A Ally Lewing – Spain and Portugal
My favorite passions? Hmmm...enjoying a gin and tonic on the beach, while the sun sets, is certainly one of them. Baking and shopping are both always fun. With a background in the hotel industry, I have a soft spot for hotels that are truly unique and I love many of the ones that we use in Spain and Portugal. Most of all, I’m a die-hard fan of futbol – the European kind. I grew up playing soccer and I think it is truly the world’s sport. It can be played on any surface with any type of makeshift goal. All you need is a ball. And for me, there is nothing like El Clasico in Spain – when Real Madrid and Barcelona take to the field. Not only because the games are so competitive, but because the fans on both sides offer some of the best people watching I know.
G Ginger Hill – Africa
I've seen quite a bit – from my birthplace in Kentucky to South Africa to New York City. I have taught school in Kentucky, sold safaris in Johannesburg, and spent 20 years biking, hiking, and canoeing all over the continent. After work you can often find me at a Broadway show – certainly any with Hugh Jackman. In my 20 years in South Africa I was a witness to history. I witnessed the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, stood in line six hours to vote in the first free elections, and shed a tear as the Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, right in Johannesburg – an event which restored South African pride and marked their return to the world stage.
J Jena Gardner – CEO & President
I may appear to be a New Yorker now, but I’m really a Montana girl. I don’t think I will ever stop loving the great outdoors: Montana’s enormous sky, its horses, and its wide-open spaces engraved themselves on my heart at a young age. When I travel, I find it’s the elements of places that remind me of my childhood that I love the most. Not surprisingly, Africa is at the top of my list, and the focus of many of the travel sustainability efforts of the foundation I co-founded – The Bodhi Tree Foundation. I want to make sure that the world’s special destinations are around for my sons – triplet boys under the age of five – to experience someday. I’m so thankful they inherited my love of the outdoors – I don’t think our house would still be standing if not.
J Joel A. Zack – Explorer and Visionary Dude
I knew I would be an architect by the time I was in fourth grade. How an architect – I am one, actually – ended up in this business is a story way too long for this profile, but for me there is only one way to recharge my batteries: hit the road. Everyone loves to ask me, “where is your favorite place to go?” And the answer is always the most recent place I have been. When I’m not on the road, I love my life in New York: work, rare visits to the gym, less rare visits to the theatre (spectating only, can’t act worth a darn) and summer evenings on my building’s rooftop in Greenwich Village with a glass of Spanish Priorat.
M Michael Diamond – Morocco
I first was propelled to travel in equal measure by the Paul Theroux’s The Great Railways Bazaar and a heavy collection of Let’s Go guidebooks. My “travel lust” translated somehow into three years of picking dates in the Israeli desert – and getting lost in Jerusalem’s Old City whenever I had the opportunity. These days, I live to see the world explored through my kids’ eyes even more than my own. They’ve taught me that the Norwegian Festival in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn can be just as transporting as a stroll down Fes’ Talaa Kebira. As they grow up, I want them to understand that even though people live very differently all over the world, we all have a lot in common. I dream about taking them to Morocco’s desert south. I can’t wait to show them the great date palm oases of the Sahara and the weekly markets packed with fresh Medjool dates – the same variety we harvested in Israel.
M Mike Korn – Morocco
I’m a sports fanatic, Vermonter at heart, and craft beer enthusiast – so, a round of golf and sipping a Switchback Ale is the perfect Sunday afternoon. I like to unwind with early evening treks through Central Park with my wife and our Welsh terrier. I love to quote movies – ask me any line in a Mel Brooks or Bill Murray film – and I sing random song lyrics all day long, although you won’t find me on American Idol. When I get hungry, my mind starts to wander to Istanbul – I imagine the waft of freshly baked simit (Turkish bagels) in the morning, accompanied by a strong cup (is there any other type?) of Turkish coffee, and start to wonder what my next excuse for a trip will be.
N Neil Weidberg – Director of Operations
I’m a Brooklyn-born, podcast-obsessed dad with two lovely, and loud, kids. I half-heartedly try to get to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I secretly love Excel and FileMaker Pro (others in the office do not as much). I like to hike in New Hampshire, and I love food courts anywhere, but I learned a long time ago to never eat the free samples no matter how yummy they look. I got to know a small family of baboons in South Africa once. They were unusually hospitable. Maybe I should go back and visit them again.
S Susan Schrade – Morocco
The first dollar I ever earned was a tip from Alfred G. Vanderbilt. I still have it. I have always loved thoroughbreds and as a child in Saratoga Springs, New York, I was a “coffee girl” for horse trainers and owners as they watched their horses work out early each morning. After work, my family would often pack a picnic and we would head over to the polo fields. Later in college, when I was an exchange student in Bordeaux, I never could have imagined that I would be paired with a host family that owned a slaughterhouse for horses. I still love horses, but I love people even more. My years in the luxury hotel industry, and this business, have introduced me to all sorts of characters – both our travelers and all of the people I have met in Morocco. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.