It was my exquisite delight to be the tour guide of Richard Bangs and his family. Thanks ESI DMC Armenia for hosting our guests and for the trust.
I was honoured to interview one of the gurus of world tourism and often called the father of modern Adventure travel.
You can easily find an information about him on Wikipedia or the other Google sources.
But let’s do a short overview.
Sobek Expeditions (international adventure travel company), Angels Camp, CA, president, beginning 1973; Mountain Travel Sobek U.S., Montclair, CA, founding partner, 1991—; Terra Quest travel Web site, founder; Mungo Park travel webzine, founder and editor-in-chief; Expedia.com, editor-at-large; Great Escapes, founding editor and executive producer; MSN Travel First and Best, founder; Producer and creator, with Yahoo Media Group, of Richard Bangs Adventures, a Web-based video travelogue series, 2005-06; executive producer of film River of the Red Ape. Outward Bound U.S.A., president, 2001.
Lowell Thomas Award for best travel book, 1989 for Riding the Dragon’s Back: The Race to Raft the Upper Yangtze; Eisner Prize for Literature; Bosner Award for Journalism; National Outdoor Book Award in the literature category, 2000, for The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Transformation on Wild Water.
Can talk about him longer, but can’t wait to share with you his nice thoughts on my country Armenia and travel.
Why did you choose this part of the world as your travel destination?
-Armenia and Georgia are little known in USA and I think we are always looking for new places to explore and discover. Those countries were under the cloud of misrepresentation and sort of poor impressions. Some of it justified because of historical events but much of it is unjustified. This is a time of peace and promise and both countries have so much to offer: assets that few of the places in the world do. One of the things that intrigues me the most is that the tourism industry in both countries are relatively new and this is the best time to look around to the worlds’ best developed tourism countries and to see what are the things they have done right and have done wrong and to choose the best pathway. You have the luxury of being able to look at thousands of other destinations to value them and to develop your tourism destination and programs. That’s an exciting opportunity. To come here feels like we are seeing it as early stages. We will be back to US and will to interpret what we saw and will help to shape the platform.
What were your expectations before you came and what you experience now?
Very different from reality. Many photographs that we were shown many of them date back to the last century and many of them are black and white. The whole Armenia for American eyes is the place that is challenged. But first crossing the border and passed through these forests, melting canyons, valleys and this clear stream and monasteries like a piece of paradise. It was astonishing. I have no expectation that Switzerland existed in Armenia.
What are the unique aspects of this destination? How will you promote Armenia?
The landscape itself is powerful reason to visit here. Land always defines the people. You have collection of people that is so proud of their heritage, their identity. The biggest surprise is how joyful, happy and hospitable everybody is. You think that after all tragedy and challenges that Armenia as a country has faced it might be a little bit less than optimistic. But there is a flowing of optimism. You don’t find that type of character in many other countries. That is a unique proposition.
Another thing is Armenia is the first country in the world adopting Christianity and it has probably the highest concentration of churches in the world. There is something fascinating historically, culturally, architecturally, musically. It’s stunning. This all ends up with compelling cocktail.
Do you feel safe here?
I feel very safe. There is not any issue. I have traveled in many places that unsafe. This feels as safe as the safest places in US. There are many places in US that you don’t feel safe. But look at this. This is outdoor café culture. This feels like Vienna, Paris or any great café culture destination in the world. You seat outside and you read poetry, tell stories and enjoy life. I think people here enjoy life.
What is your opinion about food and wine here?
It was surprise to find out that this is such a wine culture. And it is not well known. We spent some time in winery. What a magic experience. It was not like they were trying to promote their own product, it was national pride. My personal favorite was brandy. It was like a strong note of Napoleon and Churchill. I bought some to take home.
Why people travel and how travel changes the person?
Oh that’s a good question. I become evangelist when it comes to travel. Travel is transformation. We prosper and become better when we celebrate diversity of humanity and appreciate how much we do have in common and how much we all can bring to the table. We learn new things, there is an evolution of consciousness and we become better for ourselves. Travel moves the world to a better place. I think everybody should travel. More you travel more you understand the people we meet are the part of the global family. And as you would never want harm family member. Travel makes you kinder.
I can’t think of better ending of our interview than these words… Travel makes you kinder.
Travel more, get to know people more and be the part of our global family, that’s the only way to warm your heart with memories and unforgettable people. And please don’t forget to include Armenia to your list of destinations as we know how to make you feel like home and happy. See you in Armenia.