Chris Tharp and Jessica Finley are taking the road less well traveled in pursuing their career dreams.
Tharp was in banking. Finley was in marketing. Neither of these childhood friends were where they really wanted to be. Together they’ve found their niche: travel.
Co-owners of recently opened Pangaea Travel Consultants at 5490 La Jolla Blvd., Suite B in Bird Rock, Tharp and Finley now earn a living customizing vacations for clients wherever they want to go, near or far, familiar or remote.
“We’re a lot different than what’s out there on the market right now,” said Tharp, who’s traveled to more than 30 countries. “The old agency model is book an airline or a cruise. You can find the cheapest fares on the Internet. Or you can buy their (travel agency’s) package, and go along with 20 other people. There’s a huge delta in the middle for something not really out there.”
And what’s not out there, according to Tharp, is what Pangaea is now offering, a more personalized model, clients coming in and having a consultant really design something that fits exactly what they want to do, something that’s unique to their tastes and where they’re going.
Finley, who has been to 40 countries and especially enjoys Latin America, comes from a marketing background. But she’s done a lot of travel marketing. She and Tharp share a common ideal of what travel should be: That you need to be taking in more than just the scenery. “The other part of it is seeing the culture,” she said, “understanding the people, becoming a more tolerant person, getting a greater appreciation.”
Tharp and Finley work with clients, either in their homes or at their office, conducting 10- to 30-minute interviews with them getting all the details on what they like to eat, what activities they enjoy, what they look for in a hotel.
“Some people want to be pampered,” noted Finley.
“Some people want to take a backpack and explore,” pointed out Tharp.
The next step for the travel consultants is to come up with a travel plan, three different versions of the same trip. “We’ve got a network of different people, private guides and tours,” said Tharp. “We just work on it and get it exactly where you want it to be.”
“That’s the best part,” said Finley. “We give you three different preliminary options, what we think you’ll like, and you can pick and choose, really customize the trip, exactly what you want.”
“We put in all the research,” added Tharp, “reach out to the contacts. A lot of people don’t have 12, 15, 20 hours to put into planning their vacation.”
The business name Pangaea is derived from the one supercontinent joining all the world together eons ago before continental drift created the geography of the world as it is today. “It means the world together,” pointed out Finley, “which is why we have the world behind in our logo.”
The client mix at Pangaea has thus far proved to be just about as diverse as the world itself. Presently, the two travel consultants are working on a number of different trips for different groups. One is to Africa. Another involves a marriage and a honeymoon in France. “We have a French Polynesia trip going on right now,” added Finley. “But we have people with very different income levels, very different desires on what they want to do. We thought people would want to just go to Europe, but we’re really finding it’s just all over the world.”
Pangaea will consult with students who just want to backpack through Europe and need some practical advice. Or, if a client wants to rent a private jet and go around the world in 30 days, that, too, can be arranged.
One of the great things about being a travel consultant, said Finley, is that it’s an experience that can almost be shared. “When I’m working on a trip,” she said, “it’s almost as if I’m going.”
“We like to add some personal touches,” added Tharp, “send clients away with things that help them while they’re abroad. We go that extra mile.”
There is, however, a commonality on what people want - and expect - out of travel. “People want it to be an experience,” pointed out Finley, “whether it’s in the planning, or in some kind of really great touch, like, for instance, going to Argentina and wanting to go to an orphanage, have the ability to interact with the culture.”
“The common thing we see when they go away to different places,” said Tharp, “is they want to experience something they’re not usually a part of.”
Tharp is convinced there is a little bit of the explorer in everyone. He understands because he is something of a discoverer in his own right. “I try to go as far out of the way as possible because I want to see something outside my normal reality,” he said. “It makes me appreciate things more.”
Tharp pointed out there are nearly unlimited possibilities to be explored in travel itineraries. “The stuff I get really excited about is the new destinations people haven’t really thought of,” he said. “There is so much left to be discovered still, which haven’t been written up and overdone.”
For more information about Pangaea Travel Consultants call (858) 456-9566 or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.