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Richard Engle

Chicago, Illinois Travel Agent

Creator of Exclusive, Active Experiences

I team with Protravel, the world’s premier luxury travel company, to create unique vacations for clients all over North America and Europe. Following a 25-year career owning and operating my own travel agency in Chicago; I preferred “Vacation Experience Design” to “running a company”, so I took the plunge into my unique niche, where I enjoy planning trips throughout the world for my many clients. I travel extensively, keeping up with the latest and greatest in the upscale travel arena.

I pride myself on customizing very personal, exclusive trips. My focus has been two-fold: finding places that are not famous and overrun with tourists, and finding ways to explore places that are in ways that let you escape the crowds. I’m also an avid cyclist and enjoy incorporating soft adventures into travel for those who are interested.

I recently visited Bhutan, and it is the kind of destination that is high on my list. A small kingdom in the Himalayas, it is one of the few countries that severely limits the number of tourists. Its population is under 700,000, and there are no major metropolitan areas, so there are no crowds, and you can hike and cycle through the countryside. The food is excellent, and the people are peaceful and caring. It also feels very exotic with Buddhist prayer wheels and prayer flags everywhere.

But you can get away from tourists even in major tourist destinations. It’s hard to go to Paris without seeing the Louvre, but with busloads of tourists carrying cameras and selfie-sticks endlessly parading through the halls, it can be a chore. For non-art-fanatics, I often hire an engaging guide and instruct the guide to quickly get you in and out of the Mona Lisa room and then focus on an area he/she is passionate about. For example, there’s a room with furniture from one of Napoleon’s palaces that is very memorable. My travelers often come back and tell me, “Yeah, we saw the Mona Lisa, but the guide showed us this amazing room that we had all to ourselves with this wonderful stuff to see.” 

Last winter, I was in Rome looking for that type of experiences. I went behind the scenes at the Fendi flagship store and watched artisans recycling dowdy old mink coats, the kind my grandmother wore. So those are coming in, and you should see what’s coming out! Anyone interested in fashion loves that. I also found a private palace in the heart of Rome that offers private tours. It’s been owned by the same family for centuries, and they’ve restored all the art. Typically the owners are there to greet visitors.

I’m always looking for new options and fresh ideas. What I love most about being a travel agent is that you never stop learning and you can be very creative. There’s always something new to find out about a culture or country, in addition to the practical side of things like new hotels, air service, etc. 

I discovered I liked to travel when, at 17, I got on a plane for the first time. I flew to Peru to live with a family near Cusco and realized I liked seeing how different people lived. In college, I majored in foreign languages and literature and earned a master’s in Biblical Studies. When I graduated, a friend’s parents invited me to work in their travel agency until I figured out what I wanted to do. I never had to figure it out because it’s been the perfect career for me. 

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