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Jetsetting with Jacada Travel’s Alex Malcolm

SINGAPORE — Back in 2008, Alex Malcolm recognised an increasing demand by travellers for a high-end insider travel experience with a personal touch. And so Jacanda Travel was born, an upscale London-based luxury tour company specialising in personalised, private-guided luxury travel to Latin America and Africa.

Alex Malcolm, founder 
and MD of Jacada Travel.

Alex Malcolm, founder
and MD of Jacada Travel.

SINGAPORE — Back in 2008, Alex Malcolm recognised an increasing demand by travellers for a high-end insider travel experience with a personal touch. And so Jacanda Travel was born, an upscale London-based luxury tour company specialising in personalised, private-guided luxury travel to Latin America and Africa.

According to Malcolm, he ensures that travel itineraries are marked by insider knowledge and specialised access by sourcing expert English-speaking “travel designers” who have lived in the destinations they’re recommending. As a result, no two Jacada programmes are the same, said the Brit. “The habit of travellers these days is that they want experiences that are local, authentic and heartfelt, not touristy, superficial, insincere.”

Q: Where do you like to travel to?

A: I always like new places, and if I am travelling independently, then I like to go somewhere off the radar. I went to a place in north-west Argentina, which basically borders Bolivia and Chile, where we drove for maybe 1,000 km. There was absolutely no phone signal and Wi-Fi anywhere. When friends ask me what it was like, I tell them the easiest way to describe it is Mars! Standing up there on a rock, I was looking around and there were hundreds of miles with not a single person or animal — that for me was one of the most magical experiences. And it was almost eerie how it was totally silent. A place like that, you’ll get so emotional you’ll shed a tear. But despite its remoteness, we were safe because our vehicle has a beacon that transmits information via satellite back to base.

Q: Which country has left the greatest impression on you?

A: It would be Rio, because I live there. I’ve lived there for two and a half years and part of the reason I am so attached to it is because it’s the first time that I have lived in another country. It’s been incredible learning about another country and feeling accepted there. The people are very welcoming.

Q: In which city have you felt your safety most threatened?

A: There’s nowhere where I felt too threatened. I’ve already had a heads up about places like that so I haven’t spent much time there! One example, perhaps, is Guatemala City, where, after arriving at the airport I just get out of the city and don’t spend time there. For our itineraries, we do send people to Guatemala but we don’t keep them in Guatemala City. On another note, people often have this concept that Rio is a dangerous city, but I’ve lived there and it’s not like that. It’s a lot safer than people think.

Q: What is the best way to delve into a local culture?

A: Definitely the people — even better when you can combine the people and food! Eating and sharing good food with other people. Have you seen those articles that talk about words that are untranslatable that mean something in the local language? There’s one in Spanish, which is “sobremesa”. In Spain, it means the time spent after the meal talking with your friends around the table. It’s a good word! And beers are a universal lubricant.

Q: What do you get asked most often?

A: “What’s your favourite place?” Even though I work in and travel to many different places all the time, I find it a difficult question to answer because I find it difficult to pick a favourite. An odder question I often get, and usually when I am leaving the country, is why I went there!

Q: What do you take away with you from all your travels?

A: I would say photography. I invested in a nice camera and am really enjoying that. The only problem is I bring back way too many photos — something like 20GB worth of them. And it takes so much time to go through it all.

Q: What do you find most challenging about your job?

A: In terms of travelling, jetlag. It seems to have gotten worse as I got older. I am not sure if this solution is working so far, but I try to match up my rhythm a few days before travelling, such as getting up earlier if I am coming to Asia from the West. It doesn’t always work though! But the one that really works is to get out in the sunshine at the place you arrive at.

Q: What do you always have with you when you travel?

A: An actual book, so I can still read it when I have to switch off all the electronics; a pair of pajamas so I can sleep comfortably on the plane; and moisturiser. I once used the one the airline gave and arrived with a horribly red face as I probably had an allergic reaction. If you are flying around in planes all the time, I think bringing a good moisturiser is necessary.

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