Motivated by our own profound life-changing travel experiences, we set out to start a movement. In the fall of 2016, bonded by experience and expertise, we founded the Transformational Travel Council (TTC) to help others transform their lives through travel. Our personal adventures had an indelible impact on our lives, and while each of our stories is unique, they share a common thread: We were all searching for something bigger. For something better. For meaningful work. For a sense of real purpose in life. For that spark of passion that would light our lives on fire. (In that sense, we are ALL seekers.) Recently, there has been a shift in awareness: Travel is now being recognized as more than just an escape ... that it can be the catalyst which inspires us to create meaningful changes in our lives and the world in which we live. Our mission is to continue to build and support a community of HEROs to embrace this shift in our quest to create a better life and a better world.
Michael Bennett, Ed.D. | Co-Founder
Michael is a traveler, coach, educator, speaker, and accidental entrepreneur who founded Muddy Shoe Adventures in 2012 to help others use travel to bring more purpose, passion, and meaning to their lives. His doctoral dissertation explored transformational learning through adventure travel. He is now the Chief Adventure Officer @ Explorer X.
Jake Haupert | Co-Founder
Jake is the founder of award-winning adventure travel company Evergreen Escapes. Recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as a 'Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in 2014,' Jake is known throughout the industry as an innovator and disruptor with tenacious ambition, an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit, and genuine personality. Jake is now the Chief Exploration Officer @ Explorer X.
Birgit Mohrmann | Marketing & PR
Birgit joined Ultimate Safaris in 2014 as Sales & Marketing Director. A 4th generation Namibian, she knows first-hand the incredible power that travel has on travelers and the communities they visit. Birgit's infectious enthusiasm and commitment to the preservation of the environment are just part of what make her so special.
Eric Rupp | Business Operations
The Director of Tour Operations at Evergreen Escapes, Eric’s wanderlust, thirst for knowledge, penchant for insight, and deep love of design have resulted in a delightfully abstract resume that includes Directorship of a Bolivian University, missile propulsion design for the Department of Defense, and bartending in Greece.
TTC Mentors & Ambassadors
Don Mankin, Ph.D. | Co-Founder & Mentor
Don is an intrepid explorer and author of the critically acclaimed book Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean. Don’s award-winning travel writing, appearing regularly in the Huffington Post and his Adventure Geezer blog, explores his travels to the far corners of the earth. Don earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University.
Kurt Kutay | Co-Founder & Mentor
Founder, President & CEO of Wildland Adventures, Kurt is a travel industry pioneer. He has served on many professional boards and conservation organizations including The International Ecotourism Society and the ATTA. Kurt wrote a chapter on adventure travel for Fodor's guide books and has written numerous articles on ecotourism.
Norie Quintos | Mentor
Norie is a communications consultant who helps destinations and travel companies find and tell their authentic stories. She is an Editor-at-Large for National Geographic Travel Media, the former executive editor of NatGeo Traveler, and an AdventureEDU educator. She 'grams and tweets @noriecicerone. Learn more about Norie's work by visiting her website: www.noriequintos.com
Gordon Hempton | Mentor
Gordon, known as the Sound Tracker ®, is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy award–winning sound recordist. For 35+ years, his sound portraits have recorded vanishing natural soundscapes. They have been featured in People magazine and a PBS documentary, Vanishing Dawn Chorus. Hempton is subject of a feature film, Soundtracker, and co-author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet. He is Founder and Vice President of The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation and Quiet Planet®.
Brian T. Mullis | Mentor
Brian is an advisor, guide, and social entrepreneur working at the intersection of sustainable development, conservation, and tourism. As Founder and former CEO of Sustainable Travel International, Brian has helped advance sustainability within the travel and tourism sector. Other past leadership positions include the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board for the Department of Commerce and the World Economic Forum's Future of Travel and Tourism Council.
Katherine Droga | Mentor & Australia Ambassador
Katherine is passionate about the transformational effect travel can have for people and planet. Her consultancy firm, Droga & Co., specializes in strategy creation, refinement, and new business development for destinations and tourism experiences worldwide. Katherine previously worked for Tourism Australia, where she led international operations, distribution platforms, and partnerships for over a decade. Katherine has extensive experience in both tourism development and promotion.
Maria Baltazzi | North America Ambassador
Maria Baltazzi is traveler, long distance walker, and TV show producer. She was one of the original producers of Survivor. Maria's most recent adventure has been founding Sojourn Explorers, where she curates adventures throughout the world that have a fundraising component to them – proceeds from each trip go to one of several nonprofit partners.
Jennine Cohen | North America Ambassador
Jennine Cohen is a trusted luxury and adventure travel expert, speaker and coach. She’s frequently called upon as a media source and has been quoted in Travel & Leisure, Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, YahooTravel, Fortune, Forbes, ABC, CBS, and numerous trade publications. These days, she’s the Managing Director of the Americas at GeoEx.
Elyse Mailhot | Canada Ambassador
Combining a passion for adventure travel and 25+ years of travel industry experience in integrative marketing with a large database of industry leaders and media globally, Elyse has worked with some of Canada’s most innovative tourism organizations. Her career took a turn following a hiking trip and Antarctic cruise. Transformational adventures as such have shaped Elyse’s life and career. She left a lucrative job to start her own adventure travel PR consultancy, EM Adventure Marketing, and has not looked back since.
David Murray | Africa Ambassador
David is a Scottish photographer who has previously managed Selinda Camp and Zarafa Camp and has occasionally been known to play the bagpipes. Since those 'crazy days,' I’ve swapped the pipes for a large camera bag and lenses. I spend my time between the Great Plains Conservation camps in Botswana and Kenya and the north of England, photographing wild dogs in Selinda and domestic dogs in Northumberland.
Jorge Perez | South America Ambassador
Jorge is the founder and owner of Tierra del Volcan, an eco-tourism, family, and adventure travel company based in Ecuador that offers legendary moments and promotes adrenaline-fueled conservation. With 20+ years of experience in conservation and the travel industry, Jorge is a pioneer on private land conservation. He is also the former president of ASEC, (Ecuador Ecotourism Association).
Anna Pollock | Mentor & Europe Ambassador
After a long career as an international tourism consultant, Anna now describes herself as a change agent and educator –helping the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector to adopt both a mindset and operating model that harmonizes with nature and goes way beyond extracting, producing, and consuming. Anna founded Conscious.Travel seven years ago to develop a network of “places that care” – host communities committed to protecting life, delivering positive net benefit, and unleashing human potential.
Sean Petersmark | Advocate
Born and raised in the Midwest, Sean's worldview blew up on a cross-country road trip that ignited a passion in him to explore the world, as well as a commitment to protect it. Now, Sean is responsible for leading special projects for TTC and acting as an ambassador and advocate for TTC in his community and across the world. Sean is a North America Travel Specialist @ Explorer X.