Choosing the best tours and travel experiences around the globe is a pretty cushty job, especially when you love adventure holidays. We reckon Flight Centre’s Tom Grapes (who does exactly that!) has it made – which is exactly why we wanted to put him under our travel careers microscope. Come on Tom: make us jealous, we dare ya.
Okay Tom, let’s start with a bit of quick-fire: sand or snow?
I thought you said this would be an easy interview?! I love both but if I had to choose then there’s no fun quite like spending time in the snow.
Luggage: check-in or carry-on?
Carry-on! I put all liquids into 100ml bottles just so I don’t have to wait at those carousels for my bag. Generally it means I forget at least one thing as I try to cram everything into a small bag (beach towel last time), but nothing beats the feeling of walking past everyone as they wait for their bags to arrive.
Postcard or Facebook update?
Facebook is such a great way to keep in touch and share (read: gloat about) your amazing travel experiences. Only my nan gets a postcard from me these days. Having said that, I was in Cuba recently and internet access is very sparse. It was liberating to be away from the social media world for a while and not think about how everything would look with a filter applied.
How long have you been working for Flight Centre?
Around two-and-a-half years.
How has your career progressed in that time?
Rapidly! I actually started at Flight Centre in Corporate Traveller but quickly realised this wasn’t the right brand for me. Fortunately the attitude of the company is to work with employees to find the best career path for them, which is why I moved to the leisure side of the business with GapYear.com. Now I’m the Product Manager for our tour partners and insurance providers for all the Flight Centre UK leisure brands.
What do you love most about your role?
I love working closely with tour operators who are offering once in a lifetime experiences – be it walking the Inca Trail, spotting the ‘Big Five’ on safari or sailing in Asia – and bringing these to our customers’ lives. In my role I am tasked with thinking of creative ideas on how to share these unbelievable trips with our customers, then inspiring them to take the plunge. It’s all about enjoyment, fun and adding fantastic memories to people’s lives. What’s not to love?!
How many countries have you visited in your lifetime?
*Counts on fingers* *Gets out toes* Can I borrow a couple of hands please?! I think I’ve been to 37 across six continents so far, but I’d always say it should be quality over quantity. Spend time in the places you visit and try to do unique things there. I’d only count a country if I had some sort of brilliant memory I can share with friends and family.
What’s your favourite place on the planet and why?
I’m very lucky to have travelled a lot but I think the single best country would have to be New Zealand. I travelled with a friend around both the North and the South islands in a campervan for five weeks and everyday delivered something incredible. I bungee jumped over a gorge, climbed Franz Josef glacier, cruised Milford Sound, kayaked Abel Tasman, spotted dolphins and orcas and much, much more. The scenery, the people, the food and the activities all made it such a special trip. And to think it’s all packed into one tiny country! It’s so perfect for a two or three week holiday; people shouldn’t be put off by the long flight from Europe.
Where haven’t you been yet that you really want to go to?
I have an ever-expanding bucket list but I’d love to go to Burma (Myanmar) this year as it looks like a fascinating country and the new frontier of travel in Asia. I’ve also recently fallen in love with diving so I’d love to go to the Philippines and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. If it’s good enough for Sir David Attenborough’s final ever series then it’s definitely something I want to see!
Tell us about the best travel experience you’ve had.
I spent three weeks on a remote desert island in Fiji living and working with a local tribe. There was an eco-tourism and sustainability project happening on the island and, in exchange for sharing ideas and resources, we got to experience real tribal life including everything from ceremonies to cooking. It was so enlightening and a completely different experience to anything I have ever done before. It helped that it was on an idyllic remote island too! I think trying something new and different when travelling, whatever that might mean to you, will ultimately give you the most rewarding and memorable experience.
What’s your top travel tip?
Don’t be afraid to go it alone – you might end up missing out! I’ve travelled so much on my own before and met some great people and had amazing experiences. You get to do exactly what you want, when you want. And, if you feel safer with people, just get onto an organised tour: you’re guaranteed to meet a bunch of travellers who want the same things as you.
Last one: where are you jetting off to next?
I’m going skiing in La Rosiere, France, in the coming weeks and then Morocco to learn how to surf at Easter. I don’t spend much of my holiday time with my feet up!
Ready to launch your career in travel? Check out our Flight Centre Careers website today for a list of our latest vacancies. Or, if you’re inspired by all this talk of tours, speak to one of our Travel Experts about booking your adventure excursions today.