‘Journeys by Design opened our eyes to a world of experiences
we never knew existed.’
– Ralph Lauren and family
Having grown up in six African countries, I have always been drawn to adventurous travel, to the benefits of travelling closer to the ground. I established Journeys by Design in 1999, borrowing my brother-in-law’s computer, desk and room to get off the mark. As a young environmental scientist, I had nothing but my experience and a desire to share that experience.
These are true adventures of the heart, where deep emotional connections are made, and where character is formed. They were the adventures that drove me to found Journeys by Design, and they are what makes it what it is today: a specialist adventure travel company which chooses to curate just 100 high-value RARE and CLASSIC safaris a year. If our CLASSIC offer is no ordinary safari, and is designed to support the often at-risk ecosystems that serve as their destinations, RARE goes a step further. As well as building in a dedicated environmental pledge, it offers a portfolio of 50 broadly or completely off-google experiences, compiled over years of searching, and which we neither publish here nor elsewhere. This way we protect their uniqueness and so their value.
CLASSIC or RARE, this is the African safari as I know it, the sweet spot between sustainability, impact, and adventure. Such travel is what drives me today. It’s the travel that generates surplus to distribute wealth. It’s the travel that asks not what we expect of the environment, but rather what the environment now expects of us. It’s what I’ve committed the company to, and what drives every trip we design.
Thanks to making travel matter, in 2019/20 alone, we invested $487,123 in supporting conservation, community development, and community-led tourism in Africa through a combination of donations and investment. Our core ecosystems project supported 52,562 hectares of at-risk landscapes, 904 community members, and helped secure 218 local jobs during the worst of the pandemic. Meanwhile, our clients contributed $130,083 in conservation fees through their travel to Africa, and a further $68,992 in donations to conservation and community development projects.
More generally, we have raised over US$ 6 million for charities globally over the last 20 years. In 2016, we set up our philanthropic and local eco-business development arms Wild Philanthropy and Tekula Capital to better create, organise and manage our own means of redistributing wealth in the name of nature. Together with Journeys by Design, we are the Africa House Group, and our shared mission is to transform the way travel benefits Africa. In 2020, we declared a climate emergency and joined 1% For the Planet. As you can see from the below impact report, we put our money where our travel mouth is.
In all of this, the traveller as activist plays a central role. Travel-driven conservation begins with understanding every traveller as a potential activist, and capable of acting positively on behalf of nature. It is this understanding that led us to setting up our Friends of Wild Philanthropy programme, and which is now our Activist programme. Consisting of a small and highly effective group of donor travellers, each Activist’s commitment of an initial $20,000 pledge underwrites the running costs of Wild Philanthropy, thereby allowing 100% of all other donations to reach projects on the ground. The return on the commitment entails special access to the full RARE portfolio of travel experiences, as well philanthropic advice on their own internally-managed conservation fund. Travellers as activists on the behalf of nature: this is the future of travel.
It is for all the reasons stated above that I believe us to be one of the very few operators that are equipped to manage the process of change that is incumbent upon us. We are driven by the need to adventure, but only if that adventure has the capacity to change lives. Only if it hothouses epiphanies, seeds businesses, creates jobs, builds schools, hospitals, houses. Only if it is the adventure that leaves a lasting and sustainable legacy. This is what Journeys by Design is – and why our adventures are genuinely different, unique, special.
Do get in touch – I look forward to taking you miles from nowhere.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society