Geoffrey Kent is a well-travelled man. Since he and his parents founded luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent in 1962, the now CEO of the company has journeyed to every corner of the earth.
Recently, the brand launched their ‘Inspiring Expeditions’, a series of around-the-world adventures personally designed by Kent, and guided by the finest local experts. But, with the journeys offered ranging from stays in art-filled homes on private islands to sleeping in spacious yurts on the Mongolian steppe, just what qualifies an expedition as ‘inspiring’?
We asked Kent how he immerses himself in local cultures, chooses these incredible destinations, and what he’s learned from a lifetime of travel…
For the latest Inspiring Expedition, you travelled to the South Pole. How did you organise the logistics behind such a journey?
My ‘Inspiring Expedition’ to the South Pole was three years in the making. To give you some examples of the logistics involved: we had to bring in two planes. Both a Basler BT-67 and Twin Otter were flown in from Canada, down the whole length of the Americas.
We constructed and maintained three airstrips in Antarctica. At Atka Bay, we employed three people to maintain the ice runaway. They lived in a tent in the middle of nowhere near the penguin colony for months. At Whichaway camp, we installed a Michelin-starred chef, and flew in the sommelier-matched wines and our own caviar for our guests to enjoy.
You've called the Antarctic 'The last true wilderness on our planet'. Why is it so important that we continue to explore such remote locations?
When my parents and I went into business in 1962, to most people in the developed world, travel was a treat. Today, it’s a way of life as well as a way of changing lives. I keep travelling to remote locations because I’m an insatiable traveller. Any passionate traveller knows the conflict of wanderlust: the more destinations you see, the more you desire to see.
As a passionate traveller, what moment on your journeys stands out as really breath-taking?
The view from the top of ‘Mount Inspiring’ — the virgin mountain which our group summited for the first time in the company of Marko Prezelj, four-time Piolet d’Or winner. Just staring over the vast expanse of white, in awe of nature at its most elemental.
The Antarctic is clearly front of your mind as it was your last big journey. But where else is of interest to you, and where are you going next?
Antarctica is simply incomparable. But, this year on various voyages, I’ll be travelling to lesser-visited places like Bolivia; Georgia — that great cultural crossroads; Kamchatka, Russia’s last wilderness; biodiversity hot spot, Madagascar; Everest Base Camp; the Omo Valley and the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia; and West Papua in Indonesia.
Why did you literally make it your business to facilitate these trips for people who want to broaden their horizons?
Recently, I met a couple on the beach who recognised me. They told me that despite the money they spend on their holidays, they always feel richer when they get home. For discerning travellers, it’s not about checking places off a list — it’s about making connections through unique local experiences not found in a guidebook.
Your life will change when you are immersed in a culture so dramatically different from your own and reach a new understanding of how life is lived in another part of the world. It might be meeting the ‘Living Buddha’ at Songzanlin monastery in Tibet or meeting with the Maasai in Kenya, these kinds of inspiring encounters you’ll share with friends and family when you return.
What does a trip have to have to qualify as an 'Inspiring Expedition’ for you?
An ‘Inspiring Expedition’ offers the utmost in authentic adventure, catering to the modern explorer, undertaken in the greatest of comfort. Next year, I’ll be taking guests beyond the Big Five. Experiencing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of travel’s greatest rewards. From the playful lemur to the elusive Bengal tiger, the giant panda and the mountain gorilla, the incredible diversity of the world’s wildlife contributes to the rich tapestry on Earth.
I have designed a safari by private jet that makes it possible to visit the world’s most intriguing wildlife in their dramatically varied natural habitats on one remarkable journey in the company of leading conservationists.
If someone had three big trips to take, and wanted to explore the most fascinating environments in the world, which three would you suggest?
If you are physically able, you should climb Mount Kilimanjaro; visit Tanzania and Kenya during the Great Migration; trek to find a mountain gorilla. I realise, of course, that all three are African adventures — you can take the man out of Africa, but never take Africa out of the man.
In your opinion, what is the most effective way to soak up the culture from each and every place you travel to?
In the early days, the most important part of travelling for me was to go to places one couldn’t drink the water. It was there the most fascinating cultures could be found and the best memories made.
Now, Abercrombie & Kent provide clean wells in still-developing countries. The drinking water will be safe but local people you’ll meet will still be the thing about your holiday that you’ll never forget.
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