Travel professionals are travel obsessives by nature and necessity, and that’s exactly who you want in your corner when eyeing far-flung destinations or planning demanding physical excursions. We may be limited to armchair travel for a while, but when the time is right, these four Seattle-based travel experts will be waiting to help you unleash your pent-up inner adventurer.
Sheri Goodwin of Transformational Trekking
Hiking through the high andes into Machu Picchu changed everything for Sheri Goodwin, then a high school physical education and health teacher, and track and cross country coach. “This is where I discovered my true passion: exploring the world by foot—trekking,” she says. “I travel not just because I love discovering new (to me) breathtaking lands and ancient sites, but because when I travel, I feel free. I’m able to reflect, ask myself questions, be introspective and think deeply about what I want out of life and who I want to be.” Goodwin first conceived of Transformational Trekking to help people, no matter their starting physical fitness, prepare for their own treks, but clients heard about Goodwin’s adventures and wanted to join her. Transformational Trekking now offers individual training plans, group training for local clients, and small-group treks in other countries. Her current favorite trails are The West Highland Way in Scotland, and Ireland’s Dingle Way. Closer to home, she favors the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier, and The Enchantments Trail, near Leavenworth. “Deep connections form when groups go through a challenge together (like 80-100+ mile treks), discover far off lands together, and explore new cultures together,” she says.
Travel tip: “When your adventure calls, don’t wait, go! It just might change your life in incredible ways.”
Mick Pearson of Kaf Adventures
People love to hunker safely in their comfort zone, and Mick Pearson has made it his job to get them out of it. “The backcountry is powerful,” says Pearson, founder of Kaf Adventures. “Standing on the top of a ridge looking out over our state is worth the effort, every time.” Pearson launched Kaf (pronounced like cough) in 2006 to spread the gospel of outdoor adventure travel—mountaineering, ice climbing and more—in the Pacific Northwest, but Kaf also leads international trips to go rock-climbing in China and summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, to name a few. For Seattleites who want to try backpacking the Cascades, say, or climbing Mt. Erie (“by far the best scenic rock climbing location in the state”) but aren’t sure where to start, Kaf offers beginner, intermediate and advanced training courses, in addition to their guided travel adventures, to help people of all experience levels get comfortable in the great wild open. “I feel most alive being outdoors with new friends,” Pearson says.
Travel tip: “I will keep this to local trips in the North Cascades: If you don’t go, you’ll never know. Often weekend warriors look at the weather, then make their decisions, and I would suggest [getting] out there no matter what the conditions really are.”
Jake Haupert of Explorer X and Evergreen Escapes
“I always had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to do,” says Jake Haupert. In his 20s that vision was of conservation and ecotourism, and in 2006 he founded Evergreen Escapes, naturalist-led day- and multi-day tours from Seattle and Portland throughout the Pacific Northwest. Five-ish years ago, Haupert felt the pull to go deeper, to offer clients something more profound than just routes and destinations. “I realized that I’d always traveled with an inner compass,” he says, and attributes that clarity of purpose to his deeply spiritual mother and world traveler grandmother. Haupert connected with Dr. Michael Bennett (see p. 33) and co-founded The Transformational Travel Council, which promotes traveling with intention and engagement; and travel company Explorer X, which puts those tenets into practice. “There’s a segment of the mass market that’s really uncomfortable with talking about an inner journey,” he says. At Explorer X, travel prep stresses the why above all, whether you’re traveling to near or far, or if your destination remains unknown until you arrive at the airport, as in their signature Project X trips. “It’s a more powerful way to experience [travel] than looking for the most Instagrammable moments,” Haupert says.
Travel tip: “Travel isn’t only a financial investment, it’s an emotional investment. We’re limited by time, energy and resources, so when we go on a journey we want to maximize the opportunity, so travel with heart.
Beth Whitman of WanderTours
“I get a rush every time I just think of going somewhere,” says Beth Whitman, founder of WanderTours. “Yes, it can be a hassle getting through the airport and sometimes flights aren’t the most comfortable, but it’s all worth it to me to land at an airport in a country where I don’t speak the language and have to navigate my way to a hotel all on my own.” When she started traveling solo around North America and Southeast Asia decades ago, Whitman had no intention of turning travel pro. But she did want to embolden travel-curious women—travel workshops led to a book, Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo, and companion website, Wanderlust and Lipstick, in 2007. Despite her solo travel advocacy, Whitman’s growing community of female travelers clamored for tours. WanderTours now leads small groups (most often women-only, occasionally co-ed) around the world—Morocco, Gujarat, Papua New Guinea—but Whitman also relishes local exploration.
Travel tip: “If you’re considering a destination that’s even remotely off the beaten path, be careful who you talk to about it. People love to tell negative stories about their (or someone else’s) travels. Stay focused on people who have had positive experiences and learn from them.”