armchair traveler diaries Armchair Traveler Diaries: Sherwin Banda’s Dispatch from Los Angeles

Armchair Traveler Diaries: Sherwin Banda’s Dispatch from Los Angeles

The president of Virtuoso tour operator African Travel is working from his backyard, looking forward to being on safari again, and soaking up a quiet, traffic-less Los Angeles.  

What is life like for you right now?
I’m at home in L.A., and the city is moving at a much slower pace. I’m really enjoying it. There’s no traffic, and everything is quieter as Angelinos shelter in place. I see my neighbors out walking more, which is a strange sight for a city obsessed with cars.
 
Where are you working from these days?
I’m splitting my time between two offices: one inside my home and the other on the deck in the backyard. I choose the office space depending on my family’s school and work commitments. I love the energy in our team’s office, but I’m absolutely loving the extra time I get to spend with my family … except the homeschooling part.

What’s your typical day like now?
My time is split between video calls, chats with the African travel industry to strategize what travel to Africa will look like in the future, and working with travel advisors to come up with creative solutions for their clients.
 
What do you do to stay sane?
In the absence of physical togetherness, I find myself appreciating the closeness of virtually staying in touch. Human connection via WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams has been invaluable. It seems like we’re more connected now because we consciously choose to be. However, I also need some time away from the devices that keep us connected. I challenge my team to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and share their photos with me. It’s a great excuse to go ride a bicycle around the lake.
 
What are you watching, reading, listening to?
I recently started watching Downton Abbey. I didn’t understand the hype before, but now I get it – and I’m hooked!
 
What travel plans have you put on hold for the pandemic?
We had to postpone our family vacation to South Africa in June, and I missed attending several industry events. I miss seeing everyone in person and giving them big hugs, but I love seeing all the creativity coming from my team and other brands with virtual events.

On Banda’s list: Namibia’s stunning and stark desert landscapes.
On Banda’s list: Namibia’s stunning and stark desert landscapes.
Photo by Tiago Fernandez/Getty Images
Where do you want to go when travel is possible again?
While I’m stuck at home in a big city, I’m hungry to experience nature. I’ve always wanted to take my family to Alaska to see the glaciers, and perhaps visit one of America’s national parks – one of those may be an option for later this year. Also, I can’t wait to start planning a great African adventure – I’m ready to see more than just my backyard. Namibia, despite being remote, is filled with so many contrasting natural wonders and desert-adapted animals. It easily fulfills my need for nature and adventure.
 
Somewhere in Africa you’re excited to show to travelers.
Xigera Safari Lodge – the newest Red Carnation hotel, located in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – will be spectacular when it opens later this year. This remote part of the world showcases unbelievable wildlife, and the lodge will be one of the most exclusive safari experiences on the continent.
 
A favorite travel memory that’s top of mind right now?
Our team is doing a virtual event from Tanzania this month, and it’s bringing back so many memories from our recent visit to Serengeti National Park. It was epic! Seeing the wildebeest migration and meeting the Maasai warriors is always awe-inspiring.
 
Your best feel-good moment since all this started?
My son’s comment: “Papa, I love that you get to tuck me into bed every night!”

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