We recently sat down with Peter Lombard, the Founder of Insouciance Abroad. He started the company just a few years ago and has already achieved a great amount of success.
Can you tell us about your company and what you do?
My company, Insouciance Abroad, was founded in 2007 as a group travel logistics company. In short, we at IA work with groups of all sizes and types, including athletic teams, musical ensembles, church groups, mission trips, or corporate groups, in designing, planning, and executing travel both in the U.S. and overseas.
Your business has a unique name. Could you tell us where that name came from and how you came up with it?
“Insouciance Abroad” is a bit of a play on words. IA’s tagline statement, of sorts, is a quote from Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
This quote describes what IA is about, what we strive to do, and why we are so passionate about travel.
In addition to that, though, the word “Insouciance” means “carefree, without worries, relaxed, without concern” combined with “Abroad” to refer to the travel. The combination of these words sums up what we do – we provide travel and logistics services so that as groups travel they can enjoy the trip, be carefree, without worries, relaxed, and know that they and the details of the trip will be taken care of.
Can you tell us about your most recent trip and its purpose?
We have recently returned from a month-long tour of South Africa with two musical ensembles, the New England Youth Ensemble and Columbia Collegiate Chorale, from a University in the Washington, D.C. area. These two groups, totaling 85 people, are semi-professional student based ensembles and we took them throughout South Africa to Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and quite a lot in between.
The purpose of this trip was two-fold. IA forged a partnership between the University and an international NGO, ADRA International, to use the trip as a fundraising opportunity for humanitarian projects in South Africa. This trip was also designed to be in memory of the founder of the orchestra, Dr. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, who came from South Africa and whose dream it was to return once more to her homeland.
IA was responsible for establishing the itinerary for the tour; arranging the air travel and booking tickets; identifying and reserving housing; liaising between the groups and the NGO partner, the government, and all local contacts; identifying, booking, and managing all venues and performances; and handling all logistics in addition to the fun part of the trip which included extensive sightseeing around the country!
What were some of your greatest challenges?
Any trip with a group of this size and for such a duration presents challenges. On this trip, I’d say our greatest challenges involved handling expectations of various stakeholders, including the University, the groups, our partner’s headquarters office and our partner’s local office, and communication.
Going into this tour and during the months of planning, there were a lot of ideas, a lot of goals, and a lot of desires. Part of what IA does is determine what is feasible in terms of logistics, time, and finances. In this situation, we were looking for performance opportunities and when those arose, we had to shuffle the schedule to make it all fit. Throughout all of that, we were also negotiating our relationship with the partners and trying to meet their goals and needs as well. Fortunately, IA was able to prepare an itinerary that was acceptable to all the stakeholders but it did require negotiation and several site visits. Challenges such as these presented higher expenses to IA but, as with all our clients, we are committed to providing the best possible service.
Communication is always a priority for IA because we want to hear from our clients about what they need, what they want from the trip, special requests etc. and we strive to also communicate to them as we make progress on planning the trip or purchasing tickets or preparing itineraries. There were challenges with this trip in that there were so many people involved around the world that decision making could be slowed down if people did not respond promptly to phone messages or emails. As always, IA did our best, but there were definitely days that some of our work was on pause as we waited to hear consensus from the various leaders.
What was the most rewarding?
One of the things I love most about my work is helping people see the world, experience new cultures, and open their minds to new ideas and experiences. We traveled to South Africa with a lot of people who are not avid travelers so spending a month in a foreign country was a very new experience. The other side of that is getting the opportunity to share our world and our experiences and the groups’ music with the world. That’s a big part of IA’s identity and mission – to foster and enable those cultural exchanges, to help people see and appreciate the world and all the experiences and adventures available.
If you could provide any advice to fellow Business Owners, what would it be?
Pursue your dreams. Do what you love. It may sound cliché, but the truth is that if you are passionate about your work, if you are working towards a dream, if you love what you do, it is so much easier to put in the long hours, the financial and personal sacrifices that are necessary when you’re a Business Owner.