Debbie Clarke and her Partner Karen Lang have just set up a tour company New Zealand Awaits, with a focus on providing inbound tours to NZ for LGBT travelers. Debbie shares some of their journey here:
After many years of living and working internationally, from London to Japan to Hungary to the U.S, I’ve decided to follow my passion and have founded a travel company to share the magic of New Zealand with others.
In all the years I lived away, my appreciation for New Zealand grew more each time I’d travel home, which was usually every 12 – 18 months. Travel has always been in my blood, and I’ve travelled through more than 35 different countries, usually with a backpack on my back. It was those experiences of getting up close and personal with the locals, hitchhiking through the middle east in the ’90s for example, and being invited into people’s homes, that has really shaped who I am as a person.
You can’t travel and not be transformed in some way, shape or form, by what you see around you, who you meet, the stories you hear, and experiences you have. It all adds up and helps us see the world from a perspective different than we had before we left home. We all soon learn that we’re really interconnected, and while we may look and sound different on the outside, we are so similar and connected on the inside. It is these kinds of authentic experiences that I want to provide for my clients in their exploration of and journey through New Zealand.
So, along with my incredible wife of 15 years, we’ve both taken a leap of faith, resigned our positions as educators in schools in the U.S., and are diving into this venture head first. Karen and I met when we were working at the American International School of Budapest, Hungary, 19 years ago. We’ve since lived in London, working at the American School of London, and then back in Massachusetts in the U.S., where Karen is from, for the last 12 years. You know the saying, “Behind every good woman is an even better one!” (or did I just make that up?), well, that applies to us.
Without Karen’s support, I wouldn’t be following my dream. She is bringing home the bacon at the moment with her incredible tech skills (yes our website is amazing thanks to her) while I have spent the last 12 months travelling New Zealand, researching, developing relationships with accommodation and activity suppliers in New Zealand and creating the tours for next season. It’s impossible to put into words how blessed I am to have her in my life and to have her complete support in this venture.
We are both also committed to serving LGBT travellers and their friends. During my research over the past year, I’ve learned there is a need for small group tours for LGBT travellers. While there are a couple of tour companies in New Zealand who create customised itineraries specifically for LGBT travellers, I couldn’t find any New Zealand owned and operated companies that offer small group packaged tours for LGBT travellers who want the comfort, ease, and camaraderie of a group trip.
As a lesbian traveller myself, I have in the past been hesitant to join group trips never knowing who the other trip members would be and if I would have to deal with any overt or subtle homophobia (yes those travellers are out there too!). It’s the last thing any of us want to deal with when on holiday, right! It’s interesting as we’ve had some folks suggest that we shouldn’t be exclusive in serving only the LGBT community as it will deter other potential clients. Actually we’re not exclusive, we’d love to take LGBT friendly travellers as well. But we are very open and up front about who we serve so those who do not want to travel with LGBT travellers will choose to go elsewhere.
Our priority is providing a fun, comfortable and respectful travel experience for all our clients.
And when asked where we want to be in a five years, with the support of the LGBT community, we plan to be the #1 New Zealand owned and operated LGBT travel company in New Zealand.
So what are you waiting for? New Zealand Awaits!
New Zealand Awaits is part of the Women Travel Network – more Links here:
- Women owned and run Tour Companies around the world
- Tours for Women around the World
- Accommodation for women Around the world
- Women Local Guides
- Retreats for Women around the World
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