After teaching in Japan more than ten years ago I decided to travel across Asia, overland to the UK to visit the places that I had studied during my degree which focused on Russian history. My research led me to Sundowners Overland and I spent many hours planning my route back in detail. I had little idea then that my desire to explore regions I had long read and dreamt about would change the course of my life. After that trip my fascination for the region grew and, giving up the world of consultancy, I returned to Sundowners Overland to travel our routes extensively - accompanying our journeys as a Tour Leader, for hands on liaison with current partners and to research and source new routes and local partners. This remains key to my role today and I consider it essential in ensuring that we are delivering the best possible experiences to our clients.
Today I enjoy that our destinations are constantly evolving and changing; there is always another border to open or a region to explore and sharing those experiences with our team and clients remains an important part of what I do today. Listening to the stories that have inspired our clients to travel and, on their return, the anecdotes from the road are what make each and every one of group journeys and independent adventures special and unique. These stories also continue to convince me that through travel to our destinations, and by taking the time to interact and engage with both the people and the environment of our destinations presents an opportunity to experience something new and have a whole lot of fun on the way in some still relatively unknown and unexplored regions.
Sundowners Overland is also constantly evolving as we have created new products to meet the ever changing needs of our clients, be it through our Vodkatrain programme aimed at 18-35 year olds, breaking new ground in the creation of our Premium journeys or through our Experience Tours which provide just the right combination of alternative sightseeing and independent travel on the trains. I feel that we have an option that should cater for everyone be they young or old, with only a couple of weeks to spare or for those who are planning more protracted globetrotting. I am constantly amazed by what draws people to our regions, be it special interest groups, honeymooners or travel enthusiasts; being able to adapt our itineraries to meet all our clients’ needs is what I believe our team do best.
What do you love most about overland travel?
The satisfaction of knowing that you have literally covered every step of the way on land and spotting somewhere to read up on later (or to go back and visit on another occasion).
Which of the Sundowners Overland destinations fascinates you most?
Uzbekistan for its incredible architecture, cities and warm welcome. Russia for such a fascinating and long history.
Give us your best tip for travelling on Sundowners Overland journeys.
Earplugs for the train; even the most hospitable compartment companions might snore. Try to learn a few phrases although my sign language skills have been known to be quite creative, taste a little bit of everything.
What is your most memorable travel experience?
Spending time on a project for tigers in India and seeing the animals in their natural habitat was very special (and worth the time I spent dressed up as a tiger fundraising to get there!) seeing the Terracotta Warriors for the first time which remain one of my highlights of all of our destinations and I have many happy memories of exploring the small towns of Japan and eating some incredibly fresh sushi.
Which Sundowners Overland journeys are on your wish list?
A tailor made itinerary through the Caucasus (just in case I don’t get 45 days off work to do a full Grand Asian Caravan!), the Silk Road Caravan to wind down through Iran and end up with an easy flight home out of Dubai and the Christmas Trans Mongolian to enjoy watching the winter wonderland drift by from the cosiness of the train, and to be able to enjoy some of my favourite museums without the crowds.
What is your favourite season to travel?
Spring or Autumn, but I am still determined to see Lake Baikal frozen. I always seem to arrive just as the ice is melting…
Where have you travelled in the world?