20 years ago this week, I departed on what was going to be the most significant trip of my life. A trip that would shape me as the person I am today and be the catalyst for me starting my own travel business.
I was 18 and starting out on a 9 month GAP placement teaching at Hog Harbour Secondary School on the island of Espirito Santo, Vanuatu. Going from a cosited English public school existence to living in a small village with no electricity or running water, I had no idea of the impact it would make on my outlook of the world. I’d love to go into long form format and write about the experience from start to finish, but in summary it was the people I met who had the biggest impact. In Vanuatu villages, everyone knows each other, everyone stops to talk to their neighbours, everyone joins in together. I think much of our western society has lost this – we are all too busy with the daily grind.
We were welcomed into a new way of living with warmth and openness. Living in a veritable “Garden of Eden”, I saw how people can lead wonderful, happy lives on a subsistence basis.
I saw how a close knit village can live from the land and sea; by working together they have all they need and have a wonderful way of life. Unfortunately today, this way of life is not possible in most of the world. I now realise how lucky I was to be able to live this charmed existence for 9 months – which at the time felt like a lifetime.
In the preceding 19 years since my return, my outlook has again changed. After studying Anthropology at University, which deepened my respect and curiosity for other cultures and foreign lands, I set out with the aim of recreating this experience for others in the form of holidays. I concluded that by spending an extended amount of time with a local community, a tourist could gain a new perspective on life and the world. Perhaps they would appreciate their life at home, reassess their work life balance, their community involvement, or develop new ideas whilst away from the rat race.
I still plan to create a luxury tailor made itineraries to Vanuatu, which in my biased opinion, is the most amazing country in the world. Where else do you have Nangol (original bungy jump with vines), Cargo Cults, custom tribes, live volcanoes, beautiful beaches, private islands, gleaming blue holes and the warmest possible welcome from the “Happiest People of Earth”.
But over time I have realised everyone has their own “life defining” moments that set their path and people have different expectations from their holidays. Seven years ago I also learned that having children radically changes your wants from a holiday. Often with families, young and old, the most important thing is spending time together and creating memories that will last.
I still strongly believe that taking time away to learn about different cultures and meet local people, if done in the right way, is hugely beneficial for both the traveller and the locals. However I have also come to realise that time alone in nature is equally beneficial, as is a week in a beautiful hotel with loved ones.
With the increasing time pressures of modern life, whatever you do it’s important to take time away from the daily grind.
I feel incredibly privileged to help people make the most of their precious time away.