By Lara Dunning
When you take a trip—whether traveling abroad or across the Sound— what do you hope to get out of the experience? Perhaps a broadening of your worldview or to learn something new. You might be looking to have an adventure. Maybe simple relaxation and rejuvenation are the only stops on the itinerary.
The reasons we travel are most likely as varied and complex as our world is diverse. But one thing is for sure: science has proven that experiences make people happier and healthier, and that ultimately, they leave most of us more satisfied than possessions do.
In that spirit, Experi—an island-based specialty tour operator founded in 2014 by Rob Rector—is all about creating meaningful travel experiences for friends, families and small groups. They offer handpicked destinations such as Spain, Vietnam and Provence, as well as closerto-home locales like Washington, Oregon, Alaska and even some western national parks.
Experi has organized Washington State University’s president’s alumni trip, an excursion for Auction of Washington Wines, and is currently partnering with Eleven Winery to produce a journey to Bordeaux, France in June 2019. “Traveling can really make a positive difference in people’s lives,” said Rector.
“It helps you understand yourself better and connect with others on a deeper level. ”Rather than a crowded tour bus and a whirlwind list of must-see sights, Experi trips focus on specific locations with concentrated itineraries that highlight particular traits of a region or country, such as the cacao industry in Peru.
Trips are coordinated with vetted businesses and trusted local guides to ensure travelers get the most out of their adventures. “We do a lot of legwork to discover the best an area has to offer and have our travel directors handle the hassles, so that guests can just relax, connect and enjoy the moments together,” said Rector.
Many Experi destinations have preset schedules, but they also tailor tours to the desires of the group or the family, and often create a mix of experiences for multi-generational family groups. A sample day could include walking through a city market in Peru and then learning to cook three Peruvian dishes, hiking the Etruscans paths in Tuscany and learning about its history, or exploring Hershey Gardens in Cuba followed by lunch in the home of a local chef.
Recently, Experi built a custom tour in Provence for alumni of the Young President’s Organization that included executives and their spouses. Guests stayed at a private chateau in France and excursions were designed with all-inclusive learning engagements such as truffle hunting, cooking with a master chef and touring a handful of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
“The chateau was spectacular, made all the more amazing with the chef/owner being available throughout,” said guest Steve Perlman. “The…wine tasting and then shopping at the weekly market with the chef was a highpoint for me. The Normandy experience was everything I’d expected and more, a lifetime experience.
”Tour groups are kept intentionally small, between six and 24 travelers, something Rector believes is important, noting that how you travel and who you go with is just as important as the destination. Another perk is that each trip has a photographer, giving visitors another reason to unplug from their phones and be fully present in the moment.
“Experiences are ultimately more important than the landmarks,” said Rector. “While we take guests to the world’s best destinations, our tours are primarily designed for people, be it family and friends, or those who share similar passions, to have memorable and hopefully life-changing experiences together.”