What happens at the airport ends up on ITR

Dear Advisor Partners,


My family got to know James Shillinglaw of Insider Travel Report some years ago. I even remember this great Indian restaurant where he and my father broke bread. Over the years, James and I became friends and tend to see each other everywhere. In fact, and you may laugh, our funniest conversation was actually in April 2020, me sitting in my backyard and James in New York City. James has always been brilliant at making others smile, even where there was nothing to smile about, and this was no different. You see about half way through, the conversation was hitting its stride about what Big Five was doing over the next few months and thoughts on the current situation, when all of a sudden a sound begins to echo through our headphones. I looked to my left and right and saw nothing, Then all of a sudden, with my HD camera on, a lawn mower goes right past me mid-sentence. I immediately lost my train of thought, and James and I started to laugh for no reason. My family must have thought I was nuts as they watched me laugh while staring at my computer. I wasn’t talking to myself, despite what my children thought. Thanks a lot, James!


Fast forward to our latest conversation while I waited for my flight home at Toronto Pearson Airport, there I sat in Terminal 1, off to the side where the big windows let in endless sunlight. Nobody was around, not yet, anyway. I popped in my headphones and set up in a location that seemed perfect, with very little background noise and no obnoxious travelers talking loudly even though they were next to each other. I was ready! James and I connected, and the conversation began almost where the last one left off, which is pretty cool considering how many people we have both spoken to in the last few years. We started at the 50th anniversary, then transitioned to my recent visit to Peru, then over to Portal Five. Our last topic was the most exciting, new enhancements to our India product going beyond the Taj Mahal (more on that in a later blog post).


Suddenly, I heard faint laughter and loud voices to the left of me. I looked to my left, and of all the places for someone to stop, it was right next to me. Not another lawnmower incident, not again!  Without tipping off James, I moved the camera as best as possible to a quieter location, however, he smiled, knowing full well what was happening again. Leave it to Mr. Shillinglaw, who never skips a beat or a chuckle to keep us on track and end the brilliant conversation on a high note.  I have included the video for your enjoyment, See if you can spot the moment I move. Seriously of all the places….

Enjoy this weeks Video

Dear Advisor Partners,


This past February, I traveled back to East Africa to check out the herd movements in the Serengeti and a few new areas in Kenya. While there I had a surprise stop in the Serengeti to visit a perennial photography group that safaris with us on a regular basis. Their travel advisor is based in Southern California, and we have known each other since I first joined Big Five over 20 years ago.

This particular group creates a video from every safari, and each one seems to be better than the last. We have their regular driver guides assigned to the point where it feels like family. In fact, this group helped us accelerate the development at Ereto Primary School with concrete delivery. In addition, every visit to Kenya includes a visit to the antipoaching team at Lewa Conservancy, where this group delivers sorely needed equipment from boots to patrol gear for the entire antipoaching team.

This last safari had a last-minute change with a professional videographer joining the group. The results were spectacular, and I just had to share their video. I warn you; this is a long video, however, turn your volume up and sit back. You’ll be glad you did…

I can’t wait to see what happens during the next group.

A Lesson in Humility

1979. The Big Five office was on the 2nd floor of a building on Kenyatta Avenue, and I had a complete glass door at the entrance to my personal workspace. It was midafternoon, and I was having lunch. A young Kenyan man on crutches and no older than twenty knocked on my door. I got up and opened the door, and asked how I can help as I had never met him before. To this day, I still don’t know his name as I never asked as I was focused instead on how to help.

The young man took out a piece of paper from the back of his pocket and asked if I could give him 10 Kenya Shillings ($1 at that time) because he wanted to pursue his studies. I asked how would 10 Shs. help? It was such a small amount for such a huge task. He answered, “I am asking other people too, so think I will get what I want”. In Kenya, asking for money by random people borders on begging and was sadly common in those days, just as it is in any metropolitan city today. Outside of organized efforts, I normally don’t give money to such people because they usually buy alcohol, drugs, or nicotine. I would be feeding the same vicious cycle. Yet something was different about this person, so I gave him the money he asked for. All these years later, I still don’t know why.

On one particular Friday, maybe around ten months later, I was having lunch in my office as usual. At the nearby Mosque, devoted Muslims prayed as they do every Friday. Normally there are quite a few homeless outside the Mosque asking those entering and leaving for money, so nearby residents almost get desensitized to it. Maybe that’s what happened to me. As is normally the case, we received many beggars knocking on our door as we were very close by. Usually, I bring in food in a bag and distribute that to the needy as they stop by; however, today, I wasn’t able to. A man on crutches knocked on the door, and when I didn’t recognize him, I gestured for the man to go away. He would not budge and kept on knocking. Frustrated, I finally I got up and opened the door. In a loud voice, I told the man, “Don’t you understand that I am telling you to go away! Get out of here!” He immediately interrupted me and said, “I don’t want money or food.” And I snapped at him and asked him bluntly what he wanted. He held both crutches in one hand and took out a paper and said, “I have just come to show you the certificate I got from my studies. You helped me, so I came to thank you.” I was completely stunned and speechless, I had no words and felt like an idiot for my behavior.

I went back into my office, and believe it or not, I cried. This man reminded me how to be humble and not to jump to conclusions. This still brings tears to my eyes, even now, when I was asked by Ashish to write about this and when I tell the story of this incident. I learned on that day and never forgot to never look down on poor or helpless people or anyone for that matter. I will never get to thank this gentleman for bringing me to my senses and reminding me where I came from, and teaching me humility.

I am teaching the same to my Grandkids!

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