SIMON ALDERSON INTERVIEW

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Ardent traveller Simon Alderson likes nothing more than to flee Britain in favour of exploring more exotic countries. The impassioned pursuit of myriad roads less travelled around the globe has been an interest of his for many years, and Simon recently decided to share his love for far-flung people and places by setting up his own travel company: ‘Bigtrip’.

Currently focusing on running tours through countries in Eastern Europe (such as Montenegro, Serbia and Albania), Simon hopes to run tours through southeast Asian countries of Vietnam’s and Cambodia’s alluring ilk in the not too distant future.

Fortunately, on the cusp of the company’s eagerly-anticipated launch, Simon managed to spare some time to chat to Steve Rudd in order to reveal all about his ambitious plans to escort people into the wonderful world at large…

HEY SIMON, HOW YOU DOING?

Great. Everything is coming together; I’m really busy at the moment and really excited about the launch of the company.

YOU RECENTLY DECIDED TO SET UP A TRAVEL TOUR COMPANY CALLED ‘BIGTRIP’ WHICH IS POISED TO ESCORT PEOPLE THROUGH A CLUTCH OF EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES INCLUDING MONTENEGRO, SERBIA AND ALBANIA. WHEN WILL THE FIRST TOURS RUN, AND WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO FOCUS YOUR FIRST TOURS ON EASTERN EUROPE ?

Because I love Eastern Europe! It’s a traveller’s dream because there is so much happening there. It’s an exciting place to be right now; it’s ancient and brand new all at the same time, and it’s packed with UNESCO world heritage sights. 

I just love the people and the atmosphere there. There’s so much to see and do; they have a fascinating history… and a lot of it so recent. The summer there is amazing. Everybody is so relaxed and they really know how to have fun. What’s more, there are no crowds of tourists so there’s a really warm welcome for the few who venture there. Being outside the Euro zone, it offers unbeatable value for money, so you can still have a delicious meal and a beer for less than five Euros!

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HAVE YOU DONE MUCH TRAVELLING YOURSELF AROUND THE COUNTRIES THROUGH WHICH YOU WILL BE RUNNING TOURS ?

I first travelled through the region ten years ago on an overland trip around the world. I loved it straight away and have been back many times since. It’s so close to the UK, and with the advent of budget airlines it’s so cheap and easy to get there. Over the last few years I have worked as a tour group leader in the Balkans and was lucky enough to live and work in places like Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro. I have just got back from a trip around Albania and Macedonia. It really blew me away with its natural beauty and wonderfully hospitable people; they couldn’t have made me more welcome. I just can’t wait to get back there leading some trips.

HAS IT BEEN EASY TO PLAN THE TOURS THROUGH SUCH COUNTRIES, AND WHAT KIND OF ELEMENTS WILL THE TOURS FOCUS ON IN TERMS OF THE CULTURE AND SCENERY THAT THE CLIENTS WILL GET TO EXPERIENCE?

I already had a lot of contacts in the region from my time working there and travelling there over the years, so that made things a lot easier. We have some great friends in the region who can’t wait to meet our travellers and show off where they live.

At ‘Bigtrip’ we get off the beaten track and show you places you would never find yourself, from vibrant cities, to laid-back coastal towns and mountain villages, you will really feel part of where we travel: it’s an insider’s view of some amazing places. We know all the best places to see and, of course, to eat and drink. We use local transport and a lot of family-run hotels and guesthouses, and our local guides are living, breathing history in themselves with some incredible first-hand stories to tell.

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FROM A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE, HOW EASY HAVE YOU FOUND SETTING UP A COMPANY OF THIS NATURE TO BE?

It has been quite a challenge. There is a lot to consider when your company will be operating in so many different countries. You have to be really determined and passionate about what you are doing. There was a lot of work to be done to get the company bonded and affiliated to the Travel Trust Association, but thankfully we only have to do these things once!

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK ‘BIGTRIP’ WILL STAND OUT FROM OTHER TRAVEL TOUR COMPANIES?

We will really stand out with our destinations. Countries like Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia are virtually untouched by tourism in most areas. We have some exciting and unique itineraries. We are definitely taking ‘the road less travelled’ which makes for a really rewarding and unforgettable experience.

Our experience as travellers and tour leaders really makes a difference; our group leaders are not just on a ‘year out’ from their ‘real’ jobs. This is what we do. We have more years experience than we care to remember, working in over forty countries. We really understand what people are looking for and the kind of experiences that stay with you forever. We are travellers that became tour leaders; we have led trips all over the world and have taken our favourite places in our favourite countries and created what we see as our ‘Greatest Hits.’

We travel in small groups and it’s a really fun and relaxed atmosphere. It’s just like travelling with a group of friends. Because of our limited departures and small groups we can have a really genuine travel experience and really get to know the places we visit. People often end up forging lifelong friendships with each other and the people we meet along the way.

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YOU RECENTLY CONFIDED THAT YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A NUMBER OF TOURS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA. DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE ANY HARDER TO SET THINGS UP OVER THERE?

Exciting times are ahead in southeast Asia. It definitely posed a new set of challenges and a whole different way of doing things. There are a lot of cultural differences to consider when setting things up there. I had worked out there for a number of years. Luckily we have a lot of good friends who have helped us put together some really amazing trips.

For more information about Simon and ‘Bigtrip’, Simon can be ‘found’ on Facebook… until such a time that he disappears ‘on the road’ again.

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