SANDRA DEE HOFFMAN
Location: Washington, DC area
In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
I think I’m a PUREist because, after a pretty long life, I still see the world as wonderful and worth knowing, without exception!
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
I was an educator and practising child psychologist for 30 years. My passion was figuring out how children learn. I worked with children of all ages, from all backgrounds and with all sorts of issues. Over the years it became very clear to me that if children (everyone really) can experience something with their whole body and being, they have a much better chance of being interested in it and eventually a much better chance of getting it – of understanding it. And if they have the opportunity to have these experiences in different settings, their understanding and ability to use what they have learned literally soars!
“Children just have a different way of looking at things. And their way of looking at things has much to offer. In fact, it’s often quite brilliant!”
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC liked what I had to say and awarded me a grant to create a learning curriculum for preschoolers who would attend a new child development centre they were starting in their museums. The catch was that I would have to use the objects in all 17 Smithsonian Museums as teaching tools – in addition to the usual tools found in preschool classrooms.
Right about now I’m sure you’re wondering how in the world this could possibly relate to travel! Well, it was the children attending the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center that related everything to experiential travel around the world for me. The Smithsonian Museums are full of millions of objects from many different corners of the world, representing an incredible breath of world cultures. Sitting on the floor of the museums watching how children related to these objects was totally enlightening. I watched kids in the Center learn colours from a Kandinsky painting, gain patience by participating in a Japanese tea ceremony and learn teamwork by designing and planting a small English garden. What I saw was wonderful! But, what if they could actually explore these cultures in real time? Suddenly the possibility for and value in experiencing things went global!
So, for the last 17 years Children’s Concierge has helped families embellish their children’s learning by exploring and experiencing the world. We’ve helped our families explore destinations on every continent on the globe except Antarctica.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
It was definitely the first time I visited Katmandu, Nepal. When I was growing up in North Carolina, Katmandu was an exotic, faraway, not-possible-to-ever-get-to place. Few people had even heard of it! And no one I knew had ever actually been there. It was a mystery place! When I misbehaved, my mother would tell me if I did not shape up, she was going to “banish me to Katmandu”! So I spent a good part of my life wondering what Katmandu was really like. Seeing it for the first time was definitely life-enriching; I just could not get enough of it. Thank you, Mother!
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
To me it means feeling a place, as well as seeing and hearing it. It means seeking to learn about the world and taking a chance and participating in what you discover. It means respectfully figuring out how you fit in!
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
That’s easy! An ideal client for Children’s Concierge is a family that wants to discover connections in the world that they may never have thought possible before. They believe in their children and are wiling to expand what they think their children are capable of. They also trust the world to be there for their children, to be worth knowing – this is hard to do. And I love this about them!
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
Oh my, I learn so much from others! Just like our client families, I am also enriched by learning how life unfolds around the world. And I cannot think of a more incredible and fascinating group of people to learn from! I love creating experiences for our families that are a bit out of the norm and make everyone want to know more and more and more… And I think I’m pretty good at it. But the members of PURE with whom I have worked are way better at this than I am! I’m looking forward to being outshone by even more PURE members!
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
I think PURE is making the travel industry think. It has gathered an incredible array of top-notch providers and created a forum for addressing some of experiential travel’s most interesting and most difficult issues. And I think it’s helping the world think differently about the travel industry in general. My sense is that PURE is helping experiential travel become more than a luxury; it is becoming a necessity in the modern world.
“My sense is that PURE is helping experiential travel become more than a luxury; it is becoming a necessity in the modern world.”
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
Well, I cannot say enough good things about the PURE members with whom Children’s Concierge has worked. Not everyone wants to work with families, I realise this. Families can be challenging, so finding partners who like them and know how to work with them is often hard. But when you find partners who actually get excited about working with families and see possibilities beyond a formula experience… Well, that’s a real gift!
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
Oh, yes! I would love for the travel industry to stop thinking of children as too young to understand things. Children just have a different way of looking at things. And their way of looking at things has much to offer. In fact, it’s often quite brilliant!
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
Anyone over the age of 100 is my experiential hero. A life this long most definitely represents many roads travelled! And lots of experiences. I want to be this person!
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