A notification arrives on your smartphone. “Please be ready to leave your home at 5am tomorrow for the ride of your life! Don’t forget your camera and the breakfast picnic, which will be outside your door in the morning.”
Not everyone likes surprises of course, but at least two companies – the new upscale travel specialist Wix Squared and the even more niche Extraordinary Adventure Club – are finding that as ultra high-net worth-individuals become ever more accustomed to outsourcing the day-to-day organisation of their business and domestic lives, so holiday plans are something they’re happy to delegate, right down to deciding where to go.
An island off Komodo National Park in Indonesia, revealed on a Mystery Travel journey
Founded by Alex Wix, formerly an Asia specialist at Cazenove & Loyd, and her husband, James Wix, proprietor, among other things, of Riad Farnatchi in Marrakech, one of the lovelist hotels in the medina.
Wix Squared specialises in travel to 22 countries, mostly in Asia and the Middle East (though stretching to Australia and Iceland too). Its Mystery Travel service is aimed at those “with a love of the unknown, who simply don’t have time to plan” their trips.
All the company requires (apart from payment, obviously) is an initial telephone consultation to ascertain the budget and what “the client would hope to get out of their mystery holiday”, along with the lowdown on “their loves, likes and dislikes”. After that, you download the app for updates and are in their hands, so to speak. Just do as you’re told in terms of packing and turn up. Opt to fly private, and you need not know where you’re going till you land.
The Extraordinary Adventure Club offers an even more extreme version. “They never know where they’re going or what they’re going to do,” says its founder, former Royal Marine and logistics specialist Calum Morrison.
He organises “transformational journeys for personal growth” for individuals who want “to focus on becoming the best versions of themselves, fulfilling their potential, recalibrating and resetting the way they think about themselves.”
Exploring the wilds of Namibia with Extraordinary Adventure Club
Aimed at individuals «who have sold businesses perhaps for millions and don’t know what to do next, or want to take a sabbatical to explore themselves or have lost their way a bit”, the “bespoke, yet structured programmes” he runs last a minimum of six months (from £175,000) – not all of it spent away.
The “adventure” begins “with a conversation”, followed by a three-night trip to the Scottish Highlands during which you surrender your watch, your phone and your laptop, and your fitness and psychological strengths and needs are assessed, in order to plan the next steps.
These involve mentoring by assigned coaches, along with, if appropriate, therapy, fitness and survival training and potentially travel all over the world.
“They’ll get an envelope on their desk at home or at work,” he says, “containing a kit list and telling them to be somewhere at a certain time.” The final destination might be the Arctic, the Chad desert, the Central Asian steppe or the Amazon rainforest, “where they’ll live with an indigenous tribe”. You can forget luxury in the conventional sense. The idea here is “travel as a transformational tool to effect change” in the individual in question.
Husky sledding in the Arctic
“Going into the unknown gives them a real sense of anticipation,” Morrison continues. “Clearly it’s not going to be dangerous. But they want to be tested, challenged, so there might be a little anxiety or fear. But we know how to manage that.”
In terms of his clients’ motivation for wanting to engage in this kind of travel, he tells me, one had told him that though “he had worked his socks off for the past 16 years, he had no stories. For him success was about experience, but he had worked so hard, he’d lost touch with almost everything he valued.”
An “extraordinary adventure” enabled him “to reconnect with himself and the world”. It gave him something to look back on and – humans by their nature being a communicative species – to talk about.