Each of our Group Coordinators shares a few key traits—they’re curious, spirited, and love discovering new things. But, they all have a different style when it comes to seeing the world. In this series, we’re spotlighting some of the personalities that make our Group Travel Program great. Meet Laura, the adventurer, below.
While on a tour of South Africa, Laura and her group saw much more than the Big Five. They went cage diving with sharks, walked with lions, and tasted wines in the vineyards outside of Cape Town.
A true explorer, Laura has always loved going off the beaten path. She’s been traveling with her scuba diving club for twenty years and organizing groups with Go Ahead since 2007. With each trip, she builds lifelong connections with others who also appreciate natural beauty in new surroundings.
“I think my experience as a nurse translates well to leading groups. I love to be needed!” Laura laughs. But, really, it’s the lasting memories and the relationships she forms with her travelers that keeps her and her group exploring the world. “Making connections is so important to me.”
Laura listens carefully to her travelers to hear what they want, which usually lines up nicely with her own desire for adventure. Her advice for keeping your travelers excited about your upcoming trips? Try getting them involved in the first stages of planning. “I send out a survey to my core group every so often, with questions about where they’d like to go next. It helps me see what everyone is interested in—sometimes I even get a few new ideas!”
Customizing components of trips to fit the interests of her active group members is another way she builds on their travel experiences. Additional excursions complete their adventure.
“I don’t believe in best-kept secrets. I share what I love,” Laura says. Her groups’ Tour Directors and local guides have had a similar philosophy. While in London, she and her travelers met an expert historian who’d studied Jack the Ripper. “We ended up following him on a tour through the streets, learning all about Jack the Ripper. Some of us even bought his book!”
In South Africa, it was getting up close to wildlife, spotting sharks on a cage dive and walking beside lions. “We followed two young cubs through the savanna. The only other people out there were the watchmen who accompanied our group, keeping an eye out for us the whole time.”
Walking with lions was a memorable moment for Laura’s group.
Tour Directors have brought a lot to her group’s cultural experiences, too. “Our Tour Director in Portugal was a cross between your sister and your best friend,” she says. By going out of her way to bring everyone pastries, the Tour Director gave Laura’s group a taste of the local culture. “We want to get to know people on a personal level,” Laura says. “We want to know what it’s like for them living in Europe or wherever they’re from. It’s just fascinating.”
Laura and her husband Scott are experienced, detail-oriented world travelers who each earn their free spot on tour and consider it a working vacation. They are wonderful resources for their group members, holding recruitment parties, sharing photos from previous tours, and even holding post-trip get-togethers.
“I have a pretty engaged group of travelers,” Laura says. In the past, Laura’s travelers have shared her tours with their families, friends, and communities—she now has about 100 people she knows will be interested in her trips. Not everyone attends every tour Laura leads, but she keeps in touch so all her travelers are informed about her future plans. “Word-of-mouth and Facebook work best for me when it comes to talking about my trips,” she says.
What does it take to be as ambitious as Laura? “Patience and organization are key,” she says. Some of her tours, like an Antarctica Cruise, were in the planning stages for years before they became a reality. “I started talking about this trip in 2012; now it’s finally happening!” Others, like her Cuba trip, she knew she’d already have plenty of interest in before she started. “Communicate your plans with your travelers before you get the ball rolling—that’s my secret.”