For Canadian-born Madeline Jhawar, it seems all roads lead to Italy. She spent a year there in high school as an AFS student, later lived there for five years, and worked for Butterfield & Robinson as a hiking and biking guide.
For awhile she abandoned Italy for the semiconductor industry, doing the job but not loving it. After 10 years, she went back to Italy, so to speak, this time founding Italy Beyond the Obvious, which offers highly customized, private trips for independent travelers.
“My clients are much like that I got to know at B&R,” said Madeline, who moved to Menlo Park from Chicago in 2011. “They expect a mix of adventure and cultural experience. Some want to stay in a farm house and get to know the locals. Others are interested in more luxurious accommodations.
“And when money is no object like it was with one recent client, I can help arrange a once in a lifetime experience, in this case a tour of the Vatican museums led by a Vatican curator.”
Madeline attributes part of her success to relationships she’s developed with local guides and drivers. She charges a fee for organizing the trip and travelers pay their guides directly.
“Every trip starts with brainstorming — ‘we have this much money and this much time and we think we want to do this.’ Most of the trips I plan are for four to six travelers, which often includes multi-generation families.
“One thing I work hard at is setting expectations. I may know the best place to get pasta in Rome, but I also know that the service can be slow and chilly. I want my clients to know what they’re getting into.
“What’s wonderful to me is that I really love my work. I’m extremely lucky!”
Photo by Irene Searles