with Darshika Jones, Intrepid Travel

Open Jaw

Where were you born? In Colombo, Sri Lanka. My family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when I was 12 years old. I’ve been here in Toronto just four months now and can’t wait for the winter!

How long have you been in the business?  Three years. Before that I was always in finance – I have my B Comm and C.A. - at Deloitte, Hewlett Packard and then, still in Australia, for a Canadian firm called Agrium. But my downtime was always for travel, and I was an Intrepid customer for 16 years before joining them as head of finance.

Why Intrepid? I strongly believe in travel with a purpose: giving back to the communities we travel to.  Intrepid has believe in sustainability long before it became “trendy”.

How many people work for you? Here in North America, just over 50.  Around the world, we have 1,800 staff in 26 countries.

What’s the best part of the job? So far? I’d say an amazing, dynamic and passionate team. We have a huge opportunity here in North America. I do think the world is shifting more and more to our style of travel, with real experiences. Last year we enjoyed a 30% growth rate in North America, our fastest growing region.

What did you want to be as a kid?  I wanted to be a vet for a long time. But I did change my mind a few times!

What was your first ever job? Working as a supermarket cashier in Melborne.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?  Learning to scuba dive, because I was a non-swimmer so it was a challenge.  I had to call on all my reserves of determination and stubbornness!  It took me a very long time because I tended to panic.

Any guilty pleasures?  A few! I like a really good glass of red wine - and really nice chocolate.

What’s your favourite airline?  Most of my experience has been with Qantas, which I do like.

Favourite hotel chain?  I’m probably more of a boutique, small hotel person.

What’s on your tablet?  Music – jazz and good 80s and 90s rock music.

What do people not know about you? That I was a vegetarian for 15 years.  I changed back because I wanted to go back to a balanced diet with more variety. My first meal after 15 years? Seafood!

Any hobbies or interests? Apart from scuba diving, running, eating out. Toronto has an amazing restaurant scene which I’m looking forward to learning more about.

When were you happiest?   I’m very blessed. But I’d have to say going to Egypt, to Luxor.  I feel amazingly blessed when I travel.

What would you tell your 20 year old self? “ Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

What skill or talent do you admire in someone?  The ability to innovate.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?  I’ve been to 65 countries so I’ve been very fortunate...but I’d have to say Patagonia.

How do you spend your frequent flyer points?  On more travel (laughs).  There’s not a lot of variety in my answers is there!

What is your greatest extravagance? I brought my cat George all the way from Melbourne to Toronto and some would say that’s a big extravagance. George is a she, by the way.

How do you stay fit when you travel? I love to walk in cities or I hit the gym.  Fitness is very important to me.  It helps me stay sharp and energetic.

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be?  Michelle Obama. I’d be curious about her take on everything.

What kind of car do you drive?  I don’t drive here as yet, but I kept my car, a 2-seater Mercedes convertible, at my mum’s house back in Australia.

Do you have a favourite charity?  MCF – they do wonderful work in Kenya.

What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months?  Attracting millennials as customers.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?  I don’t know! I really like our ethos here at Intrepid…I guess it would be impacting people’s lives.  I know that sounds like a motherhood statement but you know what?  It’s true.

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