In the latest edition of Haute Living magazine, we caught up with TC Swartz, quite an commendable feat considering that the CEO of TCS & Starquest Expeditions has made a career out of international globetrekking. In “A Voyage with the Visionary,” we explained that while many seeking a vacation might go out in search of posh pampering at five-star properties, TCS & Starquest Expeditions offers a unique alternative that is not designed for the faint of heart: journeys to far-away places by private jet that place an emphasis on meaningful, educational experiences. It turns out that when you talk to someone as enthusiastic as Swartz, he can have quite a bit to say when speaking about his lifelong passion. In a special Online Exclusive, we are bringing readers our full interview with Swartz.
Haute Living: What first sparked your interest about a career in the travel industry?
TC Swartz: After getting my MBA from University of Illinois, I backpacked around the world on a very limited budget to 40 countries. I was fascinated by different peoples and cultures, and found that the more remote the places and the more preserved the culture, the more I appreciated it.
HL: Were you adventurous as a child?
TCS: Yes, we came from a modest background, but we took a lot of long road trips by car to “exotic” places like Oklahoma, the Ozarks, and Minnesota. I loved these trips, and always wanted to see more. I was taught at an early age to work hard and save money. I was also reminded daily (I am not kidding) by my mother to “Think Positively!”
HL: Tell me about the genesis of the company and how it evolved into what it is today (i.e. from the two jet companies TCS Expeditions and Starquest Expeditions to TCS & Starquest Expeditions).
TCS: I started Starquest Expeditions in 2003. This company grew very rapidly…[and] in 2008, we merged with TCS Expeditions. It has been a great ride, and the employees and partners of the company are amazing. We continue to operate better and better educational and enriching expeditions by private jet worldwide, and are the world leader in this field. Actually, we are now the only private jet company of its type in the U.S.
HL: What is your definition of meaningful travel and why is it so important to you? When did you develop this kind of method for experiencing the world?
TCS: Travel enrichment is what happens when someone grows from the experience one way or the other, and has an appreciation and additional humility by what you have learned about other peoples and cultures. I have always had my companies focus on this aspect. Normal touristy travel does not appeal to people who are eager to learn and understand. Therefore TCS & Starquest Expeditions appeals to the kinds of travelers who are curious and want to learn. There are plenty of companies for those who have a different focus (like luxury only, being pampered). We love to use great hotels when we can, but that is not the way we develop itineraries. We develop itineraries based on the richness of the experience and the uniqueness of the experience. We always use the best accommodations available, but in the Gobi desert for example, there are none. But there is a wonderful and very comfortable traditional Mongolian Ger Camp (very large round tents), which is the type of home that Mongolian nomads live it. The experience is worth the slight inconvenience and reduced luxury. It is not what people do that is important, it is what they remember. If you can provide memorable and rich experiences that people remember and it enriches your lives, you are providing a gift to people that will remain with them for their entire lives.