Location: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal
In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
I obsess about quality, originality, and creativity when it comes to travel.
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
I’ve been a traveller all my life, and come from a family of travellers. My dad was pioneering ‘60s adventurer who explored the far reaches of the Iron Curtain, East Africa, SE Asia and beyond on motorcycle. Growing up in this atmosphere, I sought experiences that fed my thirst for travel and adventure, from mountain biking to motorcycling to foreign languages and self-taught history. Then, at age 22 I had an amazing opportunity to work under members of the Thai Royal Family in Bangkok, Thailand, as English instructor, speech coach for palace staff, and part time tennis coach. From here I discovered an amazing, natural, and unique side of Thailand and SE Asia that I determined would become my home and future business.
After returning to finish university in Canada and following a fun and fast-paced advertising career, I moved back to Thailand in 1999 with a friend and slowly put the pieces together to start Smiling Albino, a creative adventure company designed for people normally not accustomed to tours. It was slow and humble the first few years as we built everything from scratch, nothing outsourced, and sought qualitative, organic growth. Now, over 12 years later, Smiling Albino is recognized as one of SE Asia’s premier operators for experiential, high-touch adventure travel.
Smiling Albino is where it is at today from sweat and hard work, and a pursuit of great travel experiences and high-touch customer service. We always prefer to be judged on the little things, and try to have fun while we’re at it.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
I have been the host of a Thai-language weekly TV travel documentary in Thailand for two years now. As a whole, it has been the most life-enriching experience for a variety of reasons which speak to my core philosophies in life:
- Do things that challenge and scare you on a regular basis
- Seek to learn, understand, reach out and connect with various levels of society, culture, communities
- Immerse yourself, lose yourself, and commit yourself to what you are doing
The show has been the biggest challenge of my life, as well as expanding my horizons and my understanding of Thailand in new and fascinating ways.
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
Participating, not observing. Doing things you normally wouldn’t do, be it a physical challenge, a religious experience, or a type of food or transport. It is walking in other’s shoes, seeing the world from a local perspective and seeking to learn, not to change.
“My ideal client appreciates that luxury sometimes means high touch services and elaborate accommodations, and other times simple pleasures, well-choreographed.”
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
A client who appreciates that luxury sometimes means high touch services and elaborate accommodations, and other times simple pleasures, well-choreographed. A client who understands that quality costs money, but who is willing to perhaps forgo luxury when the moment counts for a unique experience. Someone who asks questions about why we propose what we propose, and ultimately who trusts that hiring professionals should bring better results than otherwise.
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
I wanted to see what was out there in the industry and build long-term relationships. I’m in this game long term and wanted to build bridges and share our unique story. I did make some good relationships and have made friends in markets previously unknown to us.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
As a connector and facilitator, PURE can provide the quality filter often lacking at industry events.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
Four Seasons and Aman for their dedication to excellence and guarantee of quality. Butterfield & Robinson for their passion and core ethos which has survived the test of time.
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
More discussion on commonly used terms. For example, what is “sustainable”, “eco friendly”, and who determines what is “authentic”?
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
My dad. A true Cold War era adventurer who took motorscooters into some of the world’s least visited and understood (even today) regions. He sought to change nothing, and learn everything.
“Immerse yourself, lose yourself, and commit yourself to what you are doing.”