We’re celebrating a life behind bars (handlebars that is) with the newest member of the Grasshopper family! Say hello to Charlotte, Grasshopper’s new Chief Tour Designer, with the coveted role of crafting unique and immersive experiences into the Grasshopper tours you know and love.
There’s no “School of Travel”, so what does it take to be a world-class trip designer? To help answer that question we had a quick Q&A with Charlotte to explore some of her interesting travel experiences, and hear what she brings to the role.
Hi Charlotte, just as a quick intro, when you’re not designing exciting new adventures, what keeps you inspired and energetic, and gets those creative juices flowing?
Even though I’m based in Thailand currently, I have been able to find and join a women’s rugby team, which is great fun. Off the field I’m also a certified yoga instructor, and it’s safe to say that I really just love activity and sports in general! My partner Thomas, and young daughter Olive, are also an endless source of joy and inspiration in my life.
It’s no secret we love to talk travel! What are the top 3 destinations you’ve visited and what did you love about them?
Number #1, by far, Pakistan. The famous Karakorum Highway (KKH), one of the highest paved roads in the world, is also one of the most breathtaking routes I’ve had the chance to travel in my life. On top of that, the Pakistanis are generous, fun, respectful, and very very welcoming. They are so happy to see tourists visiting their country that you are often invited to come to their home or sit with them at a restaurant everywhere you go!
Not too far behind would be my number #2, the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is the second highest route in the world and, again, one of the most spectacular rides I have done. Cruising those harsh and challenging paths that used to be part of the ancient Silk Road, with the help of a modern-day motorbike, makes you feel very privileged, yet you are also extremely isolated at the same time.
My number #3 favorite destination would be Nepal. I lived there for 2 years, that’s where I started my career in tourism, developing hiking tours in the breathtaking Himalayas. That name used to resonate inside me in geography classes, dreaming of one day hiking those giant peaks! Nepalis are also one-of-a-kind, extremely sweet and curious people, always wearing their heart on their sleeve. Here’s a fun fact, the country is only 200 km from North to South, yet the altitude ranges from 60m to the highest peak in the world, Mt Everest at 8848m!
Part of your role at Grasshopper will be working with our local teams in-country to develop new tours. What is the most memorable adventure you have ever planned and taken?
One day, when we were living in Nepal my partner told me “I have this idea in the back of my head that has been tickling me for some time” before suggesting, “why don’t we travel back to Europe by land?”. I was so super enthusiastic about this crazy idea that I think it took me 30 seconds to just form a coherent reply - “I’m IN!” I said, and so it began…
We were preparing and planning for 10 months. Our trip was going to take us from Nepal back to France and Belgium on the back of two vintage Royal Enfield motorbikes. We took mechanic classes in a tiny garage in Kathmandu with our teacher/mechanic Ramesh who didn’t speak a word of English, and arranged all the visas and documentation to be able to cross 16 countries by land and bike, along with all the needed materials like spare parts & camping equipment.
Someone once told me “the most difficult part is the takeoff, the moment where you have to actually leave”, and that was true for me. But, once we were on the road the adventure really began, traveling overland from one place to another with no turning back was the most amazing feeling ever.
Like to see more of this epic trip? Charlotte has shared a video she made of the experience - see below.
That certainly sounds like an incredible and unique adventure! What is one moment or story from that trip which will stay with you forever?
When we were crossing the northern desert in Uzbekistan, my dear motorcycle decided to take a little break. Luckily, on this endless and empty road, we were able to stop a truck relatively quickly, and they towed our bikes (and us) to the nearest mechanic, a whole 3 hours from there!
We then spent a further three nights in the middle of nowhere with wild camels as neighbors. We were so isolated that we had to rely completely on the local mechanic and his family, who invited us to stay at their home and sleep in their guest bedroom (see open-air guest bedroom below). Although we couldn't communicate in the same language, we still had one of the best moments sharing a tiny piece of our lives with those welcoming people.
I have such beautiful memories of that part of the world which is, in my opinion, underappreciated. Those ancient routes and the people who call them home have so many beautiful stories to tell, we just need to venture out and find them.
You have been busy reviewing the Grasshopper tour lineup. Which one are you most likely to join first?
Japan has always intrigued me in a lot of ways: its uniquely modern and futurist culture intertwined with ancient traditions, like their bathing rituals and passion for karaoke. Also, food is always a very important part of my travels and Japan has a lot to offer for the inquisitive stomach! Cycling the Shimanami Kaido and immersing myself in the local culture are definitely both a must on my to-do list, so this tour ticks all the right boxes.
Grasshopper Adventures’ tours have their classic signature touches, but what personal touch would you like to bring to your tour design?
I will be doing my best to express my passion for authentic encounters with the country and communities when designing tours, as well as making each a distinctive adventure, a unique story that our guests can experience firsthand.
I believe those are elements that create the best memories!
Thanks for your time Charlotte, we know you are busy with the current tour lineup as countries and regions re-open, but we also can’t wait to see what new adventures are in store!