Founder’s Note: The Roots of Experiential Travel

Founder’s Note: The Roots of Experiential Travel

I have always loved summer vacation. I grew up in Oklahoma, and every year, my parents would load up the station wagon with the six of us kids, throw the luggage on the roof rack, and head off on a road trip. As the youngest, I often found myself in the rear-facing backseat, hemmed in by two coolers full of sandwiches, soda pop, and Dad’s beer. I loved staring out at the road and countryside we passed on the way to wherever we were going. Of course, traveling with such a brood inevitably involved a bit of chaos. One time, I found myself standing at a gas station after the car—and my family—had left. I’d like to think that I was unfazed, but my brothers joyfully recount that I was crying when the family came back to retrieve me.

I have my mom to thank for making me a traveler. She was always eager to try new things. She didn’t know a lot about art but taught herself to paint; she wasn’t athletic, but she loved to swim; she wasn’t much of a singer, but you couldn’t keep her off a stage. That enthusiasm spurred our travels.

Every year she would have to persuade my dad to take a trip, and every year she’d win him over. We made it to both coasts of the United States and most places in between. By the time I was out of law school, I’d been to all of the lower 48 states. And whatever she prodded us to do— pick blueberries in Michigan, tour Civil War battlefields in Virginia, try new seafood in Florida, hike in Glacier National Park, or visit the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee—we would enjoy it. Even Dad.

At AFAR, we think that an openness to new places and people is one of the things that defines experiential travel. That’s why it surprised me when I told a friend about a trip I’m planning to Redwood National Park this summer and she said, “That doesn’t sound very AFAR.”

I realize there is a far in AFAR, and we do cover a lot of international destinations, but AFAR is not about the distance you travel. It’s about curiosity. It’s about exploring and taking it all in. It’s that spirit my mom instilled in me by showing us so many sides of our country. It’s a mind-set you carry with you when you walk out your front door. You might have slept at a beautiful hotel, in a sleeping bag under the stars, or in your own bed. It doesn’t matter. There are no rules. Except one: Don’t leave your kids at the gas station.

Good travels,

Greg Sullivan

This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.

Greg Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of AFAR. You can reach Greg at
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