Travel Experts Alliance

When you travel the world in search of authenticity, culture and tradition, you come to expect a certain standard of excellence from those you choose to guide you through the experience. When a professional exceeds that standard, they attain a new level of distinction. Each of the individuals below are specialists in their region of the world: they have garnered multiple nominations and awards for the quality of their work and the level of their commitment to the preservation of the Earth, her people and resources. They have contributed long hours, sweat, and the uniqueness of their particular creative processes to ensure that your journey exceeds your expectations, allows the region they operate within to retain its cultural significance, and keeps the impact on the local environment minimal. When you choose from among the Travel Experts Alliance, know that the trip of a lifetime they propose will truly be an exceptional adventure.

Jalsa Urubshurow

Nomadic Expeditions

Specializing in Mongolia

A pioneer in environmental conservation through for-profit sustainable tourism initiatives, Jalsa Urubshurow’s story began in 1952 when his parents immigrated to the US after a seemingly endless search for safe haven from Stalinist persecution in Russia. Born on the other side of the world from his ancestral heritage, Jalsa grew up speaking Mongolian and listening to the legends his father recited to him. Jalsa fought his way toward a hugely successful career as a carpenter, founding a framing business in 1989 which grew into one of the nation’s leading framing contractors. The company was eventually awarded the National Housing Quality Award, the highest honor given to any trade contractor.

One year after the establishment of his framing business, Mongolia transitioned to democracy, and Jalsa’s dream of visiting his father’s homeland became a reality. During his first exploration of Mongolia’s astounding beauty, the nation’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, His Excellency Dash Byambasuren, recruited him to advise on expanding accessibility to Western travelers. Jalsa eagerly took up the challenge, and Nomadic Expeditions became a full-fledged operation in 1992.

Two decades later, Nomadic Expeditions has become the premier tour operator for the region and a strong force within the sustainable tourism sector. From introducing this unique type of travel as an alternative source of income to the country’s infrastructure to creating and maintaining the Three Camel Lodge, the Gobi Desert’s only luxury eco-lodge focused on the preservation of the region and its inhabitants, the company has seen significant growth in the areas it calls home. As an operation Nomadic Expeditions has garnered multiple awards over the years, including National Geographic Adventure’s Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth in 2009 and Jalsa himself as Condé Nast Traveler’s only Top Travel Specialist for Mongolia for six consecutive seasons (2008-2013). The company continues to grow and expand, adding several trips a year to new and exciting destinations.

Jalsa’s continued exploration of Mongolia, especially now through the eyes of his son, have brought him great joy and an enduring desire to engage others personally in initiating and developing sustainable practices wherever they travel. A co-founder of the North America-Mongolia Business Council (NAMBC), a non-profit organization comprised of the CEOs of American and Canadian corporations active in Mongolia, Jalsa and his colleagues are dedicated to expanding bilateral economic, investment and trade relations between Mongolia and North America. He has also previously served on the board for the Bodhi Tree Foundation, and continues to support numerous charities and nonprofits around the world.

Cherri Briggs

Explore, Inc.

Specializing in Africa

Cherri Briggs, EXPLORE INC, spent much of her youth on a remote cattle ranch in Nevada. Perhaps this “wild and free” childhood catalyzed her zest for adventure and respect for indigenous people. After almost twenty years of combing the African continent, from crossing the Bayuda Desert of Sudan to luxuriating in the elegant hotels of Cape Town, she remains committed to offering incomparable African travel experiences to her clients, and continues to personally seek the ultimate in adventure travel for herself.

Beyond the love of exploration is a strong commitment to utilizing her travels and her business as a tool for supporting projects which preserve conservation and help local people across the continent.

“For at least half the year we are based in Africa. Part of that time is spent looking for exciting new places for our clients to visit and making sure the old ones are still great. This distinguishes our product from the competition as we are always up to date, and my staff visits Africa every year. I founded EXPLORE as a result of my involvement in conservation of wilderness and preservation of indigenous cultures and have found that giving people an experience that changes their lives can also change the lives of others whose lives may not be as fortunate.”

Cherri and her husband have a home in Maun, Botswana, and recently purchased a large piece of land on the Zambezi River near Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, which is being utilized as a base from which to facilitate the training of local people in wildlife conservation, anti-poaching, and other skills that will create employment and discourage poaching. As one of the founders of the Lower Zambezi Conservation Trust they are working with member lodges in the area, advisors at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other conservation groups to help develop this new protected area which will serve the local community, tourism and wildlife.

Cherri is a member of the Explorer’s Club, a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide. Her passion for exploration was best exemplified in the expedition she organized and led in 2003, which was the first descent of Mozambique’s 450-mile Lugenda River. When not in Africa she operates from Explore headquarters in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

She has guided National Geographic through Sudan, Conde Nast Traveler through Botswana, Outside Magazine through Mozambique, Town and Country through Namibia and CNN down the Zambezi River. EXPLORE has been the recipient of the Top 100 Agents Award by Conde Nast for the past ten years.

Mei Zhang

WildChina

Specializing in China

Mei Zhang is Founder of WildChina, a Beijing-based premium sustainable travel company offering distinctive, ecologically sensitive journeys to all corners of China. A native of Yunnan province in southwest China, Mei earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company until she found her true passion in sustainable travel.

Mei started WildChina in 2000, inspired by the clash she perceived between economic development and conservation of both nature and culture in Yunnan. She strongly believed that there was a solution to this: providing a sophisticated interpretation of Chinese culture and nature, and therefore creating experiential travel that was unheard of in China. She built WildChina on the mission to assist travelers to experience China differently.

Today, WildChina is an award-winning tour operator that creates bespoke trips highlighted by rich personal interactions and superior access to experts and venues. Travel to China goes beyond a glimpse of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Warriors. It’s about understanding what you see. A skyscraper surrounded by a multitude of cranes is an opportunity to learn about the vast differences in the lives of the migrant worker who is operating the crane and the young couple who will soon live in the skyscraper. Travel to a remote corner of one of China’s provinces is having the chance to share a cup of tea with a local Yi shaman in his home, and listen to his stories of learning the centuries-old practice from his father.

Andrea Ross

Journeys Within

Specializing in Cambodia

In 2003 Andrea moved with her husband Brandon to Cambodia where they started Journeys Within Tour Company and B&B. In the last seven years Journeys Within has also set up additional offices in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, meaning that any Journeys Within trip includes Journeys Within drivers, guides and experiences throughout.

Andrea has been on the Wendy Perrin Conde Nast expert list for Cambodia, Thailand and Laos for the last four years and takes her role as a regional expert seriously. She lives in Cambodia for more than half of the year and travels extensively through Southeast Asia to make sure the guides, drivers and hotels used by Journeys Within are up to standard. She loves to find new and unique trips, hotels and experiences for her guests.

Since starting the tour company Andrea has focused on philanthropic travel and the idea that travel can change the world and she is a volunteer executive director for Journeys Within Our Community (www.journeyswithinourcommunity.org), a non profit organization she and Brandon founded in 2005.

Journeys Within can arrange tours around guests interests, time and budget and each tour is tailor-made for the traveler. Andrea is a great source of information for the region and is always happy to answer questions and give advice.

March 6, 2011: LA Times article “Beyond Angkor, Cambodia, a Khmer kingdom emerges from the jungle

Sanjay Saxena

Destination Himalaya

Specializing in India

Sanjay Saxena was born in New Delhi, India. The son of a Brigadier General in the Indian Army, Sanjay has lived all over India and traveled extensively across Asia. He began mountaineering and rock climbing in the high Himalaya at age fifteen, after successfully completing mountaineering courses from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, India.

A professional guide since 1979, Sanjay has led countless groups trekking, climbing, touring and safaris to Tibet, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Venezuela, Iran and of course throughout India. In January of 1992, David Breashears and Sanjay co-led the first western descent of the Brahmaputra river in India. The 250-mile white water rafting trip was filmed for the BBC series “Classic Adventures,” and was shown in North America by Arts& Entertainment. In 2001 he led the first western group to journey overland from Kunming to Lhasa along the “southern road.” Despite all of the “office work,” Sanjay still finds the time to personally lead between two and four expeditions every year.

Sanjay’s deep, insider’s knowledge of his homeland together with his talent for creating unique itineraries to traditional and remote destinations, make him one of the travel world’s top-ranking India and Tibet specialists. For 11 consecutive years (2003 – 2013), he has received Conde Nast’s “Top Travel Specialist” award for his exemplary work in South Asia, specifically India, Tibet, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Under his leadership Destination Himalaya has also been chosen by National Geographic Adventure for one of the “Best Outfitters on Earth” Award.