(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, April 11 Travelers these days take it
for granted that they can journey to remote places like
Antarctica or the Galapagos, but it was one family, the
Lindblads, that helped make that even possible.
Famed Swedish-American adventurer Lars-Eric began Lindblad
Travel in 1958, and son Sven eventually took up the torch as the
head of Lindblad Expeditions.
Sven Lindblad, 65, recently talked with Reuters about what
adventurous travels can teach us about life and money.
Q: What was your first job as a teen, and what did you spend
that money on?
A: I worked in a safari camp in Kenya as a driver and
eventually as an assistant manager. Every cent I made went to
photographic equipment and personal safaris to other national
parks, particularly the Serengeti. Over the years, I saw so much
wonder: a face-off between a lion and a cobra, and wildebeest
crossing a river and being preyed upon by crocodiles.
Q: In developing such a unique business, were there money
troubles at first?
A: Most definitely, for two reasons. First, we made mistakes
as we learned about the challenges of building a business.
Second, capital was hard to get in order to expand, and when we
did get it, was costly. Once we got involved with long-term
charters and ship ownership, most of the capital came from
private individuals who wanted significant returns for the risk
they were taking.
About 10 years into the business, we were able to acquire
bank loans to expand, but all came with around 15 percent
Q: You are obviously a risk-taker in life. Does that
translate to your investments as well?
A: I have always taken the view that the best investment I
could ever make was in my own business. The only exception I
ever made was for real estate, but that was less an investment
than just a place to live.
Q: Does being in such remote places like the Galapagos give
you real perspective on the world?
A: Being anywhere where wildness still rules and natural
systems are functioning well is both a joy and a reminder that
healthy natural systems are probably the world’s most underrated
and essential asset. I will never forget at age 17 the first
time I swam with sea lions. The power and grace were
Q: With your philanthropic efforts, how do you decide where
you can make a meaningful impact?
A: We try to be strategic where our efforts can be leveraged
beyond the actual dollars. Our investments in teachers, for
example, and helping the experience we give them have as broad a
reach as possible.
Our support of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas program
allows us not only to support the creation of vast
marine-protected areas but also to create a conversation with
the guests about the importance of ocean health.
Q: Since you helped create a unique industry, do you have
any advice for young entrepreneurs about spotting the right
A: My advice to young entrepreneurs contemplating this field
is always to strive to understand that your real answers are
your guests. If you understand and respect them, you may be
rewarded for it. The common denominator is always curiosity and
a desire to explore, so we work tirelessly to put them in a
position to get that perfect polar bear shot or to take them to
a coral reef that is alive with fish.
Q: Since you are always off doing something adventurous,
what are your thoughts on life insurance?
A: Life insurance is important so that you protect those you
care about. I have come close to disappearing from this Earth on
numerous occasions - an encounter with a very angry elephant, a
face-off with a cobra, broached by a massive wave, and more.
Q: What lessons about money and life do you try to pass down
to your kids?
A: Be passionate about your endeavors, and be principled.
Talk to yourself in the mirror where you face yourself head-on.
You might or might not make a lot of money, but that is not
ultimately where satisfaction is derived. One of my sons works
with us, and he comes into the office every day brimming with
ideas. He is a great blend of explorer with business savvy.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Lisa Von Ahn)