Name of Business: Journeys by Soldi
Length of time in business: About eighteen months.
Number of kids and ages: Three kids. Jessica (17, just graduated from Rye High), Kate (14, a freshman at Holy Child) and Christian (10, in 4th Grade at Midland)
Pets: Four! Bear ( a huge fluffy rescue), Nala (a Goldendoodle), Poppy (6-month old Cockapoo) and Sushi (the cat-that-thinks-she’s-a-dog)
Before starting this business, what was your career?
I was a Pharmacist! I started my career in hospital and retail pharmacies in South Africa, and after moving to London in my mid 20’s, worked in the Pharma industry doing clinical research trials, scientific writing and later, healthcare communications, media and PR.
What is your business?
I am a full-service travel advisor, focusing mostly on luxe adventures, to Africa and beyond. I’m currently working on tailored trips for Rye families to Namibia, Portugal, Greece, California and South Africa. Plus, there is so much to be said for a beautiful week in the sun, milestone birthdays, girls’ trips, anniversaries and short mini escapes - I love planning them all!
I believe in sustainable, immersive travel: helping my clients to engage deeply with their destinations, and forging human connections that they’ll remember long after they’ve returned home.
As a member of Virtuoso’s Family, Sustainable and Adventure communities, I help clients
travel well and do good. Whenever possible, I’ll prioritize eco-conscious camps and properties that are proactive in their conservation and sustainability efforts, local-led experiences that economically support the communities you visit, and excursions that promote cross-cultural understanding and bolster conservation efforts.
If you’re traveling with your children, I’ll collaborate on activities that help them grow bold, curious travelers.
Why did you start your business?
I have always loved traveling and exploring. Growing up in South Africa, I was blessed with intrepid parents, and an adventurous childhood deeply rooted in nature, wildlife, exploration, and conservation
Plus, some crazy adventures. On all our Southern African explorations, our parents taught us to always explore off the beaten path, to marvel at the glorious landscapes and wildlife, and seek out the locals for good conversations and lessons in all sorts.
Africa will always have my heart—but my worldwide explorations have inspired me to find adventure and human connections anywhere. I’ve lived on four continents and have traveled extensively throughout the world - over the past 21 years with my husband Brad, and later on, with 3 kids in tow!
During the last few weeks of my Dad’s cancer illness in 2019, on one of my many trips to South Africa to see him, I took him on a road trip in the region of my childhood. We traveled on all the back roads that were now considered too dangerous, criss-crossed the mountain passes I remembered as a little girl, joked about the spots where we broke down (constantly) and marveled at the beauty of it all, and the memories. It was on this road trip that my dad gave me the push, to start a business that would allow me to share the beauty of South Africa, and later, beyond. I started my business a month after he passed away.
What do you love most about what you do now?
I love really getting to know people, understanding what their dream trip is about, and creating a vacation or adventure that will leave them with lasting, wonderful memories, and come home with a real, true sense of the place they’ve visited and the people they’ve met. Plus, all the travel I get to do for work! Last November I was gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. In a few weeks, I’ll be exploring Panama!
What did you have to do to start?
After 17 years of raising kids, I had to believe I could do it, which wasn’t always easy. I wanted my new career to be meaningful, and something I was passionate about. I called one of my very first friends I met when I first moved to Rye in 2005– a very successful travel entrepreneur – and very soon had joined the travel host agency she had started, as well as enrolling in their rigorous business training course. This gave me all the tools I needed to get my business set up.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Er- do I need to answer that? Lol! A worldwide pandemic was not one of the things I thought I’d be dealing with when starting a travel business and expanding my business beyond Africa.
It could not have been worse timing you’d think. I definitely had moments of wanting to postpone my dream, putting everything on hold until we got through the pandemic. Deciding to stick with my plan despite the fact that the travel industry shut down completely - took some serious long-term positivity, and I am so glad I stuck with my dream.
How did you overcome that challenge?
My first focus during these those first few months was to get several wonderful African safaris re-booked for 2021, and those were again, rolled over to 2022. A big disappointment for my clients and friends, but I was so glad we were able to take care of all the details and that they still have their amazing African adventures to look forward to!
I then spent the next year immersed in education. I joined my host agency’s ‘Travel Business University’ - studying online, and am now into my second year. I solidified my supplier and destination knowledge through my incredible network of peers and vetted global partners which also allows me exclusive access to authentic and luxury travel experiences for my clients. Attending a gazillion webinars about travel experiences and properties around the world. I have made so many fantastic travel friends and forged relationships with professionals around the world, and feel confident in knowing who to call on and partner with, should a client want to see the elusive pangolin in Africa, explore the Antarctic or simply, have a dreamy week in the sun or go skiing – or anything in between!
I truly believe in the return of travel – it makes our lives richer, no matter where we go. The tourism industry can be such an incredible force for good, supporting countless communities, jobs and conservation efforts worldwide, whilst forging human connections across borders.
I have taken this pandemic seriously, and respect that we all have different comfort levels. Some are still cautious while the rest of the world rolls out its vaccinations, and prefer to stay within the US and that is totally OK. Others are exploring far corners of the world. We will all travel again. For now, we’re doing what’s right for our global community by heeding travel advisories and acting responsibly. I hope that we will all travel more thoughtfully. For our planet, and its communities around the world.
But I just can’t wait for the day that we’ll be sipping African sundowners or sailing along the Mediterranean coast, without the testing, or the many hoops we have to jump through to comply with health protocols. To explore the many corners of the world that continue to inspire us.
What is the thing that has surprised you?
How much I’m actually capable of, and how many transferable skills I have from being a mom! Like so many moms who paused successful careers to stay home with the kids, in my case, 17 years! I doubted my professional abilities and lacked some confidence. But I soon learnt that I can multi-task like a wizard, and do a whole lot more quite confidently. It’s all there!
What is your best tip for fellow entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with business peers who believe in collaboration and community over competition. I love the old Chinese proverb that states: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. I run my business along these principles. I am in a very tight knit community of travel advisors under the leadership of a dear friend I met when I first moved to Rye in 2005, and some of the most incredible women I know, and the brilliance and the energy are fantastic. We cheer each other on in our successes, and support each other in our challenges. Those further up the mountain in their careers mentor and support the ones behind them.
No matter what business you’re in, find peers in the same business who want to see you succeed along with them.
I love seeing other travel advisors succeed - for the greater sense of seeing the world traveling again. Seeing communities that rely on tourism rebounding and slowly recovering.
What are some alternative careers you would have liked to have?
Photo journalist, pilot, explorer. And if I was 20 years younger? A social media travel influencer (with a pilots’ license).
Other fun details about you?
I spent my college summers working on a safari farm in South Africa. My mode of transport was an XR200 Motocross bike, and we had a pet orphaned warthog named Twiggy. The movie ‘The Air up There’ with Kevin Bacon was partly filmed in the place I worked, and Twiggy had a key scene ‘charging’ Kevin Bacon in the bush, being very ferocious. (We were holding up her favorite treat as she charged to reach it).
Do you have advice regarding reinventing yourself?
The best of you has always been there, and has been honed and polished over the years, even if you don’t see it. Believe it, find something you’re passionate about and just got for it.
What do you think is important for other moms to know?
Your website? https://journeysbysoldi.com/
Your Instagram? @journeysbysoldi