Dear Advisor Partners,
When I initially wrote this blog, I opened with a story about how I took a trip to Nogales, Mexico, because they were known to have wonderful home furnishings. My idea was to try and emphasize how there is more to a country than what it is known for. But sure enough, when I had a colleague read it, she said “I know Mexico is not the focal point, but now all I can think about is tacos, tequila, and Cancun.” Without even realizing it, we both proved the point I was attempting to make.
Often when we think of a country, we think of something or somewhere specific. If I say Brazil, you think Rio de Janeiro and the rainforest. If I say Japan, it’s Tokyo and anime. Similarly, Egypt and the pyramids or Australia and the outback seem to be synonymous. But as we all know, there is so much more to these countries than just the one or two things you initially think of.
Now, for my prime example, when it comes to South Africa, I guarantee the first two thoughts are wine or safari. But this country goes so far beyond these two attractions! Whether it’s vintage sidecar excursions around Cape Town, street food and street art tours, or adrenaline pumping activities (including flying over Cape Town in a fighter jet at Mach 2), there is a vast country of opportunities and stories waiting to be told beyond the vineyards or seeing the infamous “big five.” You can’t help but get drawn into South Africa as she has a very bright and inviting presence. Even in the world of Hollywood, between movies such as Invictus and multiple new series including the likes of Jiva! popping up, the world’s interest in this vibrant country is quickly growing as well.
There are so many stories that start in South Africa, and they all go in different directions, not all having to do with wildlife or wine. However, the food and wine do seem to intertwine into every story told no matter who’s telling it.
Dear Advisor Partners,
Back in early 2004, I was exhibiting at an adventure travel show focused on Asia. I was excited to see the India pavilion because a video promoting India tourism called, She is India, had just been released a few months prior. More importantly, India was rebuilding its tourism industry, much like it is today post-covid, and there was no snazzy Incredible India campaign or catchy slogans, only the Taj Mahal. That’s what made the She is India campaign so effective. The campaign introduced heli-skiing in the north, sailing on the backwaters in the south, and many other items in between that went past the Taj and even beyond the most well-known temples. For me, India was the door to my return to tourism from finance.
Fresh out of my Fortune 500 job that I no longer enjoyed, I spent a month in India trying to figure out my next step. It was here I would decide if I should re-enter tourism or remain out in the finance world. One of the main reasons I am here right now writing this is because I went back to India and saw everything beyond the Taj. Keep in mind, I have been going to India since I was a teenager, and back then it was as if the Taj Mahal or other famous structures were the only reason to visit India. Clearly, even Hollywood thought the same, as anyone who has seen the famous Bond movie, Octopussy, knows how geographically incorrect movies were when it came to India.
So, you could imagine my disappointment when I entered that trade show (and every other marketing event since) and saw that the Taj Mahal, while amazing, was still at the forefront. The interior parts of even the most well-known areas were being ignored, even though that was where the magic truly was. In the subsequent years, right until the early part of 2020, we had tremendous success in showcasing these small communities, even in popular states like Rajasthan, because we focused on the points in between the known cities, or on the lesser-known regions of the established tiger reserves. Each itinerary went further and further away from the well-known (and well worn) “Golden Triangle.” Some of my personal favorite, lesser traveled areas are in Tadoba and Nagarhole. When I share this opinion with even my closest friends, the confusion is evident. The more confused my friends get, the more excited I become about visiting that region!
Now, we are tasked with rebuilding India, again. We have an opportunity to do it differently, which doesn’t mean we skip the famous landmarks. Rather it means we infuse the lesser-known landmarks into our adventures and marry the known with the unknown. That’s just what we at Big Five are committed to do, starting with our new President’s Pick India program. Let’s see the Taj but not stop there. Let’s explore the real India, and rediscover what made her incredible in the first place. We can experience so much more…together.
Without India, I wouldn’t be sitting here. She is that powerful. Enjoy this week’s video.
Dear Advisor Partners,
If your circles are anything like mine, you probably often hear the phrase, travel transforms. I love that phrase! As we know, travel does transform lives, we even see it happening to ourselves as we travel. Think about your first trip outside your homeland to an adventure destination and the first impact that it had on you. It must still be unforgettable. Our team at Big Five saw this happening in real time with our colleague Courtney Miller, who helps write this very blog you read every week. Courtney is new to the travel industry and her visit to Peru was her first trip outside the US. This week’s video captures her journey, and we even used her experience to build a “Tips for a first-time traveler” document. This was designed for those of you traveling abroad for the first time or for those of you who haven’t traveled in a while and would like a fun reminder of some of the little things we all forget. Below is a letter that Courtney wrote to the Big Five team while sitting in Cusco before her departure. It captures her emotion so well, each word more powerful than the previous. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as everyone here did. This is transformation, in real time, and this is the reminder we all needed, why we love this business. Enjoy this week’s video and feel free to share the Tips for a First Time Traveler document.
So, I’m sitting here in the Cusco Airport, I got here 4 hours early to try and get on an earlier flight and luckily, I did. Leaving Peru is bittersweet, I really felt at home here. The people, the FOOD, the culture, the history, the dozens of dogs I got to pet (yes, they’re super dirty, but they just wanted some love and I have hand sanitizer!!!), everything about this country just felt so comfortable. I am going to miss it terribly, but I miss my kiddo and dog more at the moment.
To try and put my trip and experiences into a few words is impossible. As my first true international trip, (carnival cruises don’t count) I have learned a TON of lessons. First, pack light. I am so tired of lugging around my 40-pound duffle bag, camera bag, laptop bag and bookbag. I could have made a couple outfits work, I didn’t need my makeup or tripod, I didn’t even use my straightener or curling iron, and shoes….I only wore my hiking boots the whole time so 4 pairs were a bit excessive.
I think the most important thing I’ve realized though is when people say, “you realize how much you take for granted when you travel” meaning internet, tv, electricity, clean water etc., I think they have it wrong. They’re looking at the wrong thing. For me, this trip has reminded me that there is so much more to life than internet, phone and tv. Seeing the people in Iquitos, living in what we would barely call a shack, jumping over piles of trash and wearing mismatched clothes, that’s when it hit me. We don’t take our technology for granted; we’ve forgotten what’s important in life. These people living off the fruit they sell that they harvested themselves had the biggest smiles on their faces, just sitting around talking with neighbors as they wave away flies with a giant leaf. Further down the road I saw a man and his kids laughing while dangling their feet into a pond off a rickety dock that they clearly threw together themselves, that was attached to their house. Their lives are simple, yet they are happy. The “shacks” as I initially thought of them were really just homes adapted to the environment; on stilts to avoid floods, open walls near the roof to let the breeze through yet made from nature with minimal permanent impact. I think we have been so blinded by phones, technology, internet, and social media, so focused on making more and more money, that we’ve completely lost sight of true happiness and how to truly LIVE our lives.
And all of this was realized on my first day, within the first couple hours before I even got on the Delfin III amazon cruise. The amount of change my entire spirit, heart, mind and soul have gone through in these past two weeks is just mind blowing. My entire outlook on life has drastically changed. My goals and priorities have been completely replaced. And I’m happy to say I owe it all to you [Ashish], Gisela, Big Five and our team on the ground. Without this opportunity you guys handed me, I would have never been able to enjoy a trip like this and I seriously must thank you from the bottom of my heart, which has grown much bigger to fit everyone I’ve met and grown to know. I’ll never be able to say thank you enough!