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Never a dull moment...

Spotlight on Rebecca Puttock

Rebecca Puttock (RGS 1998-2006) kindly gave us some insight to what life has looked like for Rebecca since RGS, including travelling the world, setting up a business and combining those two passions!

Tell us about your journey since you left RGS

It has been a journey for sure! I left RGS in 2006 and wasn’t quite sure what (or if) I wanted to study, so I purchased a one-way ticket to Australia via Africa – an open ticket. This decision bucked the trend from my Sixth Form counterparts, most of whom went to university as expected. Instead, I disappeared into the world for almost 4 years. Facebook and email was the main form of connection but this was inaccessible in many places I travelled. I met interesting people, indulged in enviable bucket-list experiences, had some truly incredible (and some difficult) encounters – 36 countries visited in total. I worked whilst away as a Ski Technician, enthused from my love of the sport. I came back with a thirst for learning and completed one year at UWIC University (Sport & Exercise Science BSc) but found the adjustment unenjoyable. I left Cardiff and moved to Brighton, where I initiated my travel career – organising school ski trips to North America, resort “repping” then moving to American Express, managing the top 1% wealthiest clients in the world, their concierge and luxury travel. It was clear my passion was in tailor-made travel, so I later left the company to manage a bespoke Safari Tour Operator with a team of 20. I loved this job and felt in my element. In 2018, I fell ill and was unable to work. After a long and uncertain year, I eventually set up my own company *(Wanderlux Experiential Travel) and have been successfully growing the company ever since. Since then, I have battled various obstacles with health, we’ve had a global pandemic, and I had a child too! Obviously a lot more has happened in between both personally and professionally, but that is a quick summary.


The landscape of travel has changed quite a bit over the past few years, how have you managed to navigate this and has it changed the way you do things?

Ah yes, Covid was a fun time! The whole travel industry is still navigating its way through the aftermath and trying to recover. 2 weeks before March 2020 lockdown I learned of my pregnancy so that was something positive and exciting to focus on. During that year, I worked on some creative partnerships and banded together with some “previously considered competitors” in the industry. I donated a luxury 5* Honeymoon for Win My Wedding – an initiative set up by 32 hospitality partners who each donated a part of a wedding (DJ, photographer, dress designer, cake baker, etc) to a couple who had lost out on their wedding day due to Covid. That was really special to do. I formed life-long partnerships with private concierges, business-travel companies, and lifestyle-led brands. I am now working on some very unique projects in the Space sector, partnering with a non-profit organisation called Space for a Better World, linking former astronauts (and their journeys in NASA’s Space Agency, and in space itself), working on specialist-led expeditions on Planet Earth to spearhead local environmental projects, and encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers. I have fallen into quite the niche with Space purpose but I am working with some incredible people (and a huge amount of women) that gives me a great sense of purpose.


You launched your own travel brand ‘Wanderlux Experiential Travel’, what inspired you to start your own company and do you have any advice to those wanting to start their own business?

Starting with the second part to this question is the best advice I could ever give.  To succeed, you have to take care of yourself.  You can see in the next question, why this has become everything for me but in short, you have nothing without your health and since I fell ill in 2018, I (have to) continue to value my health as much as my finances.

The second part of the question is also linked to the below, but beyond circumstances (which aided me to take the plunge), setting up my own company was something I had always aspired towards.  My father was a successful company director (recently retired) and despite working incredibly hard, I always admired his passion. Our passions are very different as he is a computer programmer and scientist, but his passion kept him interested in his work, and successful at it too. He put all three of his children through private and good education and enabled us all to go to University (if we wanted to). Now I have a son of my own, I have a similar drive to provide for my family.


What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome?

 In line with the previous question, my biggest learning in life is “through adversity comes magic” – I have alluded to this several times but this phrase has become a personal mantra of mine. In 2018 after a trip to Costa Rica, I became very unwell. I collapsed at work one day and I didn’t get back up for 4-6 months. I was unable to walk, I couldn’t speak properly, or function much beyond living without knowledge or understanding of what was happening. It was a very scary time and nobody could tell me what was happening. I was tested for every neurological, tropical and immunological illness out there just to find some answers to what was happening to me. That year, I had to change my lifestyle and strip my world right back. Over those months as my strength began to return, I was faced with the stark reality that I might not be able to commit to a full time job again, but I needed a purpose. This is how Wanderlux began and how it became my drive and motivation to recover.  One day I set up a company with no expectations other than to have something positive to focus on, but it soon became financially viable too. With my 12+ years of experience in this sector, I was able to fulfil bucket-list dreams for clients, and get creative with it.  Five years down the line, my health has balanced, and Wanderlux is flourishing. We have won awards, received great accolades, sent clients all over the world and fulfilled the weirdest and most wonderful requests. My energy is back to strength and I am left with a business model that balances work and health in equal measures.


What would you say is your greatest achievement?

 There have been quite a few to which I am ever so proud and grateful. I have won awards, gained recognition for creativity, fulfilled countless clients with honeymoons, bucket list ticks and big birthday parties. However, my greatest achievement would be co-producing the “Space Oscars” at London’s Science Museum in May 2022 – a 4 day event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 16’s moon landing. With 11 astronauts, over 450 guests and a unique venue space, I supported Astronaut Manager and producer Christina Korp in a truly spectacular show. With an astronaut-hosted dinner, an IMAX Q&A, Cocktail reception, Gala and Awards, plus a “May the 4th Be With You” after, after Party in an all-female production crew… that event was very special.


What advice would you give to any current students considering a career in travel?

 Travel is an industry built around love for our planet. There are so many sub-divisions within “Travel & Tourism” and it has evolved into a creative industry where you really can grow in any direction. Try out different sectors to find your niche and travel yourself, so you can understand the product and customer journey.  You can always switch later if needed. Follow your passion in what inspires you – work out what you care about, and undoubtedly you will find a role that suits you!


 You spoke of travelling extensively during the Inspiring Minds panel discussion recently. What would you say to anyone wanting to go travelling? Any hints and tips?

 Personally, I have learned so much through travel. You can only read so much about cultures, languages, food – seeing it and experiencing it in person takes it to another level. I also learned (and continue to learn) a lot about myself which is always important.


Hints & Tips:

  • Start Small – If you’ve never travelled before and feel anxious at the idea, start small. European weekends away will give you an insight into different destinations. Try to fly into an airport you haven’t heard of before and out of a different one. They don’t have to be far apart, but it makes it more of an adventure getting from one place to another.
  • Volunteer with a project – this will give you accommodation, a purpose and a base to explore from. It looks great on your CV and you’ll feel like you have gotten to know the destination more than a tourist.
  • Travel by train – not only is this much more environmentally friendly than flying, but you will find yourself in some beautiful places that are off the beaten path
  • Escape Route – always have a resource for getting home – enough money in the bank for a flight home if you want to just return.


What is your most memorable moment from your time at RGS?

 I was at RGS from 1998 to 2006 (Lower First to Upper Sixth Form). The school changed a lot over those years, and I was the first co-ed year in the Lower First back in the day. But I would say the most memorable times were with Miss (Sarah) Branston conducting the most incredible Theatre Studies and Drama performances. Oliver. Les Miserables. And multiple workshops and London theatre visits that engaged my creativity in ways that have helped me throughout my adult life.


What would you most like to tell yourself aged 16?

 Life is hard, but everything is temporary. So, if you’re not happy – change something. Our lives are forever evolving and nothing is stuck if we don’t want it to be. Also, you don’t have to have everything figured out right now. If you don’t know what you want in life, take a step back and give yourself time to decide – that in itself is a proactive and positive decision. If you don’t know what you want your career to be, consider what you enjoy in life and look into that as a career path. And if all fails, just start by earning yourself some money to enjoy life with! You can change careers at any time. You can study at any time. You can decide later.


What are your goals for the future?

 I have personal and professional goals, both short and long term which I would encourage – even if they aren’t successfully met, it enables me to maintain direction and focus.

A recent achievement was buying a house in Shoreham and it was a real renovation project, so I am looking forward to enjoying it now. Travel is always on my agenda, being more visible for my business, connecting with suppliers and new clients around the world and of course designing more unique expeditions with astronauts! We’ve just entered 2023/24 financial year so I am hoping our growth goals continue as a business and I am to get Charlie Duke (moonwalker and Apollo astronaut) to the 7th continent for the first time!


 Lastly, if you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you and why?

I would take music (for my sanity), a bucket (for collecting things) and a hammer (for building things!)

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