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Spindrifter Series – Bel Roach

T H E   S P I N D R I F T E R   S E R I E S

Today we are excited to introduce you to Bel Roach a serial wanderlust who loves spontaneity, warm tropical weather and red wine.  Her business Trailblazers Travel is all about inspired, hand crafted itineraries and creating real and meaningful experiences that ensure the interaction leaves the traveler, the country and the environment, better than when we found them.

Lets jump in and ask Bel some questions….

  How did you come to start Trailblazers?

Trailblazers started when I found a huge gap in the travel market that allowed for real and authentic travel experiences.  I always built my personal travel itineraries from scratch as I couldn’t find one that allowed me to immerse myself in the culture. I wanted to return with my heart, body and soul enriched from the experience. As I returned from these adventures I had friends and associates asking for a copy of my itineraries.  Like me, they couldn’t find anything fulfilling or satisfying in the mass produced, commercial market, so I decided I would create a travel agency that did!  Trailblazers Travel supports responsible and sustainable eco holidays with options to jump on a small group departure or to travel independently.

What’s your big vsion // dream for the next few years?

Right now it is all about creating awareness that we all have an option to choose the impact our travel makes and by choosing sustainable travel, we can stop the perpetual cycle of poverty. We want to connect people and places and ensure that at the end of that interaction, we leave them both better than when we found them.  We will continue to educate and add many more exciting and creative itineraries so we have full tours leaving every single month.  This would allow us to improve the way money is distributed through travel and make a greater social impact and change more lives. Did you know that for every $100 spent by a tourist, only $5 stays in the local economy or community they visit?  It’s appalling, and we plan on changing that by supporting and aligning with responsible ethical travel suppliers to conduct our itineraries.

Tell us what typical day for you looks like?

Ideally, I like to start with meditation but when I’m busy, that’s the first thing to go. In summer it’s always an early morning swim in the ocean and coffee at the beach. Gym plays a big role in my day as I find without it, I don’t function as well, a coffee catch up with the girls/my daughter/ hubby afterwards.  A bite to eat before delving into emails, researching and planning what amazing adventures I can offer or go on myself.

When you’re not busy traveling, where can we find you?

On the South Coast NSW.   It’s my sanctuary and my peaceful place. I am born and bred here and have the gorgeous Mollymook Beach at my doorstep and there is barely a day when home that I don’t see it, touch it or swim in it.  We are so lucky and the more you travel, the more you appreciate the pristine coastline, access to the mountain ranges and the ease of just living in such a free country.

What has been your most important & defining moment so far?

In business, I think it may have been getting my first small group tour filled and completed with such success and the feedback I received from it. It gave me the understanding there is a market for what I am offering and people really are interested in something more than the bland, mass produced holidays that have no benefit outside lining the pockets of big business. Personally, without a doubt, living on a yacht for 6 years and homeschooling my daughter. I have always been strong and resilient but those years really compounded those traits. It was bloody hard and sometimes scary, but it taught me that you really can achieve anything you put your mind to and you are a heck of a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. I’ve had so many people say to me ‘I wish I could do that’ or ‘I would love to do what you do’. Fear can be so debilitating so you really need to push that aside and get on with it.  Something I am still learning to do!

Tell us about your personal connection to our wild and beautiful natural landscapes + what do you do to minimise your impact on them on your travels?

I believe growing up around the ocean along with being a Pisces, I thrive on water.  We grew up with weekend drives and bush walks, climbing mountains, fishing, midnight swims at the old ocean pool and these experiences gave me the appreciation I have for natural environments. Once you have the ocean in your system, you can never be too far away from it.  Living on it for those years created some unique experiences, magical memories and respect for the environment’s vulnerability. We minimise internal flights, going direct wherever possible, minimising our carbon footprint, travel locally and always show a deep respect for the people and places we visit. Our partners and guides have a deep respect for the land and the culture.  We stick to the guidelines of staying on marked roads, not straying off paths or footpaths and do not support  animal tourism, petting or photo opportunities.  We research and trust in our partners and do not support private game parks, zoos or rehabilitation centres that exploit animals or sell to the canned hunting industry. We also support communities who lead the way in understanding clean beaches, protecting lush forests and parks and fauna and flora, who foster local economic development and by protecting these natural landscapes, give them longevity of their cultural traditions and treasures. 

What two key things have you learnt in your adventurous path which continue to push you forward?

The world is such a big, beautiful ball of wonder.  I believe that there are colours and tastes and smells out there that are unlike anything I’ve ever known.  There are new people to meet, fascinating things to learn and incredible experiences to be had. There is absolute joy and lightning bolt moments of excitement and inspiration. The world is bigger than what I can see from here, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be immersed and I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience more than going on holidays that pander to western standards and ideals when traveling. The world is unjust and my dream is to see no one living in poverty and to create a more equal society.  I believe the way to eliminate world poverty begins with clean water. If we get the basics covered, it frees up valuable time and energy to allow those less fortunate to create sustainable lifestyles for themselves. This in turn allows them to pull themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty and create hope for all future generations.  The ripple effect of having access to clean, safe water is far reaching.

I believe by creating Trailblazers Travel and offering these incredible holidays and unique experiences along with our giving back model, together we can make an impact and bring the world into a more equal balance.

Tell us about Trailblazers and how you give back to the local communities that you visit?

Our group tours and itineraries travel with intent and purpose.  Traveling with us involves activities where the traveller can interact with the locals, understand their lifestyles, support local jobs and sustainable tourism, opt in to homestays or stay in locally built or staffed lodgings. We support the communities by not using large scale operations where the profits are shipped overseas. We ensure our tour partners are local, live locally or are creating jobs for locals. All interactions with people, communities and animals are a positive experience and not an exploitation of resources. We visit community projects or cooperatives that encourage the locals to keep up traditional techniques and support the continuation of their values.  We also offer community tourism via homestays and visits where the traveler can have a taste of the traditional life within the country visited.

We give back on behalf of every person that travels with us and support WaterAid by contributing to the supply of clean safe water for 2 people with every small group tour and have given over 45 micro-loans through Kiva, encouraging entrepreneurs in developing countries to lift themselves and their families from the poverty cycle. You can read more about our giving back here.

Who/what do you look to for inspiration? // Who/what makes your heart light up?

I take great strength from the people living in poverty.  The survival instincts and determination they possess are  incredible. Those that walk miles every single day to bring water back for survival of themselves, their families and their animals.  If I can do my little bit to make their life easier, that is all I need to keep soldiering on.  Also, Daniel Flynn of Thankyou –  what an incredible human being he is.  Than Thank you story really lit a fire under my butt and made me realise that impacting just one person’s life, can make a profound difference not only to them, but the life of those around them.  He made me understand how important simply having access to clean water is and what a massive impact it can make.

What is your favourite quote and why does it particularly resonate with you?

Not so much a quote, but a short story by Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai.  I instantly loved this story and it totally resonated with my ‘why’. I knew from that moment, that I too would become the hummingbird.

“The story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest being consumed by a fire. All the animals in the forest come out and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning and they feel very  overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can. In the meantime all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, they are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time. But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.”

And that to me is what all of us should do. We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet go down the drain. I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.​”

What’s next on your horizon? // What can we expect to see?

2018 will see new itineraries and a year of exciting adventures for anyone wanting to dive in, head first and experience something rewarding and fulfilling!!  We have our affordable South African safari on special right now for departures Sept & Nov this year at $500 off an already great price. Borneo Orangutans and Adventure tour leaves in January and is filling fast. If you’ve ever wanted to see these incredible animals in their natural habitat you’d better hurry! India has just been launched on my website and it’s so exciting to see it come to life.  Although it has all the must see destinations, it has some really special moments with locals including celebrating Holi Festival with a local family and being welcomed into their homes will definitely be highlights.

More new itineraries including a combined Kruger National Park, Okavango Delta in Botswana and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe holiday. There’s the annual Wildebeest & Zebra Migration later in the year and we’ll finish off with Mystical Morocco – think exotic souks, Arabian nights in the Sahara Desert, forts dating back hundreds of years, being welcomed into a local Berber family for cooking and shared meals.  It will really be a memorable journey.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Dream it, do it.  Make it happen and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.  Believe in yourself and your abilities and just crack on!  Surround yourselves with love and create a team of supporters who will lift you up on those days when you feel like it’s all too hard.

Thanks so much Bel for taking the time to chat with us, I can’t wait to head off on one of your tours in the future! You can find Trailblazers Travel through the below links/

www.trailblazerstravel.com.au

www.facebook.com/trailblazerstravel/

www.instagram.com/trailblazerstravel/

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