Dear Advisor Partners,
You may be following my travels through East Africa, which started in Tanzania and have now carried over into my native Kenya. This visit is really special for me. For those of you who don’t know, I am an only child and those of you who do know, usually have a great joke to insert at this point. So go ahead, let ‘em fly! You see, I am in Kenya with my two real brothers, the equivalent of siblings for me. One has known me since the age of 3 and has been an instrumental help in shaping me into the person I am today. The other, who traveled with me from Washington, DC, has known me since I was 17 and has been an older brother true and true for me, like when I ran out of air while scuba diving 40 feet down, or when we camped out on a beach in Mexico for a week, among other adventures.
So this blog is very special for me. The rains have started in the Serengeti, the animal herds are merging and the ground is lush and green. The video this week should show something epic. Pay attention to the lion in the tree, as that is one of the rarest sights in Tanzania, even more so in the Serengeti. I think we spent over an hour tracking that lioness and her cubs as she looked over at the zebra herds across the way, that is before, the wildebeest herds behind her spotted her and began warning everyone. I’ve been on safari since I was 4 years old and I have to say, this one ranks right up there. I have to take a moment to geek out about my accommodations which I loved returning to, Roving Bushtops. Normal mobile camps come with bush showers, however Roving is one of a kind, self-sustaining with its own hydraulics and tanks to store and power everything. It is one-of-a-kind Swiss technology at work in the Serengeti. Frankly, the only thing missing, is a Tesla Powerwall, however, I hear that is on the way.
This should be a great migration season coming up, stay tuned for the third installment of this dispatch. Enjoy this week’s video. To look into booking a trip similar to the one I’m currently on, I recommend the President’s Pick Tanzania & Kenya The Wild Walk.
Dear Advisor Partners,
Yesterday, my latest African adventure finally got underway. Originally postponed from January due to a shoulder injury and a bout of covid, I sadly missed out on traveling with the amazing Freeburg family. However, I found a way to still have Lisa on safari with me, well Flat Lisa this time. So after a connection in Doha, I finally landed in Tanzania, beginning my journey through Kenya and ultimately Uganda. Many of you know, I am originally from Kenya with family roots that link to Uganda and Sudan, so this was more of a homecoming.
Upon landing, I went straight to my sanctuary, the Ereto Primary School. As an active Spirit of Big Five Foundation project that started with 20 students from the neighboring Maasai communities, the school is clearing 300 students today. Some of you remember what this school looked like as recently as 2018, less than 100 students and our first classroom being built. Thanks to the help of many of you, there are now over five classrooms, but that is not the most amazing development.
This past week, I had a conversation with someone about the risk of dependence community support can have, the notion that a community project can be undermined because empowerment never entered the conversation. Then I saw empowerment in action at Ereto. The same Maasai elders, that many of you recall, were hesitant to send their kids to school initially, are now involved in building the extra classrooms. They are fully vested in the success of Ereto, making this school a true community partnership.
Stay tuned to this blog as I traverse East Africa with many videos to come once I enter back into the world of Wi-Fi…
Dear Advisor Partners,
Do you remember those old sports drink commercials showing smiling faces from all around the world? Well, we don’t design sports drinks at Big Five. However, we do have smiling faces…and yes, they are from all around the world. Coincidently though, just like the electrolytes in a sports drink, the Faces of Five are our key ingredient, as well as the answer to a frequent question.
Travel advisors with happy guests returning home, sometimes even the happy guests, often ask us, “How do you so easily deliver above expectations?” It is a question that has a simple yet complex answer, one that is hard to put into words.
The simple answer? Our team loves what they do. The goal isn’t to just show a guest the destinations, it’s to have the guest experience the destination, people and culture, from the heart, not just the eyes. Giving our travelers that gift of heartwarming, life-changing memories and love for a country is all the gratitude we need. So in order to accomplish that, we will always shoot for the moon, making sure the only thing the clients need to worry about is what outfit to wear for the day.
The complex answer is the one that cannot be put into words….it could include a smile, a gesture, a guide. These faces are the power behind the company, the ones with the power to change lives. These are the faces that bring the destinations to life, breathing their passion into every word and connecting your world to theirs. These are the faces that make your smile just a bit wider, your connection just a bit deeper, your knowledge just a bit broader.
Dear Advisor Partners,
Have you ever heard the phrase, you seem flat today? I heard it the first time about 12 years ago, again in the Fall of 2020, and recently in East Africa. I was told I looked flat, except it wasn’t really me, and what they saw actually was flat, Flat Ash that is. Yes you heard me, FLAT ASH. Now before you go making comparisons to that Flat Stanley, who is a hack by the way, I need to share the backstory on where Flat Ash came from.
Back in 2011, I was getting involved in this really cool initiative with Virtuoso, VCTA, meeting some amazing people that were joining the travel industry on the retail side. I was traveling with my partners in crime, Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions and Don Martinson of Nat Hab, to Chicago for an amazing team building experience, made up of painting in Chicago, baking cookies in Atlanta, and karaoke on South Beach (don’t ask). Chicago and South Beach went flawlessly. Atlanta was missed as it overlapped with Diwali, a very important festival in my house. This is when a prototype of Flat Ash was born through the use cardboard and the creative mind of Lesa. Little did I know that in one evening, Flat Ash would have his forehead singed off in the oven. He was so traumatized, his hiatus was prolonged until November 2020.
I was all set to return to Egypt with some really amazing travel advisors. As a lesson to you about checking your passport validity, I failed the most basic travel professional test and was not able to fly. Frantically I called all the advisors to share the grim news. Who knew Sandy Staples would conspire to revive Flat Ash in ways I never imagined possible. It was so good that Flat Ash’s social media presence just took off. It all started with a sleep patch and his own seat on a Lufthansa flight to Cairo, and evolved into an Indiana Jones wannabe look, before being stuffed into a cup of falafel at one of my favorite restaurants in Cairo. I wish I could explain how or why, I just know it was entertaining. More importantly, the legend of Flat Ash grew. From a singed forehead to his own Instagram highlight reel.
It seemed Flat Ash was exhausted, until a few weeks ago, Lisa Freeburg revived him as he arrived to greet her and her family in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Once again, I just can’t understand how Flat Ash ended up on a paging board, on a lounge chair near a pool, and in one terrifying case, in the pilot’s seat of a Cessna 208 perched up against the throttle. One can only wonder where Flat Ash will end up next.
In all seriousness, a special thank you to Sandy Staples, Lesa Bain, and Lisa Freeburg, and all the amazing advisors and friends involved in each adventure that made Flat Ash happen. Start following the adventures of Flat Ash today!