Not many can claim that they are making a living out of doing what they love while fulfilling an aspiration, but Travel Wander’s Sheryl Lim is one of the few lucky ones.
Having built her career in the travel industry, with her longest stint being with The Travel Corporation for almost 12 years, Lim desired to one day run her own travel agency.
“It is not easy starting a travel agency because of the competition. I knew I must stand out from what’s out there if I wanted to be successful. I realised that I could marry my love for the outdoors with my dream business,” recalled Lim, who established the Singapore-based travel agency in 2016 with a partner.
Travel Wander takes pride in curating active holidays that allow customers to explore and experience destinations while cycling, hiking, running or walking.
The company’s most popular programmes are those that are conducted on two wheels.
Lim said: “While there are many tour products in the marketplace for cyclists, not many are leisure-focused. It is common to find cycling tours that are built for professional cyclists who want to beat their personal record in covering long distances overseas. Such programmes have little time for sightseeing and leisurely stops.”
On nifty two-wheelers, travellers get to “weave into small villages and off-the-beaten-track locations to enjoy unusual vistas and environments” – places that traditional sit-in-coach tours do not cover.
“Traditional group tours are also unlikely to include such places in the itinerary because they have little tourist value. There are no shopping or attractions to visit but for our cyclists, the outdoors and scenic rides are exactly what appeals to them,” added Lim.
Travel Wander has conducted cycling tours to a variety of destinations in Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia, and more.
While the company had initially targeted travellers in their 30s and 40s, a segment Lim said had “financial means and the stamina and interest for active holidays”, it soon discovered that a different audience had come a-calling.
“Many who joined our tours were in their late-40s and 50s, whose children are grown up and no longer needed their attention. We even got retirees,” said Lim.
“The Singapore government’s recent promotion of healthy living has helped to raise awareness and interest around sports. There are many sports activities available in Singapore, but after a while, boredom sets in because Singapore is only this big. Cycling tours are a refreshing alternative,” she added.
She recalled the excitement a group of customers in their 50s felt when they were brought into a Malaysian countryside.
“It reminded them of their childhood. But even for the young ones, the rural landscape can be fascinating and refreshing, and they appreciate being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city,” she explained.
Cycling and hiking tours to remote places are also an effective technology blackout that people today desperately need, she opined.
“Once we took a group to Mongolia, where we spent two days deep in the highlands. We stayed off our phones, firstly, because there was no Internet and secondly, because there was a lack of electricity on the second day. It was more important for us to conserve our power to take photos the next day. So, we spent the evening chatting with each other under the starry sky. We all retired earlier than we normally would back home; everyone retreated into their ger (tent) at 22.30 and slept soundly until 06.00 the next day,” she said.
Travel Wander’s tours are priced mid-range, with attention paid to quality accommodation and dining because “when you have such an active holiday you need to eat and rest well”.
Customers are provided with quality bicycles in the destinations they visit, although they are advised to bring their own helmets and any safety gear. A support vehicle accompanies the group during the cycle, bringing with it water supplies, refreshments and snacks like energy bars. The vehicle also helps to carry the customers’ personal belongings and provide a welcome retreat for those who are too tired to keep riding.
Cycling groups are led by a leader in front, and a sweeper at the back to ensure no customers fall behind.
The friendship formed among participants on these intimate tours has benefitted Travel Wander.
“While they started off as strangers, they soon bonded over their shared love for cycling and the outdoors. Many have regrouped for other cycling tours with us, becoming our loyal customers,” said Lim.
Moving forward, Lim hopes to expand her business to serve other source markets, like Indonesia, and to grow the variety of destinations it offers.