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Using travel to build awareness, change perspectives, and promote conservation

At our 2019 team summit in the Galápagos Islands, our founder talked about the incredible things that happen to both humanity and our company when the explorer inside us all is awakened. He went on to outline how our company will achieve its purpose of building awareness, changing perspectives, and promoting conservation of the world’s natural and cultural patrimony.


In the beginning


To demonstrate how exploration awakens humanity, I’d like to take a step back in history … Five hundred years ago everyone thought the earth was flat … Then came the scientific revolution and voyages to unknown lands. Suddenly, exploration had awakened humanity, and we were captivated by stories from a new world. We began to use mathematics and numbers to explain our reality, and employed sciences like statistics that said, “while it’s difficult to predict a single event, it is possible to predict with great accuracy the average outcome of many similar events.” We could now use numbers to predict the future.

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man illustrated the great master's belief that "everything connects to everything else". 

Two hundred years ago, the Royal British Navy sent the HMS Beagle to explore the coasts of South America and the Galápagos Islands. A 22-year-old Cambridge graduate named Charles Darwin decided to join. Darwin, who ironically studied theology, was curious and believed the collection and analysis of empirical data could be used to formulate insights about the natural world … Through this process on these islands, he would eventually develop the Theory of Evolution ... And upend millennia of understanding that had attributed human creation to the work of the gods. Darwin challenged prevailing knowledge and brought the natural sciences into a new era. He used exploration and observation to awaken humanity.


Descended from a single ancestor, the genetic mutations experienced by the 13 species of Galápagos finch helped Darwin to formulate the Theory of Evolution.

Fifty years ago, and after four billion years of natural evolution on planet earth, homo sapiens made a cosmic feat. We managed to leave the earth’s atmosphere and step foot on another heavenly body, the moon ... When astronaut William Anders looked back at earth and took a picture of the famous “earthrise” ... For the first time, we could look down from the heavens, awakening us to the connectedness of us all. It was the pursuit of exploration and the use of numbers, in the most stunning fashion – a rocket ship – that moved humanity to a higher plane of understanding.

Earthrise was taken from lunar orbit by William Anders on December 24, 1968.

What is important to note about all these momentous times in history is that it was both the physical act of exploration combined with the use of numbers that awakened humanity ... Exploration and the use of numbers ... Two foundational concepts that drive SA Expeditions.


The digital revolution


Today, numbers arranged as a language, called programing code, represent something we call “data” that has sparked a new revolution, 500 years after the scientific one. The digital revolution has allowed us to catalog all the world’s information in your pocket … From what was essentially rocks, we built a network that exists in the clouds allowing us to transfer information almost telepathically in thin air. The world surely is changing!


It’s amongst this digital revolution in which SA Expeditions was born. The Economist magazine recently stated that all the world’s data is said to increase 10 times from current level … To almost 200 zettabytes (zb) by 2025. For those curious as to what a zettabyte is … It’s equal to a billion terabytes, or the storage of a billion home computers. Our Galápagos summit alone is creating oodles of data from all the pictures and videos we’re taking, and everything we’re sharing out to the world. This constant growth of information continually creates a portrait of humanity that will fuel the economies of tomorrow. Whether you want to sell hats or tailor-made expeditions to South America, data will be at the center of it all. It will allow us to engage with interested travelers more easily than we ever imagined.

If you think we're overloaded with data now, you've got another thing coming.

Eventually. though, all this transfer of information around the digital cloud becomes human interaction with someone with deep preconceptions about international travel and unique expectations for their investment in leisure.


What really matters


And so, as a result, first of the scientific revolution, and then of the digital revolution, we have this critical initial phase in the client journey that’s happening purely in the cloud.


It’s the next phase – when our clients send in a request form or call our phones – that unique human interaction and connection begins. It’s the moment when we demonstrate authenticity, efficiency, and expertise as a team of explorers – starting from the first email they receive, until the purchase of their trip, travel, and their return home.


Our Destination Experts know South America backwards.

And because of the effectiveness and measurability within the digital platforms that have been a result of these revolutions I speak about, growth through increased client leads is not our biggest challenge. The challenge for SA Expeditions is about how to build cohesiveness to solve ever more complex business problems, within a virtual, networked structure. As we scale up to fifty Destination Experts in the upcoming years and hundreds after that, this challenge will become even more acute. We want to reduce the number of transactions and the time we spend on them. We want to focus instead on higher-value activities that utilize our explorations, and our strengths to create authentic and “moving” experiences for our clients.


While SA Expeditions has only existed in the digital world, it has always been the human connection and our ability to harness this more effectively and authentically that will set us apart.


Our business structure


I truly believe that there’s no other travel company structured like us in the world, doing the things that we do. We achieve this through a network of explorers, ground operators, dedicated guides, and individual entrepreneurs from accounting, design, marketing, and content. We are a company that values the depth and quality of our network and don’t form our identity around our employee or office count. We thrive in the fluid and dynamic nature in which digital businesses and industries work in the 21st century. We don’t really know any other way.


What is paramount in this endeavor is not the technicalities in how the network connects, but the people who are part of it. We hope these days in the Galápagos Islands demonstrate our commitment to you as colleagues and as partners … And not a client and its providers. We are a new generation in which exploration, changing concepts of work, and openness have allowed us to chart a new path in travel.


Our purpose


Although, what is the purpose of this journey I speak about at SA Expeditions? The current  iteration of our purpose page on the web might lend some to think it’s about taking a long walk across the Andes … It’s much bigger than that though … It’s about the reason that we have all embarked on this journey together. Specifically, we want the aggregate of our work to promote awareness and conservation of the universe’s natural and cultural heritage. We want our economic engine to be used for the betterment of us all.


To explain this a bit more and give some specifics about how we do that … We create capital by bringing travelers to places like Machu Picchu, with seemingly unlimited demand via marketing channels like Google – and a destination facing significant threats from overtourism. We then recycle this capital to be put to use in expanding what say an “Inca Trail” means to algorithms on the web. As one small example, we believe that Peru, and its plethora of archeological sites, would be better served if the world imagined an “Inca Trail” as something that represents exploring the entire Inca empire, and not just 25 miles of Inca road on an overcrowded trail, to an even more overcrowded archeological site. We are striving to be a leader in the effort to redistribute travelers across a wider swath of the Andes and bring the benefits of tourism to more communities.


Our expedition team has trekked on ancient Inca roads in four South American countries and counting. 

We understand how our world engages with data and how a name like “Inca Trail” typed in a Google browser can influence entire sectors of tourism. In addition, our unique knowledge of having walked 4 000 miles of Inca road over four countries, gives us the ability to respond. And thus a response-ability to throw our hat in the ring in battling the scourge of overtourism … Yes, we are part of the problem by sending our clients to Machu Picchu ... But we will always strive to do our part in correcting it … By using our economic engine towards the promotion of communities, conservation, and awareness …. By shifting the perspective of the market.


And it’s not just the big ideas like walking across the Andes that makes a positive impact on such critical issues of our future. In the SA Universe we are all explorers first. It’s our ground operators that give us much-needed insight and help us avoid offering the local tourist trap. It’s our Destination Experts that craft journeys that awaken the explorer in their clients. It’s our guides, who use their creativity to give our clients authentic and emotionally moving experiences. It’s the designer, the accountant, the digital marketer, and many others that make up our economic engine. It’s all of these efforts, from all of you, that allow us to achieve our purpose in building awareness, changing perspectives, and promoting the conservation of the world’s natural and cultural patrimony.


We all make SA Expeditions a more responsible and a more human centric network … All in the belief that this will illuminate a better path for us as individuals, as a tribe … And as a society. So, dream big, feed your curiosity, and keep exploring!


About The Author: Nick Stanziano co-founded SA Expeditions and currently serves as its Chief Explorer. He is a dreamer and a thinker; someone who will always wonder at what lies beyond. Originally from California and resident in Peru for a decade, he straddles two worlds. He has a BA in South America Studies from the University of California and a trans-global MBA from Saint Mary’s College of California. Nick believes wholeheartedly that tourism has the potential to bring dignified income to the forgotten people of South America and the world.


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