Equipped for Adventure

Equipped for Adventure

Sara Ecclesine Sara Ecclesine
10 minute read

Work in the travel industry? You’re probably highly adaptable, with a relaxed relationship to risk and your own definition of fun. In a word — adventurous.

We asked the question “what does it mean to be equipped for adventure?” to a cross-section of the travel goods industry. While every answer was different, intriguing themes emerged — mental preparation, minimalist packing, an interest in Type 2 Fun (the Fun Scale explained below) and a hard-won understanding of true danger. And for many of our manufacturers, their business is their biggest adventure.

HYDAWAY founder Niki Singlaub is trying to take it easy. The Bend resident is a mountaineer, alpine skier and freeride mountain biker. But now that he has a family, he’s enjoying more Type 1 Fun.

Niki Singlaub Freeriding

HYDAWAY founder Niki Singlaub freeride mountain biking. Photo courtesy of HYDAWAY.

A digression:

The Fun Scale was invented in 1985 by climber and University of Alaska geology professor Rainer Newberry.

Type 1 Fun is an adventure that is enjoyable from start to finish. Imagine car camping in beautiful weather with a cooler loaded with snacks and beverages.

Type 2 Fun is not always fun while it’s happening, but you’ll have great stories to tell.

And Type 3 Fun? After it happens, you’ll laugh nervously and change the subject.

“I think I have a high risk tolerance,” said Niki. “It allows me to tackle Type 3 Fun — I find myself in situations like whiteout conditions on a glacier with crevasses.” His family has a term for it: “stupadventures” (short for stupid). “I do sometimes get into stupadventures with my family,” said Niki, who points out that any Type 2 or even Type 1 trip can turn into a stupadventure. “My wife was at a beautiful resort in Mexico and a category 4 hurricane came through,” explained Niki. “Instant stupadventure.” Before you walk out your front door, equip yourself for (stup)adventure. Niki advocates doing lots of research and embracing packing minimalism, so you can move fast and make smart choices if your fun veers into Type 3 territory.

HYDAWAY Collapsible Water Bottle 17 oz

HYDAWAY Collapsible Water Bottle 17 oz. Photo courtesy of HYDAWAY.

“I feel like it’s the same thing whether you’re starting a business or traveling the world,” said Niki. (And what’s a bigger adventure than starting a business?) “Do your research and then don’t overpack. I think that’s where our collapsible product line comes from — looking at my small fastpacking bag and huge water bottle and wondering why does this have to take up so much space?”

In the fall of 2019, Tracey McGhee stepped away from a corporate career and launched her travel accessory company, Ms. Jetsetter. She made an immediate splash at the 2020 Travel Goods Show, but barely had time to enjoy her success before COVID shut down travel. “Right away I had to pivot and create my mask and wristlet set,” said Tracey. “That got me into my first big retailer, Walgreens.” Tracey went on to create travel bottle sets and price point products for larger retail chains, while continuing to develop her higher-end makeup and jewelry organizers for retailers like Macys.com.

Tracey McGhee

Tracey McGhee and husband on a favorite trip to Barbados. Photo courtesy of Ms. Jetsetter.

I asked Tracey what made her so versatile and adaptable — what made her equipped for the big (and scary) adventure of succeeding in the travel goods industry during a global pandemic? She had two answers: travel and her father. “One of the things that brought my husband and me together was our love of travel,” said Tracey. “Prior to COVID we tried to bag at least one international destination a year.” Travel rewards the ability to think on your feet. “I think that travel really teaches you to be able to pivot and explore, to follow impulses and go off the beaten path.” But more importantly, Tracey learned valuable lessons and the entrepreneurial spirit from her father. “My father is an entrepreneur, so I grew up observing him,” said Tracey. “How he’d respond to success, failure, and changes in the local business climate.”

Ms. J Travel Makeup Case with Travel-Size Brushes, Black

Ms. J Travel Makeup Case with Travel-Size Brushes. Photo courtesy of Ms. Jetsetter.

After COVID Tracey still seeks adventure, but her priorities are different. “Now it’s all about the experience. Wherever we go we’re looking for authentic connection with our destination. I think COVID made us really understand that nothing is guaranteed, and we want to be in the moment.”

For Lindsay Aust, senior vice president of marketing at Cabeau, being equipped for adventure means arriving at your destination, rested. “We’re the comfort on-the-go brand,” said Lindsay.

Lindsay Aust

Lindsay Aust, SVP of marketing at Cabeau. Photo courtesy of Cabeau.

That might mean a clever and compactible neck pillow, or a portable heating lumbar support for a long-haul flight — or a long-haul board meeting. “Our CEO David is 6’8” and created the first iteration of our neck pillow after a torturous 13-hour flight from Korea in a middle seat,” said Lindsay.

The Cabeau philosophy is that whenever you’re on the precipice of adventure, comfort is the way to go. “My daughter and I took a redeye flight from New York to LA,” said Lindsay “and she could not function the next day.” Being able to sleep on a flight is a superpower, and Lindsay believes that with a little practice and the right gear, it’s a superpower that’s available to everyone.

Cabeau Evolution S3® Neck Pillow, Indigo

Cabeau Evolution S3® Neck Pillow. Photo courtesy of Cabeau.

Like Niki from HYDAWAY, Lindsay advocates packing minimalism, because traveling light is an essential part of being equipped for adventure. “People are always surprised by how much our neck pillows compress into their tiny carrying cases,” said Lindsay. That’s great news for both dedicated carry-on-only frequent flyers, and outdoor adventurers. “We have a really great affordable ultralight AirTNE™ neck pillow with single breath inflation that compresses to the size of a soda can,” said Lindsay. “I gave one to my cousin, a minimalist backpacker. He could not believe how much comfort he got in such a small package.”

Sunchea Phou and her octogenarian mother have a new hobby — summiting mountains. The YaY Novelty founder and philanthropist told TGM “adventure has no limits; the adventure begins with our mindset, regardless of our physical limitations.”

YAY NOVELTY founder and philanthropist Sunchea Phou. Photo courtesy of YaY Novelty.

Sunchea Phou's lifestyle brand funds her philanthropy in Cambodia. Photo courtesy of YaY Novelty.

Sunchea’s mother has overcome paralysis — twice. It’s challenging for the octogenarian to travel far from home. So they find modifications, and keep their adventures well within the category of Type 1 Fun. “We didn’t hike. We took the gondola to the summit,” said Sunchea, describing their most recent summit of Crystal Mountain, near Mt. Rainier. “It was challenging but that’s what makes us stronger. I wasn't scared since we went through worse than that.” (Sunchea and her mother are Cambodian genocide survivors.)

YaYbag Jumbo Reusable Bag

YaYbag Jumbo Reusable Bag. Photo courtesy of YaY Novelty.

Now Sunchea gives back with YaY Novelty, a lifestyle brand that funds her philanthropic efforts in Cambodia. “My mom is my hero,” said Sunchea. “She reminds me how strong a person can be.”

Jack Georges, founder of the eponymous leather goods manufacturer Jack Georges, is a third-generation leather maker in his fourth decade of business. When I asked him the secret to his success, he told me “fear of failure. I came to this country when I was 18 years old and I came alone,” Jack said. “I came from civil war.”

Jack Georges

Jack Georges, third-generation leather maker. Photo courtesy of Jack Georges.

That experience taught him that if he saw trouble coming he had to respond — stasis is not safety. “Fifteen years ago, I was the first travel goods business to begin selling online,” said Jack. It was obvious to him that the internet was the future of retail. “I talked to friends at large luggage manufacturers who were afraid to make the change, they were afraid of their retailers,” said Jack. “But if you control MAP it’s good for your retailers, especially now that everyone has a phone in their pocket and can check pricing from the sales floor.”  

The great adventure of Jack’s life is his business, and his preparation for this adventure is a hyper-awareness of every decision he makes. While business pundits advocate making lots of mistakes, Jack believes success is the result of years and years of small but savvy decisions, that allow him to live within his means and save enough to respond to opportunities.

Jack Georges Voyager Large 22” Travel Duffle

Voyager 22” Travel Duffle. Photo courtesy of Jack Georges.

For adventure travel Jack recommends the Voyager 22” Travel Duffle. “A leather bag is the ultimate sustainable travel product,” said Jack. “Leather lasts for decades, doesn’t shed harmful microplastics as it ages, and is a by-product of the beef industry, where leather supply outpaces demand.” And a leather duffle is endlessly versatile — it can be slung on the back of a camel, tied to the top of a Jeep, or smooshed under a stateroom bed.

Aran Higa is working on himself. “How I define adventure trying something new,” said Aran, founder of Dream Sling Travel Pillow. “The best adventure is getting out of your comfort zone. When you constantly do that — that’s how you grow.”

Aran Higa

Aran Higa with frequent flier Santa Claus. Photo courtesy of Dream Sling Travel Pillow.

Warm, soft-spoken and thoughtful, Aran has challenged himself with a series of high-pressure jobs: Air Traffic Controller, KITV4 Live Television Director, 911 Dispatcher, Train Operator, and entrepreneur and patent holder at Dream Sling Travel Pillow. In his free time, Aran rides motorcycles on the busy streets of Honolulu and dreams up new products. “Some people are creative and there is this need to change chaos into something tangible,” said Aran. “And then you want to share it and hopefully people can understand it.”

Dream Sling Travel PillowDream Sling Travel Pillow

Dream Sling Travel Pillow. Photo courtesy of Dream Sling Travel Pillow.

Aran credits his business partner, Hernan Martinez, with inspiring him. Like Jack Georges, Hernan survived civil war (in El Salvador). “He’s amazing,” said Aran. “He’s not afraid to push boundaries.” Aran hopes to encourage others to challenge themselves, create, and be ready for adventure by having adventures. “It’s fun to create,” said Aran. “It’s part of me. I have to do it even if I fail.”

For Dr. Tara Lalvani, CEO & Founder of Beautifect, being equipped for adventure is about a mindset, a readiness to embrace the unknown, and the ability to navigate challenges with both optimism and resilience – a mindset she applied when launching the Beautifect brand.

Tara Lalvani

Dr. Tara Lalvani's experience as a dental surgeon inspired the design of the Beautifect Box. Photo courtesy of Beautifect.

Being equipped for adventure is not only about having the physical tools to help make the journey and experience comfortable and convenient, but also about cultivating curiosity, asking questions, seeking solutions, and finding beauty in the journey. Dr. Tara associates adventure with making memories, because true adventure is often shared, whether that be with loved ones, colleagues or new connections.

Beautifect Box

Beautifect Box. Photo courtesy of Beautifect.

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