Wanderful Women: Lesley Ames of BonViage
Written by Delia Harrington
Excerpted from Interview with Wanderful.
Have you ever dreamed of starting your own business, or traveling the world? Imagine if you could find a way to do both! We were happy to talk with Lesley Ames, Chief Venturer of BonViage, about how she is doing just that as an entrepreneur in the travel industry.
Wanderful: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
Lesley: I was born and raised in Seattle and went to college in California. I developed my career as a graphic designer in Chicago, where I discovered one of the best things about the city is O’Hare, a major airport with regular flights around the world.
I have been traveling for over 20 years, from going to Alaska to work in the fish canneries for the summer, taking a 3-month sabbatical from work so I could live in Siena, Italy to learn Italian, and now more exotic places such as Myanmar, Galapagos, and Turkey.
BonViage started out of a passion for travel and realizing I learn so much about the world, its people, and myself when I travel. Looking back, traveling for me has not been about the destination but about the experiences, the local people I’ve met, and the new perspective it gives me.
Wanderful: What were you doing before BonViage, and what inspired you to make a change?
Lesley: My professional background is brand identity design and marketing, and I’ve been doing that for the last 20 years. For the last ten years, I have been running my own marketing and design business, Ames Design. Additionally, I am creating a second business out of my passion for travel: BonViage.
It is hard to pinpoint the inspiration, but every time I returned from traveling, there was something missing in my daily life. My cappuccino at Starbucks was not the same delightful experience as sitting in a cafe in Paris. I wanted to bring more of these experiences into my life and share them with others. I’ve learned that being able to share my passion with others is where the joy comes in.
Wanderful: What have been your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Lesley: Being an entrepreneur is a little like traveling. When you start a business, you may not be certain where the path is leading you. There are a lot of fears to work through, but you have to trust your gut and go explore. The biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur is breaking through my own fears and limitations.
Wanderful: Looking back, what advice would you give to other women looking to strike out on their own?
Lesley: Be open to the internal journey. Trust in yourself and in the universe that everything will be okay. There is so much uncertainty in each day as an entrepreneur that you need to get comfortable living with that uncertainty. Surrounding yourself with the right people and advisors to work through the roadblocks will help you stay confident as the path evolves each day.
Wanderful: Where do BonViage trips go, and how did you choose the destinations?
Lesley: Currently, trips are planned for Turkey, Morocco, Rwanda, Peru, Portugal and Italy. We are developing trips for Galapagos, Albania, Croatia and more.
I’ve chosen these destinations because I’m inspired to share them or I am curious to find out more. I approach planning a trip from a responsible travel perspective, so we try to identify meaningful experiences to connect to the culture and local people.
For example, our upcoming trip to Turkey integrates a self-development and wellness perspective. We will be traveling along the Turquoise Coast on a gulet yacht doing yoga. We will be exploring the highlights of Istanbul and the coast of Turkey and stretching inward as well.
Wanderful: Who would BonViage trips be perfect for?
Lesley: BonViage trips are great for adventurous women who want to explore new places. People who appreciate the authentic details that give character to a culture, enjoy the freedom to explore, and want the convenience of a planned itinerary with transportation, accommodations, and guides.
Wanderful: What makes the BonViage experience different from other tours?
Lesley: We keep our group sizes truly small (four to eight people). This allows us to get a table together at a restaurant, travel in a van instead of a bus, and get off the beaten path to connect to true local experiences. Travel connects us to locals that share a unique piece of their world with us, which is why BonViage is committed to using local resources to support the communities we go to.
Wanderful: Finally, what’s your personal travel philosophy?
Lesley: My trips are modeled after my travel philosophy: adventurous, flexible, eye opening, educational, creative and fun. I also seek out one-of-a-kind, sustainable journeys where I can experience the people, their culture, and a new way of seeing things.
Thanks so much for stopping by Lesley! If you want to learn more or book a trip, check out BonViage.
Learn more about the BonViage trip to Turkey this September
BonViage is headed to Turkey this September for a truly special adventure. The trip begins in Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman empire, boasting world famous spice markets and bazaars. Then, travelers will have a chance to nurture their mind, body and soul as they journey from Constantinople to the Turquoise Coast and inward as they explore, play and practice yoga for seven days sailing on a gulet yacht along the turquoise coast.
To learn more about BonViage and their unique trips, visit www.bonviage.com.