A lifetime of international study and travel, coupled with 17 years overseeing and planning the most fantastic journeys for the Smithsonian’Institution’s Travel Program, make Jean’s expertise in high end, special access travel unsurpassed. Jean loves consulting for the travel industry, writing about new finds and designing over the top experiences. The world’s best scholars in art, architecture, design, culinary arts and history are her daily teachers; making Jean the perpetual student. But her career path took many turns getting to this point—all valuable in shaping her dynamic credentials, which prove to be priceless for her clients.
Student travel with her boarding school certainly ignited the wanderlust. The moment Jean climbed the Acropolis, realized that Socrates and Alexander the Great had stood on these same stones and viewed Athens from the same perspective, she knew that this same feeling is what she wanted to experience in a thousand other places. Attending college in Lugano, Switzerland, perfectly located in the middle of Europe, with an international faculty and student body confirmed that whatever path she took, it would indeed involve travel.
A Master of Science Foreign Service from Georgetown University with a focus on the geopolitics of oil led to a 12-year career in the oil business and many trips to the Middle East, Gulf and throughout Europe. Then, someone suggested she apply for a job at the Smithsonian Institution, working with the largest nonprofit travel program in the world. She rose to Senior Manager responsible for the Smithsonian’s entire international portfolio of tours and the student travel program. This was a fantastic opportunity to show the world to many and learn from the scholars who led these tours. Jean was fortunate to travel almost everywhere during her amazing 17 years with the Smithsonian Institution; working with the world’s best scholars, tour operators and cruise lines. Her perspective and insights on the constantly evolving world of high end travel is now in high demand by her clients in the travel world. She has also been a leader in utilizing social media as a resource for travelers and for those who supply travel in this ever shrinking world.
With more than 12 years in the travel industry, first at Smithsonian Journeys and later as Director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Travel Program, Debra has had the privilege to travel throughout the world, experience some of the most luxurious hotels and cruise ships, and gain exclusive access to amazing museums and cultural sites. From a behind-the-scenes tour of the Hermitage with museum scholars; to a small-ship cruise up the Irrawaddy River in Burma; to a private journey through Botswana with top naturalists, Debra’s experiences have immersed her in an exciting and ever-changing career.
After several years working, studying, and traveling in Europe she landed at the Smithsonian Institution, where she worked with Jean, and handled a portfolio of cultural and wildlife tours that took travelers throughout the world accompanied by expert scholars. Debra’s position at the Smithsonian Institution was truly an eye-opening adventure. She felt very fortunate to have discovered an exciting career, but also one that allowed for constant growth and exploration. This was a new type of luxury travel – not just world-class accommodations, but also intellectually stimulating and highly tailored to individual interests. Debra later moved on to oversee the travel program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), where the focus was providing outstanding wildlife experiences throughout the world with expert naturalists at top properties. From the plains of the Serengeti to the rainforests of the Amazon, the portfolio of tours she oversaw covered a broad spectrum.
Now, working with JNG Worldwide, Debra’s focus has shifted once more. She brings years of destination and luxury property knowledge, but also a desire to promote different types of experiences that closely mirror her own passions. Debra is an avid cyclist, fitness enthusiast, and lover of all things design-related, and always searching for new and unique opportunities to pursue these interests while traveling. Seeking out hotels and restaurants featuring cutting edge design; to interactive spaces exploring the latest in landscape architecture trends; to resorts offering unique fitness programs, this is an exciting way to experience both new and favorite past destinations. As a parent of a 9-year old, Debra relishes the opportunity to expose her son to a wide range of travel experiences that go beyond the typical, but without sacrificing on comfort. She loves sharing these experiences and working with clients in the travel industry to help promote niche luxury travel. Debra looks forward to this newest venture and the opportunity to provide travel inspiration.
Eliza contributes to the JNG Worldwide team as the London-based Executive Director. She received a BA in Art History and Dance, and an MA in Contemporary Art from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Eliza brings JNG a specialist interest in dance and art, which is an area of significant interest from clients recently.
She also manages the destination-wedding branch, and recently planned her own destination wedding in the Cayman Islands. Known as the ‘queen of the details,’ Eliza loves it when everything is ‘just so.’ She knows that a simple bouquet of fresh cut flowers can make all of the difference, and it’s this attention to details that she brings to the clients of JNG Worldwide.