For 31 years, International Expeditions has taken great pride in helping you discover natural frontiers and Earth's most storied wildlife regions. But whether we are taking travelers into the depths of the Amazon or the villages of Papua New Guinea, every IE journey started out as a dream in the heads and hearts of our team.
So as we unveil five new expeditions in 2012, you may be wondering what exactly it takes to create an IE itinerary. Bill Robison, our Director of Program Development, helps shed light on his process.
IE: You travel around the world scouting destinations. How do you know when you’ve found the perfect place for IE travelers?
Bill: “IE’s mission statement is the basis of every trip we design. A perfect place will allow us to stimulate an interest in, develop an understanding of, and create an appreciation for our Earth. So, a perfect place must have all the necessary elements to do that, which are stimulating and accessible natural attractions, opportunity for authentic cultural interaction, high quality local leadership for structure and education, and infrastructure, including accommodation, transportation, etc. to allow us to experience those attractions in a thoughtful and meaningful way.”
IE: One of IE’s true hallmarks is the engaging, friendly locals guests meet once they start their adventure. How does that play in to your itinerary development?
Bill: “It’s fortunate that so many of the places in the world that have natural wonders also truly have amazing culture. The key here is to avoid “spectacles” where the locals are seen more as attractions than what they truly are, people. To do this we avoid the structured events that put culture more on display than invite one to engage. We work with local partners, who themselves are from the culture we visit, to find ways to engage locals in a more one-to-one or non-contrived manner. Even more wonderful for guests is when they realize how much that same one-on-one interaction is just as meaningful for the people we visit, who are just as curious about us as we are about them and are truly proud of their way of life and enjoy sharing it. These meaningful personal experiences are what create understanding and appreciation.”
IE: So, how do you determine an actual day-by-day itinerary that will be insightful, exciting and fun?
Bill: “Each day needs each of those elements and we work very closely with our local partners to determine how to experience the nature and the culture but still leave time for reflection and personal exploration of the environment. We do this by scheduling the right amount of time in a destination and on a daily basis to allow guests to enjoy the attractions without rushing from place to place. We ensure the most meaningful and exciting attractions get the time they deserve and that time and resources are provided for guests to explore on their own. The keys to making all this happen are our local guides and Expedition Leaders, who manage all the details and bring a personal and educational element to each day.”
IE: Do you have a personal favorite destination new on the slate for 2012?
Bill: “Guyana was the first place I visited outside the U.S. when I was a Biology student at the University of Missouri. I was absolutely amazed by the pristine wilderness, the tremendous biodiversity, Kaieteur Falls, the warm local people, and the sense of seclusion…a nature-lover’s paradise. It wasn’t until I started to travel more that I could truly appreciate just how desirable and special, and sometimes rare, these elements are. I was able to return in 2009 to find that Guyana was still just as charming as it was the first time I visited and now has the right infrastructure and leadership to satisfy the particular needs of IE guests. Exactly the kind of experience our guests would enjoy!”