Transparent Travel – The Only Travel Agency Left That Matters

Transparent Travel – The Only Travel Agency Left That Matters

transparent travel
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Transparent Travel – The Only Travel Agency Left That Matters

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How many of you remember growing up with pogs, Doritos 3D and  MTV actually playing music? Right around then was probably the last time we heard the prehistoric phrase “travel agent” as websites like Travelocity and Orbitz have made them all but obsolete. Well, thats not quite the case and we were thrilled to find out why. We recently met Giuseppe Catanzariti and his wife Chelsea Phillips, who together founded Transparent Travel, the only travel agency left that matters. We immediately had too many questions to ask them. Why in the world would you start a travel agency now, I thought that went out of style years ago? Well, we were happily surprised, gitty in fact, when we checked out their website and saw just what exactly they were offering. We were happy to sit down with Giuseppe and ask all the questions we could about the coolest up and coming travel agency out there.

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Latitude 34: Travel Agents are done right? Why did you start a travel agent company?
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Transparent Travelers: If the Internet has killed anything, it’s the traditional travel agency. When my wife and I were first talking about starting a company focussed on travel, we realized that there were a lot of ways we could go about it. As we had both travelled extensively and lived abroad for long periods of time, we had naturally worked with our fair share of travel companies – especially the big ones, like Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet. “Isn’t it interesting,” I said to my wife, “that with all the travel we’ve done between us, we’ve never worked with a travel agency?” We talked about this for a bit and we determined that it wasn’t as though we had gone out of our way to avoid travel agencies – they just never came up. After all, does it make sense to pay a third party to book flights and hotels for you when you can do that yourself, at no cost, in about three minutes, on one website?
And then it all sort of clicked: travel agencies don’t ever come up because, quite simply, traditional travel agencies are old-fashioned by their very nature – and not old-fashioned in the vintage, charming sense, but old-fashioned in the irrelevant, uninteresting sense. But, we thought, what if there were a new sort of travel agency – one that was web savvy, easy to work with, and run by people with an understanding of the way that people travel today? That was the light bulb moment for us – because, we realized, there was no reason why such a travel agency couldn’t exist. And so we started pouring our energy into what would become Transparent Travel – a travel agency predicated on a passion for travel, and a desire to make it easier for those who’ve always wanted to travel to actually be able to do it. Through Transparent Travel, we seek to reintroduce the concept of the travel agency to the 21st century, and, in so doing, we hope to bring consistent traveling into more people’s lives.

“People are the walking, talking manifestations of different cultures, and, at the same time, they are the core ingredient that go into making cultures in the first place. Not until one has travelled some can one fully appreciate the impact of this reality…”

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Lat34: With all the tour companies out there how do you provide something new and exciting?
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TT: The best metaphor I can come up with here is the home computer market in the early 1980s. At that time, you could buy yourself a computer, sure, but that computer basically had to come from IBM, it had to be exorbitantly expensive, it had to be gray, clunky, and designed to merely function rather than to excite and inspire. This is basically the landscape of the current market for group tours. While it’s true that there’s more than one option out there, each option is really only a very, very subtle variation on a theme. Huge travel companies will indiscriminately sell “tour packages” to about 50 people, get them all onto a bus somewhere, drive them around for a few days, have them all stay in the same hotel, and then send them back to their lives.
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At Transparent Travel, we believe that this is fundamentally the wrong way to operate group tours. We’re different because we never take more that 20 people in a group. This creates a more engaging, more social environment, and allows people to more easily make new friends – which, for us, is a huge reason to travel in the first place. Our itineraries are different that the other guys, too – rather than dragging groups through a laundry list of tourist attractions day in and day out, we show people the very best of each place we go. The small places, the charming pubs, the off-the-beaten-path sights and stops that really make a place unique. We also encourage free exploration, giving our groups far more time to do their own thing than other tour operators. Finally, we’re not in this to get rich. We charge the least we can realistically charge for every tour we conduct, and we always use donate a portion of our profits to organizations like Doctors Without Borders. Because for us, the reward of traveling to exciting locales with eager travelers of all persuasions is pay enough. At the end of the day, we’re passionate about traveling. And that’s really what makes our tours different.Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 12.32.00 AM
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Lat34: What are the most important life lessons to learn while traveling and when/where did you learn them?
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TT: This is the million dollar question. It’s actually difficult to articulate just how important traveling has been to us, and it’s even more difficult to distill the experiences – the laughing, the exploring, the friend-making – into little nuggets of wisdom – those who are similarly passionate about traveling will know what we’re talking about here. But if we had to sum up what we’ve learned through travel, it would have to be the simple, inescapable fact that people are people are people. And people have the miraculous gift of being able to become friends with those they spend time with, to become close with them, to become entwined in their fate.
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People are the walking, talking manifestations of different cultures, and, at the same time, they are the core ingredient that go into making cultures in the first place. Not until one has travelled some can one fully appreciate the impact of this reality. It may be trite, but we’re all brothers and sisters. We can improve each other, help each other grow, and make each other’s lives richer. We wouldn’t be who we are today without having travelled, and through this company we seek to make the experience of living and breathing different cultures accessible for anyone who has ever wanted to give it a go themselves.
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Lat34: What can you get from a tour that you simply can’t get traveling solo or without a group?
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TT: For some people, traveling solo just isn’t a viable option. We’ve loved globetrotting alone ourselves, but we know that not everyone is keen on that practice. Using myself as an example: whenever I was to embark on an extended solo excursion, I would often field questions from friends and relatives to the effect of “how can you do that yourself? Isn’t it unsafe? Aren’t you nervous? What if something goes wrong?” And I would have to try to assuage their worries and attempt to assure them that I would be fine. But what’s important here is that, for some people, the very prospect of traveling alone is unsettling and unappealing. The tragedy here is that some of these people may inadvertently pair together the idea of “dangerous solo travel” with travel in general, and then be disinclined to see the world for themselves. The structure, safety, and expertise that we offer through our Transparent Tours is just the kind of thing that a great many people are looking for when they decide that it’s time for them to finally take that big trip. We consider it a privilege to be able to bring travel into the lives of people who wouldn’t travel otherwise. Our tours are especially crafted to bring travel to more people, and to make that big trip as stress free as possible. That way, our groups can relax and fully enjoy the culture that they are experiencing.
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Thanks to Giuseppe and Chelsea for taking the time to speak with us. We are very excited to see where these guys go from here and hope to take a trip with them real soon. Keep up with that they are doing on their website and head over to their Instagram and Facebook and give them a like. Happy travels!
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jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to forget them all.

A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh.

Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!


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