Tourists collect souvenirs -- spoons, t-shirts and duty-free booze -- on their annual vacations. Nomads collect stories and cultivate friendships in their frequent travels. They savor their experiences -- discovering a tranny bar in Istanbul or sleeping under the stars in Hasankeyf on the Tigris -- and have more friends in foreign lands than most people do in their own neighborhoods.
Danny and Piia are nomads. They met 20 years ago in Rome on one of those work-to-sleep arrangements favored by travel-hungry students with limited budgets. In exchange for volunteering labor at a work project, they received food and modest accommodations during their stay in Italy's capital city. Danny didn't like Piia at first-- thought she was the most boring person he'd ever met -- but, by the end of the trip, they were spending more and more time together.
Immediately after Rome, Danny decided to visit Piia, a Finland native, in New York. As if by fate, they accidentally ended up on the same flight from Helsinki to New York. Soon Piia visited Danny in Belgium and Danny came to see Piia on one of her yearly visits to Finland. Before long, they started traveling together. In 2010, they co-founded 1001Worlds, a boutique tour company committed to nurturing the nomadic spirit in anyone open-minded enough to believe that there is more to travel than ticking off items on a tour guide must-see list.
From Travel Buddies to Tour Guides
If you want to see -- and feel -- the world less traveled, we're the tour guides for you. We meet interesting people everywhere we go and bring our nomadic spirit to every destination.
Some of our best adventures have been born of unfortunate circumstances. On a scouting trip to Uganda, for example, we suffered three flat tires in a desolated area. But we still ended up sleeping with hippos in Murchison Falls National Park and went chimp trekking the next day in the Budongo Forest. If it weren't for delays caused by the flat tires, we would have missed the chimpanzees, an encounter that makes our list of all-time best travel experiences.
In Tbilisi, Georgia, a highly recommended restaurant was closed -- but filled with people -- when we arrived. It was closed for a wedding, we were told. Disappointed, we prepared to leave, but someone invited us to the reception. The official guests embraced us, the wedding crashers, and we dined, danced and drank the evening away -- and attended an after-party as well.
We thrive on this kind of spontaneity and strive to accommodate it in our carefully planned trips. We visit places in advance to iron out the kinks (we now know to rent better cars in Uganda) but keep our itineraries flexible enough to allow delightfully unexpected experiences.
We organize group trips that feel like just-for-you vacations. How?
For starters, our groups are always small -- 5 to 10 people -- and we stay in locally-owned boutique hotels or upscale B&B's. Most important, we listen to the group's wishes before we embark on a trip.
Our trips offer the benefit of traveling with others and meeting new people, while escaping the cheap mass herd mentality that has come to give group travel a bad name. We also know it’s important who you travel with. That’s why we have a Facebook group for each of our destinations, where you can interact with the already signed-up travelers before deciding to join. After joining a group, you can share ideas and wishes and get to know each other before the trip. You'll know whether your fellow travelers share your taste in music, dining and drinking. You'll know whether they'd find it fun or frightening to spend the night in the nearly deserted Hotel Palmyra in Baalbeck, Lebanon and whether they'd enjoy visiting a camel market in Daraw, Egypt.
Our aim is for you to find ideal travel mates for your trip and to enjoy the kind of friendship we've had the past 20 years. Although we didn't click on our first encounter in Rome, we quickly became best friends and travel buddies. Together we've climbed a volcano in Costa Rica, camped on the Norwegian shores of the Arctic Sea, danced at a nightclub in Kigali, Rwanda, and bathed in a waterfall in Palenque, Mexico.
At some point, during our first, magical visit to Syria in 2009, we understood that besides feeling passionate about traveling, we're also good at it: Somehow we find the best non-touristy cafes, bars and restaurants and end up hanging out with fun locals. We started 1001Worlds in order to help others widen their horizons and get the most of their trips.
We hope to see you at one of our destinations!
||Piia, a true nomad, has visited 60+ countries and has lived in 6. Originally from Finland, she studied theatre, did some playwriting and directing, and lived 20 years in New York City, where she taught freshman writing at New York University and Theatre Studies at Barnard College. She recently moved to China to join NYU's faculty on its Shanghai campus. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from Rutgers University. Besides traveling and learning about other cultures, she loves good food & wine, cooking, movies, dancing to electronic music and playing bass. She is determined to one day learn Arabic. Piia has been to Burning Man festival in Nevada 3 times: feel free to call her a burner.
||Danny started traveling at age 17 and never stopped, always eager to meet local people and experience different cultures. He studied Geography and Anthropology, the best choice for an avid traveler. He worked as a tourguide since 2002 and trained and selected tourguides for a Belgian company. 5 years ago he decided to go on a sabbatical to explore the Middle East and the Caucasus. Meanwhile he co-founded 1001Worlds, following his dream to promote this region that is unrivaled in hospitality. Half a year ago, Danny moved to Berlin, one of Europe’s most creative and innovative cities.