"Looking back at my first travel experience, it is a minor miracle that I ended up being responsible for planning other people's once in a lifetime trips. It all started when I was 18, long before Lonely Planet books or specialist travel companies had made it to Nottingham. My plan was to somehow make my way to Egypt and then get a passage on a ship heading to India along the Suez Canal.
So, on Friday 12 September 1980, I hitch-hiked down the M1 to London (my first time there). Somewhere in north London, I asked a bemused policeman where the road to Dover was. He advised me to take the tube to Elephant and Castle station. On arrival there, I eventually found the Old Kent Road and started walking along it into the night with my thumb out to hitch a lift. Amazingly a warm hearted cabbie, on his way home to somewhere in rural Kent, pulled over and gave me a lift all the way out of London, (kick-starting a lifelong brand loyalty to black cabs).
I continued to travel in this slightly haphazard style to Athens where I booked a flight to Cairo (my first time on a plane). Finally, I made it to a somewhat dust strewn Suez City where I made my way to the canal and knocked on some shipping company doors.
Whilst this travel style may have worked in a bygone era, or indeed for Michael Palin a few years later, this is where my luck ran out. I got offered lots of cups of tea, but learnt that you can’t just turn up at the Suez Canal and talk your way on to a passing ship! This was just as well, as looking back at my old passport, I didn't have a visa for India anyway! Disastrous as this adventure was, the seed had been sown.
Four years later, I left the University of East Anglia and escaped what seemed to be a very grim England by spending the rest of the 1980's dedicated to travelling and working my way around the world. During these travels, I sustained my wanderlust by putting in stints as an English teacher in Tokyo, as a landscape gardener in Sydney. Happily, I had also by then got the hang of travelling.
After a year or so of working at STA Travel in London (in a branch that apparently couldn't do without me as it is now a Starbucks), I joined Bridge the World Travel Centre in Camden in 1991 where I put my degree in politics and philosophy to good use by spending the rest of the 90's as the manager there.
In 2001, I fulfilled my ambition to create my own travel company, Travel Nation. Many years later, I'm delighted to report that my original vision of building a specialist travel company staffed by great people has come to fruition even more than I originally dared hope for.
At Travel Nation we are rightly proud of the specialist knowledge that we have built up and of the excellent service levels that we provide (check out some of our customer reviews on the independent review site, Trustpilot). I have been very fortunate that so many talented people who not only know their stuff, but share my values have chosen to work here. As a consequence, our growth over the years has largely been fuelled by our reputation and by the many customers who have booked with us again and again
Richard Branson’s ethos of ‘train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to’ has always resonated with me. Our customers are always assured of thorough behind the scenes operations, but often make multiple bookings over the years with the same consultant.
In 2008, I set up a second specialist travel company, Rickshaw Travel rickshawtravel.co.uk which is also based in Brighton.
Things have moved on a pace since my first ill-fated trip to India in 1980. If you are thinking of booking with us, don't worry, we won't make you start your travels by hitch-hiking to Egypt and trying to talk your way onto a cargo ship!"
Managing Director, Travel Nation