“Turn off your torch, close your eyes and hold on to the shoulders of the person in front of you,” he said, and with that I walked into the subterranean passage from “Hell to Heaven.” I closed my eyes even though I didn’t need to, everything was already inky-black. I silently lurched along in the dark, goosebumps rising. Walking through a pitch-black tunnel anywhere else in the world would have been a sort of summer-camp experience, but this was altogether other-worldly. Coming to ground-level, ages had passed and the daylight seemed shocking. Ethiopia does that – time passes strangely. And it’s not just Lalibela that’s magical, Gondar’s unorthodox architecture, the Simiens and Bale’s captivating wildlife, Gheralta’s cliff-top churches and the Omo Valley’s remote tribal markets – it’s all addictive.
I first visited Ethiopia a decade ago, just as tourism was developing, and I’ve returned four times since, exploring the far-throws and classic highlights that make Ethiopia so special. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a place where the history is living, the wildlife is completely unique and the people are genuinely beautiful hosts. I’ve sat surrounded by gelada baboons, walked with pilgrims in Axum during pre-dawn Lent processions, floated between Lake Tana’s island monasteries, shared stories around a campfire in the Omo Valley, and witnessed Ethiopian wolf hunting in the Bale Mountains. Over the years, I’ve developed a little black book of contacts and can unlock those ancient wooden doors in Ethiopia, delivering a truly personalized adventure: specialist birding guides, private mobile camping, experts in Coptic Christian tradition, language, art, tribal markets. If culture or cuisine is your thing, my experiences have opened the doors to women-owned artisan co-ops, a family who will teach you how to make injera and even coffee-focused itineraries if caffeine is your poison (after-all, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee as we know it).
If I try to pinpoint the firestarter moment for my travel addiction, it’s my first clear memory as a child – lying across the entire back window of my grandparents vintage, boat-of-a-car Rambler driving North from San Francisco to Astoria, Oregon to see my great-grandmother. That feeling of excitement and awe tinged with fear took hold and I’ve now traveled to nearly 40 countries, most many, many times. I’ve been in the tourism industry for 13 years, gaining my eventual career inspiration from a stint studying in Kenya during university 20 years ago.
I spend at least three to four months of the year based abroad and have rented houses in Guatemala, Tanzania and Namibia for extended periods of time, dragging my young son along. I’m often in-country when my travelers are – whether that be East Africa or Central America – and meet them for lunch, coffee or cocktails. Given my travel background, my natural specialities are culture, history, multi-generational and family travel. My travel company is fully licensed and insured, and I provide detailed pre-departure documents, hand-crafted thank you gifts and donations to vetted, local non-profits on behalf of my travelers.Based in: United States
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