, this is the Morocco I was looking for. I stopped to talk to a local farmer tending to his land which was handed down through four generations. This young man was learning computer science, however his pride was in this land, something he planned to hand down to the generations after him. He was storing his crop in an abandoned kasbah away from the heat, shielding himself away from the heat as well. On a later return, I found myself having lunch in the Agafay desert with the a few guides we work with, one of them being the first female guide in the region, each sharing their indigenous family roots. On that same visit, I fondly remember visiting a local Berber house located in between the Agafay Desert and the High Atlas Mountains. Here I sat with a fellow father, as he shared how his two daughters took such divergent paths. One daughter completed her higher education, while the other was forced out of school by the elders before 5th grade because they believed, against his wishes, that she should not be educated. He explained to me that along with his elder daughter, he saw the value in tourism but to further the younger daughter’s education, her place was in a school. He opened up his house to a few visitors like me, who would hike the trails behind his house, through the olive groves to his donkeys that help process the olive oil we were about to use making our lunch. While the food was amazing, the conversation with the father, the guide, and the land owner shaped the stories that drew me to Morocco. Combine that with exploring the medina in a Russian built WWII motorcycle replica, and you can imagine how much fun can happen in one day! You see it wasn’t the museums or the sights, it was the stories that I missed out on in my first visit.
On my most recent visit, I was just outside Marrakech paragliding. Truth be told, I was there for work, so I called this research and development (just to make my non travel friends jealous). I have been wanting to hang glide in Morocco for some time, and it seems each time it was about to happen, the weather decided to close the door. So when the opportunity to go paragliding came up, I had to say yes, how could I not! The hang gliding remains one of the final items to check off on my adrenalin bucket list. Over time, starting with my second visit onwards, I began falling in love with Morocco, and it all culminated with dinner in my new favorite Indian restaurant in Marrakech, Bombay. The host, a local Moroccan fluent in Hindi, and chef Surender Kumar, hailing from an area not far from my family in India, offering the home made recipes I grew up loving!
A simple event jogged back all these memories. Now let’s go make some new ones!
Dear Advisor Partners,
As we entered the midpoint of 2021, I found myself looking back at the blogs sent out in June 2020, when fear followed confusion, and I gravitated to a blog our team wrote on June 3, 2020 titled “Because We Are Better,” (which you can read here). We talked about the difficult journey the world had undertaken, challenges in every direction, and the impacts of the world being shut down. We talked about how helping the voiceless became less of a choice but rather more of an honorable responsibility, an obligation even. It has come to a time where we can finally start to see the silver lining.
Now that the storms of 2020 are beginning to move off into the past, there is sunshine peeking through again in 2021. Yesterday the CDC and the US State Department eased restriction on 60 countries with more to come. Friends are returning to work, expeditions are restarting and people are planning and travelling. The light and the path are even brighter today. More countries are allowing vaccinated passengers to enter without testing. Europe is opening up, and progression is occurring. Everything is changing and will continue to change as we progress further into 2021 an beyond. The one thing that will not change, and cannot change, is remembering where we came from these last 12 months. I hear people talking about how bad 2020 was, and it was, no doubt, yet the one major positive is the light shining on all those suffering around the world, voiceless to their struggle. The 100,000+ that go hungry in the islands around Cartagena, the 600+ Andean weavers and their children in the communities around the Sacred Valley in Peru, the hundreds of children that now get clean drinking water in Guatemala and the 217 children from the neighboring Maasai communities receiving a promising education in Tanzania, all have much more needed visibility. The one that hit closest to my heart is the young and brave Arianis in Cartagena, who is happily in foster care now, healthy and prospering. In fact, I firmly believe this little girl will be telling her story on a Ted Talk stage one day.
This blog and the accompanying video is a reminder, as we begin to grow again, to look back where you came from these last 18 months. Let’s not forget what it took to get here, and continue to increase our social responsibility in our travels. The work we saw around the world, that inspired us to hang in there, to keep fighting, to keep struggling, isn’t going away. Those needs have always been there. The Big Five team united behind our foundation, loudly said to all those that we were fortunate to help, “we see you, we hear you.” As we begin what should be an epic recovery, we say to them now, “we still see you, we still hear you, even clearer now.”
Look back on your accomplishments, be proud of them, and rise together. Learn more about the Spirit of Big Five Foundation’s work here.
Dear Advisor Partners,
As the father of a high school freshman, graduation week takes on a whole new meaning. It takes me back to my own graduation, high school and university (being the first in my immediate family to attend university was an added bonus), and how special that week is. As a parent though, the conversation is very different, rather than a sense of achievement your child has, you have a sense of urgency, counting the number of summers and holidays left with your child before they head off to graduate studies, and their own life. While my son is an incoming freshman, I essentially have four more summers, four more festive holidays, and 208 more weekends before he heads off on his own road. I remember even now, as if it was yesterday, holding him in one arm, his head in my palm and his body resting on my forearm. I went from massaging his ankles as a baby, to him frankly breaking my ankles in a game of 1-on-1 basketball.
You see these are the memories all of us have as we proudly watch our children reach the lofty aspirations we set for them at an early age. It is in these memories that we realize, that our children actually set goals for themselves even loftier then the ones we set, which explains why our expectations are exceeded so often. The other part as parents that we think about often, is family adventures, creating memories in the time you have left together. Now this is not to say future travels won’t be together, however there is a moment, before children head off to further their studies, where they get one last hurrah. They get the adventure they will use later on to shape their own journeys around the world. It was from this concept, that Precious Journeys® College Edition was born a few years ago.
Just think of all your fellow travelers young and old and ask them where their love of travel began. Almost every answer starts with an experience with their family or friends, doing something they never thought they could or would do, or a memory so powerful that all the years cannot water it down. You see, the College Edition is just that, a collection of programs meant for children heading to adulthood, ready to carve their own path in life, ready to take on the world and inspired to change it. It’s equal parts ultimate adventure, unique experiences, and family memories all blended together in the perfect balance. This could mean hiking in the Sechura Desert in Northern Peru, getting off the beaten track in the salt flats of Botswana, immersing in the graffiti scene in Guatemala, Argentina and Colombia, or hiking through one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world in Australia.
We put together a video of some of these experiences, with more being designed all the time. These journeys don’t have do overs, and neither do you.
To fellow parents – well done, celebrate your hard work in raising such fine leaders.
To the high school graduating class of 2021 and 2022 – we need your help, your ideas, and your leadership. Congratulations on achievement. The journey isn’t over, it’s just beginning.
See our collection of Precious Journeys® College Edition.