Travel Essence Magazine caught up with Co-founder Michelle as she discussed the inspiration behind the formation of TJD and the opportunities 2020 brought for curating trips beyond Nordic destinations as they visited Rwanda for the first time.
1. Who are Michelle and Dennis in a few sentences?
Michelle & Dennis are two best friends who share the same passion in travel, photography and exploring new adventures. Both of us come from a hospitality background with long years of experience in curating events. TJD is our first entrepreneurial business where we combined both our past expertise and created a travel company that caters to guests around the world in building group trips, personalized itineraries, corporate trips which includes team building activities.
2. Michelle, you are the co-founder of TJD, an adventure travel company that specialises in curating trips to Europe's Nordic countries. How did your journey towards becoming a travel entrepreneur begin?
TJD is an adventure travel company. We take you on Polar Journeys to destinations that are filled with wonder, nature, legends, and wild landscapes; places where only few people have been. This year, we also opened our doors to our first East African country, Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills and we are honored to have added Rwanda to our portfolio.
TJD is expanding due to an increase in demand for travel to unchartered destinations filled with adventures. We created TJD by following our passion and taking a leap of faith into the unknown.
3. October 2020 saw you making your first trip to Rwanda. Talk to us about what inspired this trip and what it was about Rwanda that had you wanting to experience it for yourself.
Rwanda was always a bucket list destination. It was one of those places you read about on NatGeo or watch documentaries about it, especially with gorilla trekking, but we never imagined we would have the courage to go through it.
In 2020, an incredible opportunity arose, and Dennis and I decided to take a leap of faith and book with RwandAir from Dubai to Kigali and experience the gorilla trek and learn more about this magical East African country. We were blown away! We learned so much! It’s no wonder that it is the number 1 safest place in Africa. We met the most incredible people, and the hotels and partners were supportive of our mission from day 1 - which is to show the world how beautiful, safe and adventurous Rwanda is, in hopes to start selling group trips and private trips to this destination.
4. RwandAir to Kigali: How was your trip and share with us the feeling of touching down in East Africa?
The flight with RwandAir exceeded our expectations. I’ll tell you a little secret, as a frequent traveler, I am afraid of flying. Upon boarding RwandAir, I felt very safe. The airline has ensured the guest of all the COVID19 measures they have taken in order to keep everything sanitized. Masks are worn at all times. The seating configuration in the business class surely did make the flight smoother with the flat bed! When landing in Rwanda, the strict protocols assured us that they have taken the situation very seriously. This definitely played a major role in making us feel safer.
5. You had the opportunity to enjoy a few days in the capital, Kigali. What were your key highlights and what were your takeaways in interacting with the people and experiencing the different parts of Rwanda's capital?
Kigali is again, one of the many aspects of our trips that exceeded our expectations. The cleanliness, the handwashing stations and the mandatory masks were a big sell. We had a chance to stop by a traditional African restaurant where I had the pleasure of devouring the food! We also took the opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which was very heavy on my soul but also helped me feel connected in a way to the Rwandan people.
6. Off to Rwanda's wildlife territory and onto Akagera National Park you headed. Where did you have the privilege of staying and what were the most captivating parts for you on this leg of your journey?
The road trip was bumpy, but the landscape was incredible. The entrance to the main park again, exceeded my expectation on the precautionary measures taken to prevent the virus. The park itself is home to the Big 5 which was one of the best experiences! We managed to see 4 of them amongst others! We missed the black Rhino! Staying in different lodges from Ruzizi and Magashi, gave us a taste on both worlds, South & North!
7. From the perspective of a travel entrepreneur, what do you believe Rwanda, and the continent of Africa as a whole offers to your clients that's different from what they have experienced before through TJD?
I do believe Rwanda offers a vast variety of choices and activities! We spent 7 nights and still, feel we have not conquered it all! From gorilla trekking to the big 5, coffee plantations, culinary experiences, and culture visits! I think Rwanda is under-rated and I do hope, thanks to the easy visa process on arrival and exceptional care during the pandemic, that Rwanda is surely an upcoming hit destination!
8. Which other places were you able to visit during your time in Rwanda?
We visited Akagera National Park, Volcanoes Park and Kigali. I would love to explore more waterfalls, lakes, and coffee plantations too!
9. A good number of your clients are expats that live and work in the UAE. What would you like them to know about why Rwanda should be added to their bucket list of places to visit in Africa?
I would like to let the people know that Rwanda is the number one safest country in Africa. I would like them to get to know the Rwandan people more, learning about their history and the love for their country. Rwanda has everything to offer! From nature, to landscapes, to Gorilla Treks, Safaris, and culinary experiences.
To learn more about Michelle, Dennis, and their travel business TJD – visit www.travelwithtjd.com