Most of my income goes to travel. My friends are scattered around the world, so we get together and go on crazy adventures. A couple years ago, we partied with penguins in Antarctica. Next month, we’ll be researching a question in Kenya and Tanzania: “do giraffes like dubstep?”

I have a firm belief that bitcoin is only relevant if you can spend it. Since I had the fairly expensive Africa trip coming up, and some of my travelmates were also bitcoin enthusiasts, we convinced Loren from Travel Pangea to accept it as a payment option. After weighing the risks, and exploring the Bitpay web application, he agreed. I ended up paying for a couple trips in bitcoin, and a few friends used it for their payments.

While it seems old fashioned to use a travel agent in this era of e-commerce enabled airlines and hotels, when you’re organizing large groups agents can help simplify things and give the group a bit more legitimacy. They’re pretty useful when you feel like some advice would be helpful from a professional who’s likely been there and definitely sent people there before. Sometimes they can pull upgrade magic. And in this case, it meant that air, lodges, hotels, land transportation, and meals were all paid in bitcoin. I asked Loren a few questions about his experiences working with this new cryptocurrency.


loren4 Tell us a little about Travel Pangea

Travel Pangea is an independent, modern-minded travel agency, created by a 10-year travel industry veteran, who has circled the globe, traveling to over 50 countries so far, and always adding more. After booking thousands of clients, we specialize in almost any type of travel. We specialize in Southeast Asia and Europe, though we’ve booked all 7 continents, and nearly every country in the world!

Traveling has changed our lives, and at Travel Pangea we want everyone to travel, whether it’s a shoestring backpacker trek, or a 5-star luxury top dollar trip. Getting out into the world, meeting people, learning cultures, seeing differences and similarities, all has profound effects on people’s lives, perspectives and attitudes. We want to give people that opportunity!

We are born travelers! We have fond memories of family vacations as children, and when old enough, we studied and moved abroad. We kept traveling, and realized we’d done enough that people were now coming to us for travel advice. Eventually it became a profession, and we stepped up our travel game even more! Short runs to anywhere interesting, multi-week and multi-month treks through entire continents, luxury resorts, or mats in huts… any trip possible, we were happy for the experience. Our houses are filled with foreign knick knacks, our cameras and computers full of pictures and videos, and our hearts and minds filled with hundreds of amazing stories of the people we’ve met, the adventures we’ve had, and the places we’ve seen.

WE LIVE AND BREATHE TRAVEL. And we ALWAYS put that enthusiasm into our work for our clients!

loren2 What are some of the more interesting trips you’ve put together?

Travel Pangea specializes in complex and unique trips, ones that other travel agencies groan at or refuse completely. We are airfare sharks and have arranged great deals for getting to very obscure and out of the way places. We’ve sent researchers into the Congo and to Madagascar, booked Antarctic and Greenland tours, booked cities people think are novelty names (Bobo Dioulasso, Mbuji Mayi, Whangarei? Did you know there’s a town called 1776? We’ve been there!) and booked amazing dream-come-true treks. We’ve booked round the world trips over a year long with people hopping from the US to Central America to South America to Europe to Africa to the Middle East to Asia to Australia and home again. Once we had a researcher studying ambient temperatures in workplaces worldwide who needed samples from at least 5 tropical destinations. That became one of our most unique and whirlwind round-the-world trips, flying to the Caribbean, then Central America, then South America, then Australia, then a quick stop in Asia and home again, all in 2 weeks time!

Usually though, it’s not the destination that makes our favorite trips most interesting. A couple came to Travel Pangea for an adventurous honeymoon, with the idea of a beach in Thailand and a train across India. They wanted to do more, but the flights prices they’d found would cost them too much already, so they were keeping it to those 2 spots. After a lot of eager brainstorming and experimenting, they ended up with the trip of a lifetime, spending time in Taiwan, Bangkok, the Thai beaches of Phuket, 2 stops and that train in India, a visit to Singapore, and even a quick peek at the Philippines, all for several hundred dollars LESS than the original 2 destination flights they had found! They sent stories and pictures where you could immediately sense the awe and wonder and open-minded learning experiences that were bombarding them throughout the trip, and when they got back, we had no choice but to go out for a drink with them and be regaled with stories of their ecstatic adventures!

A personal favorite was a small group trip (that we are hoping to repeat in 2014 or 2015) to possibly our single favorite spot in the world – a gorgeous tropical paradise of an island, no bigger than a few city blocks! After a long flight to the Philippines, we picked up our group and swapped to the domestic airport, onto a propellor plane to a tiny island with a dirt runway and a one-room airport. That may have been when people really started sensing the remoteness, but we weren’t done. A local “jeepney” van droves us over dirt roads across the island until we arrived in a clearing with a small pier jutting into the water and a small boat waiting for us. Another 45 minutes of sailing around more tiny islands and we beached on the soft sands of our tiny island paradise, the staff lined up, singing to welcome us, help our bags and shoes off the boat so we could jump barefoot into the shallow water and wade to shore where our welcome cocktail awaited. Our group of scuba divers spent chunks of each day exploring giant clam forests, huge sea turtles along reefs, a massive sunken Japanese warship wreck, and even a day excursion to snorkel with the elusive dugongs (giant manatee-like creatures) as this was one of their very few nesting habitats throughout the world! Several non-divers tagged along and spent their days laying on the perfect sandy beaches, wading in the very warm waters, hitting the pool, the bar, the buffet, and we kept the small fantastic spa’s appointment calendar filled since treatments that are normally $150-250 at fancy resorts were only $15-30 there! It was a week of perfect paradise the entire group will never forget!

Travel Pangea has a division called Wild & Wandering, created just for some of our most adventurous, exotic and wild group trips, and we are currently working with some awesome groups! We’re thrilled to be a part of the Junglist Movement African Safari where we will spend 2 weeks photographing wild animals in Kenya and Tanzania, but also be partying it up with several DJs playing along the way. We are even taking over the entire Giraffe Manor for a night, for a very exclusive party, though we’ve got to keep it down since the dozen free-roaming giraffes might get spooked, leading to our adopted trip slogan: Do giraffes like dubstep?! Travel Pangea is also working on the infamous Substandard Cruise, an event so legendary and wild, we can’t even share any details about it! Our staff actually works for DefCon each year on the side, and are looking forward to planning more and more trips with the hacker and partier community. (Full disclosure – we rocked out HARD at the LOL Bitcoin party at DefCon 21!)

loren3 How did you hear about bitcoin?

We heard the term “bitcoin” floating around for a while, and had various conversations with people about what it is, how it works, what people think of it. Eventually we were talking with Pinguino about it and not just investing into it personally, but how it could work for our business. After lots of late-night research and thought, and input from many friends and knowledgeable people, we decided to give it a try! What are your thoughts about using it for your business?

We love new technologies – it has changed the way people travel completely. The days of walking into many hotels looking for a room are gone; hell, even finding an internet cafe is barely necessary anymore! I used to carry a small point & shoot camera, a notepad, a watch, calculator, calendar, itinerary and more everywhere I traveled, but now that’s all on my cell phone. Better currency converters, more info about my plans, and resources to make new ones on the fly, photos auto-backing up to the cloud (I used to swap out memory cards – and rolls of film before that! – right before doing anything too dangerous in case my camera was lost or destroyed), etc etc.

To really be a successful traveler, you need to embrace new technologies. And to be a successful travel agency, you need to evolve with your travelers. The agencies that ignored things like internet booking sites are the ones that have dwindled and died out. Genuine interest in how travel and travel booking evolves keeps us relevant and worth booking with. Bitcoin is a perfect example of that. We accept cash and credit cards like most agencies, but also accept PayPal and even bank transfers and wires. Bitcoin is a better choice for online payments, with lower fees, and a clean easy interface. At first we were very nervous about the volatility of a new and experimental type of currency, but we were happy to find that there were stability-enforcing measures and procedures in place that made us feel a lot more secure doing business via Bitcoin.

We’re excited to be a part of the growing Bitcoin community and look forward to doing more business in Bitcoin. Accepting Bitcoin gives people a way to take the vacation of their dreams without running up credit card bills or even pulling cash out of pocket. For anyone with some coin to spare in your digital wallet, and the yearn to see the world, or getaway for some rest and relaxation, or even just visit some family or friends anywhere on the planet, Travel Pangea wants to hear from you, to work with you, and to stretch your Bitcoin as far as possible to give you the perfect trip for your coin!

Travel Pangea-