Part I – A little history
It’s a rainy afternoon here in Wilmington, NC today and I have some time on my hands, so I decided to write a three-part blog post on about how Cavatica Luxury Travel was initiated, the present and thoughts on the future.
Travel for me started while I was young growing up in the UK. I was fortunate to live on a farm and began riding almost before I could walk. I was a very competitive rider, passed down from my parents who were successful equestrians, so we traveled all over the UK to competitions. We also spent time traveling in Europe on family vacations.
Fast forward to age fifteen when I traveled to Sandton, South Africa with a British Pony Club riding team
for two weeks of various competitions on borrowed horses. I rode some beautiful horses, one of which was ridden by Klaus Degener called Wondercoat My Turn. I had a couple of successful showjumping events with him and decided I was going to get a job and stay in South Africa – which I did. I called my parents and shared that I had a job, working at Klaus’ yard and was going to stay in Sandton and would not be coming back to the UK with the rest of the team, to go back to school. Being incredible parents who had always encouraged each of us (I have three brothers) to become independent, they said that was fine providing I could support myself. Well about two or three weeks later, I came to my senses and realized I really should finish school and so rather sadly left South Africa to complete my education. I fell in love with the African continent on that trip and still travel back at every opportunity.
I finished school and then landed in a career in Clinical Research in various global roles that afforded a great deal of travel to Europe and the USA multiple times a year. This eventually resulted in my move to Wilmington, NC in 1996. In 2007, I decided it was time to do something a little different and was fortunate to find a role with a non-governmental public health organization – the next four years were most definitely life-changing, with more than 50% of my time spent living and traveling in Asia and Africa, working with the less fortunate in those countries to assist in improving their lives through health, food security and education initiatives.
During this time, I was fortunate enough to visit some amazing bucket list destinations, such as Siem Reap in Cambodia, seeing Mount Everest while in Nepal, visiting the Taj Mahal on my birthday in India, hot-air ballooning in the Masai Mara, Kenya, standing on the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia, exploring the rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia and mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
I highly recommend each of these experiences and so many more, but I spent the majority of my time in the villages and communities immersed in the culture and the individual struggles that are part of daily life in these countries. I have met children orphaned because of HIV, close to death from severe malnutrition and maimed by civil unrest in some of the worlds’ poorest countries.
Many of us read how travel changes lives - and it does! However, the biggest impact is when you stretch yourselves outside of your comfort zone and experience the culture through the engagement with local members of these communities, which is something I encourage for anyone who is interested in traveling today. A vacation trip can be so much more – it can be a journey that impacts how you think and behave in the future. Of course, it can also be for relaxation and renewal, which is the reason every client trip is unique. Each of us have our own tolerance level for experiencing a different culture and how we do so, but for me personally, I treasure the memories of the amazing experiences and sites I have visited, but I also believe that experiencing the deep local immersion was what really makes traveling an education and in many cases life-changing. Seeing the Taj Mahal from the opposite side of the riverbank on "the backside" at sunset was more memorable to me than the initial view most visitors see as they approach the Taj. Most tourists never see this view of this incredible monument built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–58) to immortalize his wife Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”).
On my return to the US, I continued to travel extensively to Europe, South America and Asia. Going back to the competitive trait in my family, my niece, Kate French is an Olympic Modern Pentathlete. Who could want for a better excuse to travel to Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Argentina, Russia and the list goes on, to cheer on a family member at her competitions? I took every opportunity I could to travel to the World Cup, European and World Championships expanding my knowledge of travel across the various continents. Tokyo 2020 was on my travel schedule for this year.
In 2018, I decided it was time to invest in my passion for travel for the foreseeable future and launch a second career in the travel industry. I spent time doing my due diligence to understand what this would entail and whether it would be a good “fit” for me. After all, many of us love to travel, but being a travel advisor is so much more than being a traveler. In order to provide clients with an unforgettable experience, one that they can’t just buy on-line through internet search engines, an exceptional travel advisor needs to be able to partner with their client, understand through conversational listening what they are seeking, guide their clients to the optimal experience and have the relationships with their partners, whether it be the hoteliers, the tour operators, or guides to know that everyone involved in the trip is going to be completely committed to it being the best possible experience for the travelers.
In addition to these ‘soft-skills’, the attention to detail in the organization and planning of all aspects of the trip are critical as well as managing the financial aspects of the trip and of course, running a business cannot be overlooked!
With my combined background of all the business aspects of running a clinical trial in accordance with strict FDA guidelines (proposals, budgets, contracts, delivery, etc.), being on both the service and client “side” of the industry, developing relationships to successfully bring community programs to those in need, working with the ministries of health, education and welfare in Africa and Asia, and my travel experiences in more than 70 countries, I am well-equipped to deliver exceptional travel experiences to my clients.
With the decision made, I had one more important task before launching my business – the name!
I struggled with this as the branding of any business is an important decision and I didn’t want to launch only to change my mind at a later date. I had been sharing ideas back and forth with a friend when she mentioned the idea of using “Cavatica”. If you have children, you may recall that in the story Charlotte’s Web, the spider introduces herself as Charlotte A. Cavatica. And for anyone who doesn’t know the book or movie, Charlotte is the primary advocate in trying to save the life of Wilbur, the pig. Charlotte develops a plan to save Wilbur and, working together with the other farmyard animals, is successful in doing so. Charlotte gives every last bit of energy she has to save Wilbur. My objective when planning every client’s trip is to give my very best effort working with amazing partners to deliver not just a great trip, but an exceptional trip so the analogy seemed appropriate!
I also feel that “Cavatica” infers something special, reflecting something that is unique, which each of my client’s journeys should be – individually tailored specifically to their dreams.
And finally, the initials of Cavatica Luxury Travel, CLT are the airport code for Charlotte International Airport, bringing the name full circle back to Charlotte 😊