Today we’d like to introduce you to Damon Corkin.
Damon, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Simply put, it started with a passion for travel. Traveling and having spontaneous, authentic interactions with people from other cultures has always intrigued me. When I was little, my mother traveled frequently for her work to attend conferences around the world. On many occasions, she took me along and extended her time after the meetings so we could explore the host countries.
When I was 8, she took me to Montreal, and I vividly recall how impressed I was when I witnessed bilingual children my own age effortlessly switching back and forth between French and English, speaking the languages almost simultaneously. I was envious and thought it would be so cool to be able to speak another language. When I was a teenager we ventured out further. From riding horses into the ocean in Cape Tribulation, Australia, and mounting donkeys up the Island of Santorini, Greece, and eating Jamón Serrano in Granada, Spain with the Alahmbra as our backdrop, to talking to a local pilot on a shaky puddle-jumper flight from Tahiti to the French-Polynesian island of Moorea, the adventures with my mother were priceless. These journeys gave me a deep appreciation for what I had at home, and sparked intense curiosity to keep on traveling and exploring wherever I could. In short, I had the travel bug.
Later in high school, when two of my science teachers offered a trip to the Andes Mountains and Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, it was a no-brainer, I leaped at the opportunity to travel to South America for the first time. After arriving in Quito, the capital city, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Ecuador is very a special place. It’s one of the smallest countries in South America, tucked in the northwest corner, yet it boasts more biodiversity than almost any other place on earth. I was in complete awe watching massive snow-capped volcanoes in the Andes give way to verdant tropical forests as we descended into the Amazon basin. It felt like we had traveled to a different planet in just a matter of hours. As we journeyed through the country, I was equally struck by the warmth and friendliness of the Ecuadorian people. Our new Ecuadorian friends, including our local guides, drivers, artisans, and other people that we met along the way, made us feel right at home, and were truly curious about us. I had one year of beginner Spanish under my belt before this trip, but never dared to use it outside of the classroom for fear of making a mistake. In Ecuador, these inhibitions were immediately trumped by my eagerness to communicate with our new friends. I quickly discovered how fun it was to speak another language in a foreign land, and how much more I could learn interacting with people while speaking the local language. After this trip, I was determined to keep studying Spanish in school, and I hoped to return to Ecuador one day.
I earned a degree in International Spanish for the Professions at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and like many college grads, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I had a love and passion for travel so I moved back to my hometown Boston, and began a career in the travel industry. I designed language and cultural immersion programs for a prominent educational travel company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before changing gears and directing Mount Kilimanjaro expeditions with a Boston-based outfit, which led me to summit of Africa’s highest peak on two occasions. Despite having an amazing job with lots of travel perks, and living in one of the coolest cities in the U.S., my travel bug, particularly my passion for Latin-America, starting brewing up again. In Boston, I was going to Thursday Salsa nights at a local nightclub to practice my dance moves, and I immersed myself in Colombian culture eating delicious food at the restaurants in East Boston, but it just wasn’t enough. I didn’t want my passion for speaking Spanish and Latin America cultures to be only a hobby anymore. I was ready for a big move.
It was finally time to go back to Ecuador. I wanted to return to Latin America and Ecuador was still calling me. Over ten years ago, I packed my bags, bought a one-way ticket from Boston to Quito, Ecuador, and never looked back. I moved to Ecuador with the intention of exploring a country that I had only scraped the surface of years earlier. Shortly after moving to Ecuador, I met my wife, Angela Veliz-Corkin, who is from the coast, and we hit it off instantly.
Driven by the desire to share our passion for the people, culture, and fragile ecosystems of this beautiful region, Angela and I founded Andean Discovery. We started coordinating trips from our Quito office, which continues to serve as our regional base of operations. In 2011, we moved to Boston–with our then 3-year-old daughter–to open our U.S. headquarters.
Our goal was to collaborate more closely with North American travelers and organizations to develop authentic travel programs that cater specifically to our guests’ interests, schedule and budget. Building on more than a decade of experience in the region, our programs reflect the places we know and love best – from the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu and the bountiful rainforests of the Amazon, to the wildlife wonderland of the Galapagos, and colorful Kichwa communities in Otavalo.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think smooth would be the last adjective I would use to describe the journey of Andean Discovery. Running a travel company in a developing country certainly keeps you on your toes. The amount of bureaucratic red tape that needs to be gotten through to complete day-to-day tasks for the normal functioning of the company took some adapting and lots of patience.
Fortunately, my wife is Ecuadorian and we work with many amazing and bright local Ecuadorians on our team to help us navigate situations that arise on the ground. One bump in the road for Andean Discovery was enduring the 2010 attempted coup d’état in Ecuador, in which the National Police sparked an uprising against the National Parliament and blockaded Quito’s International Airport.
President Rafael Correa was forced into hiding in a local hospital and we watched on TV, in despair, at what we thought might be the fall of the government. Fortunately, the government did not collapse, and we did not have any groups traveling at the time, but due to the international media attention and perceived instability, we had several cancellations and a lot of explaining to do for groups who were still willing to travel to Ecuador at the time. As we say in Boston, it was a total nail bitah!
Please tell us about Andean Discovery.
Andean Discovery offers couples, families and organizations, personalized adventures to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Amazon rainforest, and other key destinations in South America. With our U.S. headquarters in Massachusetts, and local offices in South America, we directly coordinate all aspects of our trips from start to finish, ensuring our guests a seamless travel experience. We are truly with them every step of the way. We take care of all the details so they can be free to enjoy each and every moment of the trip, without worrying about the next logistic.
Our intimate understanding of the Andean region, developed over years of living, traveling, and exploring in South America, has inspired us and shaped our lives. We are passionate about sharing that adventure with others, and in this spirit, we invite all travelers to come to South America and Experience Our Home as Yours.
Our model is simple. Focus on a few destinations, and do them really well. Unlike many travel companies that offer 10, 20 or even 50 destinations around the world, we specialize in this small pocket of South America and our passionate staff lives and breathes the Andean experience daily. We customize our trips to fit our guests’ interests, their curiosity, and their travel style, and we love taking them off the beaten path to pristine locations and authentic interactions with locals.
We understand that a guide can make or break a trip. Because my wife and I also own the local operations in South America, we handpick our guides, who are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their land with our guests. In addition, they are wonderful individuals whose primary concern is the safety and comfort of our guests. We pay our guides very well because they are the most educated, they speak excellent English, and they have been a part of the Andean Discovery family for years. They are the lifeblood of our organization and our travelers are in good hands from start to finish.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
One of my favorite childhood memories was traveling with my father to a real working family ranch in Montana. For a week we rode horses, maintained and repaired sections of fencing, and learned how to throw a rope lasso. It was so much fun having meals with the local cowboys, riding alongside them to help them with their daily chores, and experiencing the amazing landscapes of the wild west.
- Our 8-day Galapagos Discovery trip starts at $2,290 per person plus airfare (based on a group of 4 travelers.)
- Our 12-day Galapagos Cruise & Machu Picchu Tour is from $4,990 per person, not including airfare. This trip boasts a 4-night/5-day cruise and two nights in the Sacred Valley before traveling to Machu Picchu.
- Our 10-day Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge & Machu Picchu Tour is from $3,590 per person
- Address: 339 Boston Post Rd.
Sudbury, MA 01776
- Website: www.andeandiscovery.com
- Phone: 1-800-893-0916
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andeandiscovery/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Andean-Discovery
- Other: www.studentexpeditions.com