In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
I have never stopped travelling – firstly for myself and my own need to explore and in more recent times through developing a worldwide business, Based On A True Story (BOATS), where we host all our experiences and travel with our clients, applying the same philosophy to their travel as I would to my own – it is this that keeps what I do pure (more on this below).
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
No doubt a little luck. An extremely supportive wife. A lot of wonderful people who believed in my ideas. A lot of hard work and an intuitive conviction of the very real need for a very special travel service.
I’ve always travelled. Born in Yorkshire and a direct descendant of the last King of Burma, as a young boy I was a bit of an outsider – I not only looked very different to the other kids, I also behaved very differently. I hiked by myself around wild places with a fishing rod, climbed and ran in the mountains, always trying to get over the horizon, then to the next horizon, to see where it led. Then a year living in a remote part of Tasmania when I was 17 changed my life forever. After then, life was for living and any money I could make was stashed for travel: the ultimate freedom.
I developed a successful design and communications business in my early 20s, initially to try and make a quick buck to get travelling again, but as it evolved it became something that ultimately enabled me to travel, pretty much, two years on and two years off for a decade. In those days I was mostly hitchhiking my way around the world, overland and on yachts, making money go as far as possible. Even when I was city-based with the design business I was constantly travelling. During the last two-and-a-half-year spell I didn’t spend a single weekend at home.
In 2000 I sold my business and everything that would tie me to ever living in a city again. With this new-found freedom, I sketched out on a map all of the places I really wanted to discover. A route took shape and I came up with the idea to travel from my home in Yorkshire to Antarctica with natural power (it was a small map). It took virtually three years, with around 37,000 kms of cycling, kayaking, sailing and climbing many of the big peaks en route, raising funds for orphaned children. I wild-camped virtually every night. On that journey, whilst in South America, I crossed paths with a group of exceptionally wealthy individuals and, after showing them a really good time, came up with the idea to offer them extraordinary experiences anywhere in the world. By then I knew a lot of great people and trusted contacts from all corners of the world.
Providing an ‘experiential travel’ service came naturally as I had only ever travelled to places to experience them. The concept of sleeping and hotels was not only an expensive inconvenience, it also generally took me away from the zone in which I had travelled to experience. I had always travelled self-sufficient, with a tent or hammock.
Providing ‘exclusivity’ was also an obvious prerequisite in any service I was to offer. I had always avoided places where tourists went and tourist infrastructures. I simply had no interest in a place if there were tourists there already – they killed the magic. If there was a must-see natural wonder, I would wait till the place closed, then jump over the fence and bivvy the night in there and watch the sun rise, then I’d be long gone before the place opened up again.
‘Luxury’, the most over-used of all words in the travel industry was an obvious prerequisite, given the people I was looking after.
For me, then as it is now, a destination is not necessarily defined by any existing ‘luxurious’ infrastructure.
I came from a creative background, so have always approached the projects we undertake in a similar way to the way a creative service runs. Each and every enquiry we have is unique – everything we create is one off and undergoes a long period of further evolution as we strive to create and offer something perfect for that particular individual(s) at that particular time in their lives, based on the time they have to travel.
Since those first clients we have only strived to create extraordinary experiences.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
I’m being really honest and I don’t think I can. Life… virtually every day, is an incredibly life-enriching experience. My run through the mountains this morning is one of the best I can remember – I am very excited about a project that took shape on the run, and the day today is an absolute peach!
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
In its purest form, experiencing something new, very personal and very special through travel.
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
Our service is extremely niche. Most of the projects we take on require two to six months to create and evolve. The projects we create require an investment of £200k to much, much more. Our clients are thus extremely wealthy, demanding and also trusting in us to invest in what it takes to ensure they enjoy an experience at its most extraordinary. The trust factor evolves further over time, as all our experiences are hosted, so strong friendships develop. We don’t give out itineraries unless they are specifically requested so this again requires trust. New clients have usually been recommended, are ready to experience life at the next level, excited by the prospect of travel and usually expecting to step a little out of their comfort zone.
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
I don’t think I really ‘decided’, in-so-much as it was an obvious place for us to be. PURE is a unique gathering of some really special people from all over the world united in a belief to show people a really good time. Many have become very close friends over the years through the intense relationships we’ve developed together building our experiences. Every year we meet more wonderful people doing wonderful things that we manage to bring in to what we do.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
Primarily to inspire: Keeping the event pure and niche and staying true to experiential travel so those at the event continue to meet like-minded individuals and be inspired. Also continuing to evolve and invite in the little guys who are doing things really well in different parts of the world and who don’t yet have the exposure.
Also, from a personal point of view, as we all profit from the most beautiful places on earth and local cultures, it could be a powerful place for us to all unite and develop strategies to continue to help protect vanishing cultures and the shrinking natural environment.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
There are many. For our business they are usually very special individuals who are incredibly passionate about their country and take on a BOATS project based on so much more than simply the financial gain.
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
Plagiarists out to make money in a world they don’t belong. The ability to go back in time.
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
If there was a single first homo-sapien, likely somewhere in the centre of Africa, who decided to first boldly strike out into the unknown with his or her family, and set in motion a chain of events and interactions that would create the complex and diverse species that we were to become, then this person. Otherwise, the true heroes were long ago dust before my time and of those whom we actually know the names of, then, Leif Eriksson, Ibn Battuta, Zheng He, Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, James Cook, David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton… They go on and on… I would have loved to have been with Heinrich Harrer when he finally reached Lhasa, or to have joined Alfred Wallace when he explored Indonesia and Malaysia…
We want to know what makes you a PUREist. If you’re interested in having your profile featured, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.