Rachel's areas of specialisation cover some of the most distant - and exotic - places on our plant. She has travelled extensively in Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka, from the far-flung eastern city of Bumthang and colonial Calcutta to the laid-back backwaters of Kerala and the beaches of Galle. She has circumnavigated Australia in its entirety and has a special fondness for the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, a little known secret with magnificent beaches, delicious cuisine and exceptional wildlife. Her heart, however, lies in New Zealand where she married her husband 10 years ago.
How long have you worked in travel?
30 years – but obviously I started really young! I got my first “hit” of the travel bug when I visited Australia at the age of 17 and then I cut my teeth working for airlines, firstly selling Concorde seats before moving on to British Airways and Singapore Airlines. My career then evolved into tour operating and tailor-making luxury holidays and my passion is still Australasia, but with the Indian Sub-Continent a very close second.
What do you never travel without?
I love music and am never without a good book, so it would have to be my iPhone and Kindle.
What would you wish you had with you if you were stranded on a desert island for six months and why? You can choose a luxury and something practical.
On the basis you cannot live without water, I’d take water purification tablets and I’d want a flint so I could light a fire. My luxury item would have to be a box of Walkers crisps!
If you could travel with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Sir Michael Palin, without a doubt. He’s travelled extensively and would regale me with great stories as we sat around the campfire – which I’d have lit with my flint!
What is your most memorable travel moment?
Getting married in a hunting lodge in the middle of winter in New Zealand. Unforgettable and so romantic.
What was your worst travel disaster?
That’s an easy one …. I was on a trip to India in 2017 and had just had an amazing week exploring Kerala – sailing along the backwaters on a rice barge, staying in little gems of hotels and seeing the extraordinary fishing techniques with the Chinese nets. I then flew on to Darjeeling and it was there that things took a turn for the worse. A minor health issue that had initially seemed under control was getting a bit worse so, for peace of mind, I visited a local doctor. He insisted on operating on me there and then and I found myself with an open wound for the rest of my trip. By the time I reached Calcutta I had to make the agonising decision to cut my trip short and fly home. It taught me a great lesson in what not to do in that situation and I now focus carefully on the health side of travel and discuss practical options with my clients before they go away.
What’s your secret hidden gem (such as a little bookshop, restaurant, café, little-known museum/gallery, artisan shop)?
There is a beautiful beach on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia that is totally off the beaten track – no signposts and only the locals know how to find it. It is the perfect place to hunt for abalone and enjoy a private BBQ under the stars.
What’s the most unusual client request you’ve received and were you able to fulfil it?
I received a call from a client in Bhutan who had discovered you cannot buy cigarettes there and he was desperate. I managed to use my contacts and later that evening a carton of Marlborough Gold was delivered to his hotel room. He was absolutely delighted!
Have you won any awards or been recognised for a specific achievement?
I am proud to say that I won Sales Manager of the year three years in a row in a previous life.
If you hadn’t worked in travel what would you have liked to have done?
I love a mystery and solving a problem and people who know me say that nothing gets past me…. So I’d love to have been in the police force. My colleagues say I am the spitting image of Juliet Bravo, especially given my fantastic talent for using and being able to recite the phonetic alphabet backwards!
If you could retire to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
It would have to be New Zealand. The scenery is just spectacular with its fjords and valleys, beaches and lakes, volcanoes, and mountains. The people are so genuine, there is masses of open space with fresh clear air and wonderful hospitality. Shall I go on?
Favourite book(s) and why?
Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming. It's an incredible story of an American who went to Bhutan in 90s with the UN and fell in love with a Bhutanese man. She never returned and still lives in the capital, Thimphu.