Travel Expert Brandon Presser Previews Bravo’s Tour Group [Exclusive]
I don’t know about you, but I would never pass up the opportunity to take a luxurious trip about the world. In Tour Group, 3 guides make it their business to make sure an eclectic group of 11 travelers have the experience of their lives. Will there be personality clashes? There certainly are in the first episode, but ultimately this series is a journey of discovery.
Last week I had the chance to speak to travel extraordinaire Brandon Presser. I asked about his motivation to do a show like this, the dynamics of the group and his favorite destination from the trip.
TV GOODNESS:Â What made you want to do a show like this?
Brandon Presser: “I spent about 7 years pretty much on the road writing guidebooks for a few different publishers, but mostly for Lonely Planet. During that time and a few years after, I probably worked on about 40 – 50 guides.Â I really developed a passion for enabling other people to travel. It was really important for me to go to a destination, marinate in that destination and put my ear to the ground, talk to locals, get a sense for how the destination ticks and convey that to my readers who are going to buy my book and venture to that destination hoping to have those real deal experiences themselves.
Buying the book was like paying a friend to go before you, to help you have the best trip ever. Because I really love the opportunity to enable travel for others, I saw this and TV as a greater, broader platform to do that, hopefully reach people that maybe may not consider travel in their life or may not be able to see themselves as being able to take a leap. So, changing the platform was really important for me.”
TV GOODNESS: What went into putting together this itinerary because it seems pretty amazing.
Brandon: [Laughs.] “Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re into it. I can tell you straight up that planning this trip actually took more time than taking the trip. For me it was really important to have a variety of experiences that would speak to each of my travelers.
Weâ€™re talking about the trip in two ways. Weâ€™re talking about the trip concretely: where are we going? And then weâ€™re talking bout the trip abstractly:Â what are the things we can do that are gonna give my travelers a wide variety of experiences and really enable them to see and feel different parts of the globe? So, part of that planning was actually getting on the phone individually with each of my travelers and interviewing them and getting a sense of what was going on in their lives what were they hoping to get out of the trip and then taking all that abstract information and turning it into something concrete.
So, someone wants to turn their life in a new direction, they have a fondness for animals. You start pulling things out like safari and animal conservation. You build the itinerary from there. You want your urban experiences, you want nature, you want water, jungle. You are making a giant world tour and you want all of those pieces to come together and for everyone to feel like something was specially curated for them.”
TV GOODNESS: When you were talking to the 11 travelers who went on this journey with you and feeling out their personalities, was there anything you thought you absolutely couldnâ€™t do or if they were resistant to something, did you think youâ€™d still try it but in a way that would make them comfortable?
Brandon: “Iâ€™m expecting people to be like, â€˜Oh. I would never go skydiving, letâ€™s say for example.â€™ And Iâ€™m like, â€˜Hmm. Let me put skydiving on the itinerary to see if that person can break that barrier.â€™ But over the phone everyone really did truly put their best foot forward and they were like, â€˜Iâ€™m up for anything. I want to experience everything.â€™ And, of course, when we started traveling that was not the case. But in the planning stages everyone seemed really open.”
TV GOODNESS: You say thatÂ travel is transformative and you want to help people find what theyâ€™re looking for during this trip. How does that play out over the first few episodes or over the course of the season?
Brandon: “Thatâ€™s a really important thing for me. Like I said before, I want to enable people to travel. When I have the opportunity to actually do guiding in this capacity, I have this great responsibility of having these people directly under my wing. So, I am doing the same things I would do for someone reading something that I wrote or taking some advice that I have. But this extra bonus is that Iâ€™m there for them in real time. I am this travel therapist, in a way.
People are traveling for a lot of different reasons. Iâ€™m there not only to bring them out of their shell, but confront difficult things along the way. I think that plays out in a really interesting way. Thereâ€™s some people I was traveling with that really bloomed, they really blossomed. There were people like, â€˜These are the things I know are my bad habits and maybe I can use this trip to help break them.â€™ or â€˜Iâ€™m really hoping to see the world and get some perspective on my own little life in my own little town in America.â€™ It was really surprising to see who came out of their shell and who didnâ€™t.
For probably the first half of the trip I was up every night, all night worried about my travelers, really invested that everyone progressed. And then you realize that not everyone is actually on this trip to have this complete transformation, but itâ€™s actually surprising who did.”
TV GOODNESS: Tell me a little bit about your fellow guides Rachel Grant and Sandhurst Miggins. In the first episode, it seems like you guys really get along.
Brandon: “Rachel says this a lot and it was interesting for the first few days of the trip. She kept saying it over and over, remaking on how the 3 of us are really different. She just kept going, â€˜Wow. The 3 of us are so different. Wow, Weâ€™re so different.â€™ I was like, â€˜Ok. I get it, Rachel. Letâ€™s focus on our travelers.â€™ Then halfway through the trip I was like, â€˜You know what? Rachelâ€™s right.â€™ Itâ€™s a pretty good observation.
We all bring something different to the equation. I plan the trip. [I’m] the trip architect. I had some time over the phone with the individual travelers, reached out to my personal connections around the world to book our chartered flights and book all of our hotel stays and take care of all those intricacies. Because I take on that group dad [role], itâ€™s great to have Rachel and Sandhurst there. Rachel brings a little bit of whimsy and Sandhurst brings the â€˜Letâ€™s get into trouble.â€™ I think you need that salt and pepper int he equation when Iâ€™m steering the big wheel of the ship like, â€˜Oh my god. Weâ€™ve gotta make it to the next port.â€™ Itâ€™s fun to have those two extra ingredients there to keep everything going.”
TV GOODNESS: And, finally, what was your favorite destination and why?
Brandon: “Thatâ€™s a really tough question. Thereâ€™s something to be said for the trip not working if you take one of the destinations out. Some of the destinations are really charged. You feel the frenetic pace of Bangkok. Some of the destinations are really relaxed like the Maldives where you unwind and travelers start looking at each other in a different way like, â€˜Oh. Is this a romantic prospect? What is this here?â€™ When you do give them free time, me and Rachel and Sandhurst got to step back. When the cats away the mice play.
Itâ€™s really interesting to see how all of the destinations swirl together to make this really interesting outcome. When you travel as much as I do, you fall in love with different elements of different destinations, so I feel like it would be unfair to pick one. I feel like Iâ€™d be cheating on a different destination if I pick one over the other.”
Edited for space and content.
Tour Group premieres Tuesday, March 1st at 10/9c on Bravo.
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