Linda Sergeant is a prime example that professional success comes from setting goals, hard work, and staying true to your beliefs.
After years of working in the travel, Linda realized that people wanted a more hands-on approach to vacation planning, something that the industry was sorely lacking at the time. She saw the opportunity, jumped on it, and in 2005, founded Far and Away Luxury Destinations, which specializes in personally-tailored experiences for clients.
Ask anyone who loves to travel, and they will tell you visiting new and far off places is all about the ‘experience.’ Seeing popular tourist sites and eating favorite local dishes are just scratching at the surface. Using her expertise and global network of contacts, Linda dives deep into a place to pinpoint its unique offerings, and matches them with her clients’ individual interests, tastes, and desires. They come away with an unforgettable experience that is life-changing and full of meaning.
With her passion for helping people see the world in new and meaningful ways, it should come as no surprise that Linda has a particular fondness for planning honeymoons. In fact, Far and Away has a whole branch committed to creating the dream getaway for newlyweds. Every detail is taken care of to ensure the honeymoon experience is romantic, stress-free, and complete with amazing things to do and see.
We couldn’t have been more thrilled when Linda agreed to take part in our Women Paving the Aisle interview series. Here, Linda talks about when she was first bitten by the travel bug, visualizing the perfect honeymoon, keys to making it as an entrepreneur, and the places on her travel bucket list.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Did you always have a passion for travel? Was there a particular experience during your childhood that made you want to see the world?
My mom recounts a story of me packing a bag when we were in Germany, I was 3 years old and snuck out of the house with a coat and purse filled with an apple and silver ware ready to see the world. Lucky for me, that was a safer time. My guess is that’s when the travel bug started… lol! Looking back at my younger self, I was fortunate to spend many summers in Italy and Switzerland visiting beautiful villages and experiencing the culture. I couldn’t get enough of these experiences and always looked forward to my return.
Before founding Far and Away, you worked for a travel company. How did you know that making the big move to start your own boutique travel firm was the right thing for you?
I loved working for my last travel company, they provided an amazing foundation for the type of leader and travel professional I am today. I wanted to make the switch into Leisure travel. The one big element I noticed missing with most of the “Mega Agencies” was the personalized services leisure travelers craved. I knew early on that gaining a client’s trust and building a relationship would be a foundation to turning their wish list (bucket list) into reality. At the time I was entering this segment of travel, very few focused on the travel “experience”. I kept noticing certain clients would ask for me specifically, and didn’t want to work with anyone else even after I became a supervisor and manager. Those relationships remained strong. I knew I could be successful by listening and following through. Referrals just grew organically from there.
As a luxury travel advisor, you plan bespoke vacations for your clients. Can you explain the planning process? What considerations do you make to ensure your clients have the ultimate vacation experience?
Having an initial meeting to discuss the wants and desires of all parties is a big part of the planning process. It’s a good time to discuss how the process works and I ask lots of questions to get to know my clients travel style, see where they have been, what they have enjoyed or disliked in the past. Once I understand all the perimeters, I can then begin pinpointing the very best options. I know exactly where to start and who the most reputable travel partners are to work with. I like to surprise my clients with some unique touches along the way. In addition to the special amenities provided to all Far and Away clients, there is typically a “wow experience” built into the itinerary. I recently had a family travel to Spain. One of their children is a big soccer fan. We surprised him with a private tour of the stadium that the national team plays in and provided a jersey of his favorite player. I’m working with vetted and trusted partners globally to ensure the best possible travel experience and that provides peace of mind! Taking the stress out of planning is of the utmost importance.
One service that Far and Away specializes in is the honeymoon. It must be exciting knowing that you are helping a couple celebrate one of the happiest times in their life together! As a luxury travel specialist, what aspects of planning for a couple’s honeymoon are most important to you?
Honeymooners are my absolute favorite. I always feel so honored and privileged to be entrusted with such an important trip of a lifetime for a soon to be newlywed. I make it my mission to ensure that this last piece to the wedding experience is well orchestrated. I identify the perimeters and create an amazing worry free travel itinerary that fits requirements. All the inclusions of private transfers, best possible accommodations with honeymoon amenities, dining reservations in the most romantic places, tours and activities etc..etc … If the option allows, I try to create at least one “special experience” that is unexpected but memorable during their travels. One that I love arranging for clients visiting Thailand is having wedding rings blessed by a local monk. The ceremony is very special and intimate, a real highlight for honeymooners. Prior to departure I’m contacting my reps locally, on the ground to make sure all the final touches are in place for clients’ arrival. Ensuring all aspects of trip run as smoothly as possible from beginning to end takes the stress out of planning for clients. I check in with partners along the way for updates so that I’m aware if anything is a miss so that I can correct timely!
In many ways, you are like a writer who is writing the fairytale ending for two people in love. Can you tell us about the creative process involved in creating the perfect finale to this part of their love story?
I love that analogy, though I do like to think of it more as the beginning of their fairytale…my hope is that I establish a relationship to last a lifetime. I’m thinking babymoon, anniversary travel, family travel and beyond. I want them to entrust that this will be the first of many memorable travel experiences. I am constantly looking for the most romantic and best destinations around the globe. I always check with both groom and bride-to-be and for their valuable input on how they envisioned their honeymoon! It’s a question I always ask, so that I can be sure to meet both of their expectations. Having experienced many amazing places around the globe, I know how to combine various experiences to give the right amount of down time and fun activity to balance the honeymoon and give everyone what they need. The biggest part to this is being a good listener. My end goal is to ensure the itinerary is orchestrated perfectly so their dreams are fulfilled!
How would you describe the dream honeymoon?
That will certainly be different for each couple. So many factors in play like destination, time of year, budget, amount of activities, travel style…etc…etc.. Ideally, if budget and time allows, I love an international combination of experiences. One that provides a little downtime up front to just relax and “be” for a few days. Then I like to add a fun cultural or active destination, then end with a some more down time at a more “wow” destination that offers possibly a little bit of both. SE Asia is a great place for a dream honeymoon. French Polynesia and Europe can also be fantastic choices.
Experiential travel has been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Has this trend influenced the honeymoon experience? Is there a particularly unique honeymoon you planned for a couple that you would like to share?
Yes, Experiential Travel is in full gear as well as the trend of Wellness Travel Experiences. I try and incorporate a little bit of both in each itinerary I create to keep it somewhat balanced when possible. Honeymooners still enjoying a traditional relaxing experience with light activities, while others are more adventurous. I have seen a spike in requests for far off destinations like Bali, Thailand and Vietnam over the last 5 years. A recent itinerary I thought was pretty aggressive had honeymooners starting off in Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Golden Triangle – Krabi. Balancing out luxury resort stays that offer amazing spas and dining. Planning activities at each destination, visiting key monuments, night markets, elephant sanctuaries (no riding allowed) and visiting hilltribe. The Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar connect is pretty spectacular in and of itself! Ending in Krabi, where The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed, for the unforgettable finale. Upon arrival, you are whisked by private boat transfer to your resort. Along the way every piece is meticulously planned so that the newlywed couple can arrive and simply enjoy!
What are the top destinations for luxury travel right now?
South America, Africa, SE Asia and Australia and New Zealand seem to be at the top of the list right now. Iceland and Cuba too, but there are not as many “true” Luxury Resorts in those destinations.
Your job requires you to travel around the world. Are there still any places out there that you haven’t been to and are dreaming about visiting?
Oh Yes! I go somewhere new every time I travel and of course my list is very long and continues to grow. Top of mind is Australia’s northern Territory. Most everyone knows about Queensland and its Great Barrier Reef. Many don’t realize Australia is the size of the US and it offers so much more to explore. There’s a special place called Longitude 131 with these incredible luxury tented accommodations outside of multiple World Heritage Sites offering some of the most beautiful night skies in the world. I had hoped to get out this year to experience The Field of Light, Bruce Munro’s internationally acclaimed art phenomenon, created from 50,000 bud-like stems. The installation blooms and appears to sway as darkness descends over Australia’s outback. I am hoping to see something equally amazing once I am ready to go. Of course, I would want to cap this experience with a trip to Perth on the West where apparently the Quakka lives (tiny Kangaroos) and some of the best beaches are to be found.
Also top of mind is Morocco, I am so in love with the idea of touring the markets and experiencing the culture with visits to lovely Moorish style five star resorts. I know these gems are waiting for me to discover their beautiful secret gardens and amazing spas, Morocco is known for their hammam (steam baths). Most importantly, I must experience the luxury Sahara Dessert Camp. After watching The English Patient many years ago, I can hardly wait to wrap myself in local wears, ride a camel and walk the sand dunes! Hopefully, to be checked off real soon.
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I am always learning about new products, new destinations that are undiscovered and where the latest or newest resort opening/development is happening. Meeting with vendors and colleagues as often as possible is a must to remain fresh and engaged. Most importantly, travel often. There is no better way to sell a destination then being able to experience it firsthand. I come back from my travel experiences excited to share what I have learned with my clients via social media or e-newsletters.
Do you have any advise for our aspiring entrepreneur readers?
As an entrepreneur I want to be the very best in my field and love mentoring and helping other become successful. With so much competition (yes, other travel agents actually exist) I’m constantly looking for ways to distinguish myself and evolve my business. I have 3 pieces of advice that can probably be applied to any business:
- Do what you love and have a passion for and it will come through in your work.
- Be true. Deliver on your promises because trust is a big factor in any successful business relationship and especially, in travel!
- Don’t settle for mediocre in yourself, in your business or personally! Be the best you!
Make certain to take great care of your clients and they will show their appreciation by referring and returning as in my business, for their next trip!
And of course we have to ask, what is your favorite flower?
Gardenia, remind me of my travel to Italy as a little girl. The flowers were potted on balconies everywhere.
Thank you, Linda! To learn more about Far and Away’s luxury travel services and destinations, visit farandaway.us