Greetings from Gaschurn, Austria!
I've had my reunion with the fall this morning, waking up to a brisk 4 degrees here...quite a change from the steaming 30s of Bangkok yesterday! I'm making a brief stop here on the way to France, partly to pick up more suitable clothing 🙂
In Bangkok I was doing some site and excursion inspection in preparation for the pre-program for our Samui LiveAway in January. As much as possible I like to visit our destinations ahead of our trips to ensure everything is up to standard and the flow of the program.
It's also a chance to see if there are more interesting ways to do things, as was the case in Bangkok when we were able to secure the city's first electric longtail boats for us to use while exploring Bangkok's waterways.
The narrow boats with the long engine shafts are iconic on Bangkok's Chao Praya river and waterways, as you will both see - and hear - them everywhere. These new electric ones are much quieter and much more environmentally-friendly, and I think it's going to be really fun to cruise around in them.
This type of finding better ways to do and see things is a big part of our philosophy toward travel here. I often get questions around how we design our trips, and I am still looking for the best way to explain a complex process in a simple way. My best distillation at present is:
When the tour buses are going one way, we're going the other.
There are nearly always alternate routes and hidden gems that can only be found on the ground and from locals in the know. We put a great deal of effort into seeking these out.
Obviously this sentiment can't be taken too literally; there are places you simply must visit that everyone knows about, like the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the Pyramids in Egypt, and so on. In these cases we try to arrange to visit at the optimal time with the fewest other visitors.
The idea can be expanded to the timing of most of our trips, usually happening in the 'shoulder' season on either end of the peak in a particular destination. Again, this isn't a 100% thing; some places like Antarctica have very clearly defined seasons, and others like Scandinavia have a fairly short window for ideal touring. But, you get the idea.
I'm forever chasing an ideal when it comes to planning a trip in a specific destination...there is a unique essence to every place we visit that is best captured and understood through a particular route, a certain type of accommodation, and a series of curated experiences.
We don't aim to be the most expensive, or the least, and we don't look at what other group travel companies are doing. We take your travel lists to create the goals and then we set about seeing how close we can get to the ideal experience. It's an infinite game and even after 30 years I still love the challenge.
I hope that gives you a bit of insight into our thinking and the direction of things around here. And, if you get separated on one of our trips, just look opposite the buses and you'll find us.
Briefly, on trips - I'm pleased this week to release the last of our 2023 Portugal programs, this time to the Algarve, happening right after our Porto & the Douro Valley trip.
We'll be basing ourselves first in Olhão, a little village in the eastern part of the Algarve near some of the regions most picturesque nature. Then we'll make our way west, basing ourselves in charming Carvoeiro for four nights to explore the remainder of this famed sun destination.
As for webinars, we've got Iceland and Scandinavia & the Baltic Capitals upcoming, so do join us for either of those should you be interested.
And lastly, thanks for all the lovely feedback and great questions in our New Member Questionnaires - there are lots more adventures to come 🙂