How your next adventure could really change the way you see the world.
The idea that ‘experience beats ownership’, that more people are spending more money on creating memories and undertaking journeys rather than assembling collections and buying things, is very apparent in the high-end travel industry – and business is booming.
A report by Allied Market Research valued the luxury travel sector at nearly £400m in 2016 and predicts this figure to more than double to £890m by 2022. Flying first to first-rank accommodation in an amazing location will always be a pleasure, but today’s HNWI traveller is looking for more.
“Clients have fabulous homes around the world,” says Elizabeth Ellis, founder of Blue Marble Private, a high-end travel firm. “On the trips we design, there will often be a beautiful hotel or private property, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all. We lead on the experience.”
Ellis launched Blue Marble Private in 2014, after several years working for high-end tour operators. She met her first clients at dinner while on safari in Kenya. They were, she says, “an incredibly well-travelled American couple. They have their own plane and love to explore. They told me how they wanted to go to Antarctica but without doing the long boat crossing from Argentina. So I designed a trip for them and some friends to fly on a specially commissioned jet from Cape Town, five-and-a-half hours to Antarctica. That trip took a year of planning.”
It’s about journeys with purpose, benefits not features, and people doing things for themselves
Since then, Ellis has sent clients to train with Russian cosmonauts and entered into partnership with the luxury goods multinational LVMH, devising experiences for its new Clos 19 lifestyle retail brand. “We’ve created a trip to Scotland to bring their whiskies to life,” says Ellis.
Next summer, she will go on her company’s first diving holiday – to the wreck of the Titanic in a submersible. Working in tandem with a deep-ocean scientific research firm from Seattle, Blue Marble Private is offering eight-day trips for £80,000. With inflation taken into account, that’s about the price of a first-class return ticket on the Titanic itself. The sub carries three passengers along with a pilot and an expert guide. Tickets are sold out for next year and there’s a waiting list for 2019 and beyond.
For those looking to go deeper than the 12,500ft to RMS Titanic’s resting place on the bottom of the Atlantic, The Extraordinary Adventure Club offers a journey of personal development signposted by horizon-expanding travel experiences. Run by Calum Morrison, a former mountain rescue guide and Royal Marine who went on to observe and consult in warzones, the Club is, Morrison says, “about journeys with purpose, benefits not features, and people doing things for themselves. It’s not ‘luxury’ in the way that others use the term.”
For the Club’s fee of at least £150,000, Morrison and his team offer at least six months of travel and consultation designed to, says Morrison, “recalibrate a person’s view of themselves, removing complexity, dislocating expectations and assisting them in becoming the best version of themselves. We’re looking to stretch the envelope of a person’s capabilities, not to push through it.”
After meetings, phone calls, emails, clients spend four days and three nights with Morrison in the wilds of the Cairngorms in Scotland with “no phones and no watches. Time doesn’t necessarily have much meaning when we’re up there.” This Scottish trip is also used to determine if a client is physically fit enough for the journey ahead.
After this, the client is assigned a mentor/coach/travelling companion, and a two-week trip is devised to suit the client’s needs. The location of this trip is only revealed at the airport, and even then, the content and timetable of the trip is not made clear until arrival at the destination. Previous trips like this include motorcycling across South Africa, trekking in the Ecuadorian jungle, living with camel herders in Sudan, working on a ranch in Guyana and traversing Antarctica with dog sleds.
“It’s not the destination or the adventure,” Morrison says, “but the developmental requirement. What are the needs of the individual and what is it that they require? Only after that do we determine the location.”
After that first surprising fortnight, a programme of trips is planned over the course of six months, alongside regular coaching and mentoring. A typical schedule might be a four-day trip, followed by another four-day trip, then another fortnight, then another four-day trip.
“We want to challenge people emotionally, physically and mentally, but only such that they think about how they’re living their life and how they can do that better.” Morrison has been doing this full-time for six years; before that he provided the service ad-hoc to friends and acquaintances. He has never advertised and all clients are referrals or directly introduced to him and his team.
He believes that there are fewer opportunities to have the sort of shaping, formative experiences that can be utilised and drawn upon throughout a life.
“We do take people all over the world, but this is not an adventure holiday,” he says. “What really interests me is motivation: what is it that motivates someone and how can you motivate yourself?”
In terms of inspiration, a transformative, once-in-lifetime travel experience, whether to the bottom of the ocean or beyond your imagining, is hard to beat.
The photograph is an impression of the ‘Cyclops 2’ submersible diving to the wreck of the HMS Titanic.