The Blue Walk Co-Founder, Suzy Schutz, Talks About the Growing Popularity of Walking Vacations…
The growing demand for soft adventure vacations from active professionals and aging baby boomers who still feel the “spring” in their steps has created exceptional opportunities for companies like “The Blue Walk,” a Florida-based guided walking tour specialist who specialise in walking vacations.
The company offers small group walking vacations throughout France, Italy, Greece, and England, with experienced guides who lead enthusiasts along the blue coastlines, picturesque villages and scenic open spaces of some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
Among their offerings are themed art, yoga, and wine appreciation tours led by experts in their fields. The groups stay in boutique hotels and luxury resorts along the way, depending on the itinerary.
The Blue Walk concept began on the French Riviera, where its original founder was impressed with the coastal walking trails and beauty of the area.
The company, originally founded as “Cruise, Tour, Travel!” in 2011, started with a special tour of the French Riviera, expanding its program as the popularity of its tours grew.
Today, co-owners Jeannette Candau and Suzy Schutz carry on the traditions of bringing unique, authentic experiences to their clients, delivered “with the highest level of creativity and care.”
We spoke with Suzy about her company and the growing popularity of “soft adventure” vacations that is sparking interest in walking tours.
Why were you especially drawn to taking over the agency?
Both Jeannette and I love travel and adventure and, in our previous careers, we were limited in spending time doing both. Finding The Blue Walk was like serendipity. Jeannette was talking to a friend about our wild idea of picking up everything and starting a new life in a new country. As it turned out, he had a friend who had recently done just that – sold everything and moved to a little town in southern Italy. That friend ended up being Carlo Roberts, the previous owner of The Blue Walk.
After our first conversation with Carlo, we didn’t know what we were more excited about – moving to Italy or her agency. We loved the whole concept – walking beautiful coastal trails under blue skies, having rambling conversations or simply enjoying the meditative quality of walking along a large body of water.
Beautiful places, small groups, quality hotels, wonderful guests. It sounded incredible.
As our plans for relocation moved forward, we asked Carlo if there was a way we could help her business grow. Then, the most amazing thing happened…she shared with us that she had been looking to sell her company (to enjoy a slower lifestyle in the Italian countryside). She asked if we’d like to purchase this labor of love, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled.
The qualities we first fell in love with about The Blue Walk have absolutely proven to be true. The practice of really being where your feet are leaving everything else behind, even when you are thousands of miles from home, resonates with us. The idea of traveling with a few other people, experiencing the beauty of these areas, and giving others the opportunity to experience travel in this way, has been very rewarding for us.
What trends do you see in the travel community that make The Blue Walk “right for its time?”
Many people are seeking more of a connection – with other people, with nature and the environment. The Blue Walk provides this opportunity, this connection, with other guests, the places we visit, and perhaps, more importantly, with one’s self. It’s like having a therapy session without all the talking and needing a hug afterwards. Guests are guided to beautiful places and shown how the locals live and can experience a piece of the European lifestyle. This, in turn, provides opportunity for reflection on one’s own path. For some, bigger is better and more is more, but for us and The Blue Walk, we believe in the “less is more” approach to travel. When traveling, people want to feel they are getting their money’s worth, and walking vacations can help them do so.
What do you and Jeannette bring to the agency that helps make it unique among other similar agencies?
In addition to starting up several successful, service-oriented businesses, Jeannette is a certified massage therapist and yoga teacher. I have been a personal trainer and logged almost a decade as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Therefore, in addition to unique, authentic travel experiences, we bring a level of health and wellness knowledge to the table not found in other active travel companies.
Also, from our own experience of travel, we value its potential to be healing and transformative, and we often see this with our guests.
When you travel, you are surrounded by people who have no idea what your “normal” life is like, so you are freer to be yourself without concerns of being judged.
Most importantly, going to a new place introduces you to new experiences and people. It can provide new perspective on life back home and allow you to practice being different, if that’s something you’d like to do.
What new and delightful things will you be bringing to the tours to make them even better and more memorable?
We’re making it easier than ever for guests to join our tours. For example, our Cinque Terre Tour begins on the Italian coast near the Cinque Terre. We noticed some guests were intimidated by the thought of traveling on their own from the Milan airport to the small coastal town of Rapallo, where the tour begins.
It can be especially intimidating if they haven’t traveled abroad or by themselves before. Or perhaps they simply don’t relish the thought of navigating alone the considerable distance to reach their group and guide. That’s completely understandable. So we’ve added a pre-tour option where guests may spend a night at our Milan hotel near the airport, and our guide meets them in the morning to travel together by rail to Rapallo.
They get a chance to recover from any jet lag before the tour starts and make the transfer to our starting point with the security of a guide.
We are also offering guaranteed departures for all of our classic Blue Walk tours with no minimum guest requirement, so guests can register for a trip with the assurance it will be “a go”.
What are the unique qualities of Blue Walk guests that attract them to your walks?
Many of our guests are at a place in their lives where they are in a space of reflection, are celebrating a milestone such as a birthday or anniversary, have just experienced a big change (some positive and some less so), and are in search of an experience where they can feel the joy of discovery and connection…to nature, beauty, others, and themselves. They are seeking a small group that feels as if they’re traveling with a group of friends – where they won’t be shuttled around in a big bus, taking pictures through the window. They are seeking that “feet in the sand” experience. This is the experience we offer and encourage for our guests.
What can your guests expect in a typical tour?
Our guests can expect a balance of well thought out activities and rich free time. They will see beautiful views, stay in comfortable accommodations where they are treated like family, and experience the local lifestyle of the destination. They will be guided and encouraged to dive into the local culture, all while making new friendships. They will enjoy lots of laughter, good food and wine, and, most of all, they will go home with incredible memories.