At the peak of the current economic meltdown, the worst the world has seen in decades, famed Egyptian mountaineer Omar Samra s heart was racing as he prepared to break the news to his boss at the time. He was going to quit.
Ever since he graduated from college Samra, the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest, was a man of finance – at least by profession. A few months ago, however, he decided to take a turn in his career path and he started up his own travel company and named it after a tropical fruit.
Wild Guanabana, pronounced gwuh-nah-buh-nuh, referring to the South American fruit whose flavor is a close mix between strawberry and pineapple, is a locally established travel company that offers packages to unconventional destinations with itineraries that will take you from the peak of Kilimanjaro to Latin America s notorious festivals.
At Wild Guanabana, you can tailor-make your own trip to any of the countries on offer. The list currently includes Tanzania, Nepal, Peru, Brazil, Thailand, Tibet, Argentina and Costa Rica. Throughout his globe-trotting years, he has been to each one of those countries himself, and is now able to offer first-hand information about every destination.
What we are doing is creating experiences for people, in a way that is very creative, and in a way that is safe, without losing a sense of freedom, said Samra.
Guanabana trips are designed to guide travelers with a wander-lust to unravel the different layers of the countries visited. The idea is to bring together a group of people from all walks of life to experience the wilderness and directly interact with the local culture.
We are born for many different reasons, but one of them is to explore the earth, and through that explore things about ourselves, Samra explained, pointing out one of the pillars that the company operates on: exploration.
You have two options: you can join a group that is going for one of the set trips or you can tailor-make your own trip within the countries currently on offer. The staff at Guanabana will in both cases discuss possible activities to be carried out in your country of choice and guide you through what is more suitable for you.
There are seven set trips for 2010; three trips to Tanzania, two to Peru and two to Nepal. All trips are on a first-come, first-serve basis, with a maximum number of spots allocated for each trip to ensure safety and an overall group comfort.
Guanabana is like a spa in the world of travel agencies. Not only do they guide you through the kind of activities you will be doing during your trips, they will also pair you with like-minded travelers and prepare you, mentally and physically, to your journey with the belief that if these factors are secured, you are guaranteed to have an enriching experience. You will truly be spoiled.
Samra s decision to start Guanabana wasn t arbitrary; he found his passion for scouting the wilderness at the age of 16 after an adventurous trip to Switzerland where he experienced climbing for the first time.
It was when he met Dennis O Connor, a colleague at HSBC London, where he took up a job after graduating from the American University in Cairo in 2000, that his penchant for adventure was reignited.
Samra and Connor had regular get-togethers where, among other things, they discussed their passion for travelling. One day we ll quit our jobs and travel the world, they often thought, but we never really went beyond that.
At one of their meetings, on a map spread out, Samra relived a cycling trip Connor had recently embarked on, from Niece, France to Naples, Italy, with a backpack attached to his bike. With scribbles on the map pointing out the small towns he visited throughout his trip, Samra started visualizing his own trip.
After a short cycling trip to Spain, Samra asked to be transferred to HSBC Hong Kong, where he used every holiday to quench his thirst for discovering the Asian culture.
However, at the time, he was looking for more. When you are traveling for a week, two weeks, three weeks, you are only scratching the surface of these places, said Samra.
Samra was on a mission: save enough money for a year-long trip. And he did it. In 2002, he quit his job for a 370-day tour across Asia and Latin America, visiting 14 countries.
I saw cities, towns, villages, and mountains; I talked to people that I never knew existed, interacted with them even when I didn’t have the language necessary to; I went through jungles, I ate off trees; I made lasting friendships… This is what life is about. Samra reached the top of Mount Everst on May 17, 2007. After a hero s welcome at home and giving more than 50 motivational talks around Egypt, he felt the responsibility to share his experiences. For the first time I felt like I have an opportunity to make a difference, he recalls.
I think that you really measure a country s cultural advancement when people start caring about these things . Climbing mountains; going to the highest point, the furthest point, the coldest point, the lowest point; trying to be the fastest, the strongest . these are basically breaking the stereotypes of what humans are capable of. It s not like I m the first person in history to do it, but while I do it I am saying that as a nation we are doing our part.
Join the Guanabana adventure. For more information go to www.wildguanabana.com