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Meet the Curator: Sophie-Anne

"My mantra is to always travel with humility—for the destination, its people, wildlife, and nature."

Sophie-Anne Burton
Origin travel curator

Whether it be scaling volcanoes in Guatemala, sailing the Egyptian Nile by felucca, or delving into the depths of the Cambodian jungle, Sophie-Anne has harbored an obsession with exploration for as long as she can remember. She loves to be on the move when she travels and incorporates a range of adrenaline-pumping experiences to combine her passion for outdoor activity with a love of places and people.

Getting around in remote Cambodia
What sparked your passion for travel and how did it become your career?

Growing up in a melting pot of cultural influence with family roots spread far and wide, I've always harbored a fascination for lands that lie beyond my doorstep and an obsession with old-age explorers.

Eventually, it was my degree in anthropology and languages that proved the ultimate gateway to a career in travel, solidifying the belief that the magic of travel lies in each journey’s ability to enrich one's perspective of the world through the lives they encounter along the way. When I graduated I knew I had to take this passion into my everyday life and I haven't looked back since. It's such a privilege to spend your days immersed in the possibilities of travel and the memories it can incite.

How many countries have you visited? What were your top 3 and why?

Around 30 so far! My top three vary day to day but India, Costa Rica, and Iceland are recurring favorites.

My dad's side of the family originates from India and I grew up surrounded by the tastes and scents of Indian cuisine alongside captivating stories of my grandmother's heritage. When I first traveled to Mumbai, my senses were lit up and when I returned a few years later to explore Rajasthan, it felt like coming home. India is like a million countries in one and offers up a different side to the story on each encounter.

Costa Rica won my heart in 2017 and I haven't been able to stop raving about it since! A true nature lover's paradise, it's easily the greenest place I've ever been, both aesthetically and ethically. Eco-conservation is at the center of Costa Rica's ethos and it was inspiring to spend time around a culture that truly lives at one with its surroundings, soaking up the pura vida lifestyle.

Iceland astounded me. To this day I can't believe that a short flight transported me to what felt like another planet altogether! It was the scenery that beckoned as I was desperate to scale the vast glaciers, snorkel between tectonic plates, and witness roaring waves crash upon black sand beaches. The people and folklore were incredible to interact with, too, and I came away feeling utterly reinvigorated by this magical island.

What’s the place you most want to visit that you haven’t been to yet?

I'm desperate to journey the Himalayan passes of Bhutan. I love the idea of a hidden away kingdom in the mountains that's preserved its unique culture throughout the ages. Bhutan has forests, glaciers, cliffside temple retreats, and a society that measures development in Gross National Happiness; I just know that this magical land would offer peace and adventure all at once.

Why is it important for travel to make a positive impact?

I think that so many of the huge challenges we face as a society are based in ignorance, apathy, or unwarranted competition, and travel has the unique ability to tackle all three. Through experiencing other ways of life and environments, we come to learn so much and the interactions and connections we forge with both people and places during these travels can engender a really personal sense of compassion and being part of a greater whole.

How can you promote positive change when traveling?

My mantra is to always travel with humility—for the destination, its people, wildlife, and nature. I try to disturb as little as possible and to find joy in immersing myself in the essence of where I am through local, authentic experiences. This means doing my research and avoiding any exploitative establishments, such as unethical animal centers which are there to gratify a more shallow commercial aesthetic. This can, of course, be difficult and I think is a huge advantage of arranging travel with experts who are dedicated to knowing the ins and outs of sustainable and responsible travel.

What’s the most surreal travel experience you’ve had?

I always remember a bush walk deep in the conservancies of Kenya with a Maasai guide. Being in the open plains on foot was such a humbling experience and gave me a real sense of being just a tiny speck in the vast surroundings. As a storm rolled in, we paused under some foliage and the sense of awe that washed over me as I looked out across the landscape in such a dramatic state was truly impactful. It was so raw and authentic.

A transformative experience with knowledgable guides
Which was the most memorable property you've ever stayed at? Why?

Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia’s lesser-known Cardamom Rainforest absolutely blew me away. Bill Bensley—the renowned ‘Willy Wonka’ of hotel design—has created his personal homage to the region in his "utopia of sustainability," which feels like the perfect description. The individually designed luxury tree houses are perched over a roaring river and are at once eclectic and timeless in taste. The communal areas are incredibly welcoming and set against the backdrop of an astounding waterfall lagoon. The staff are wonderful and I reluctantly left feeling privileged to have been welcomed into this secret paradise they call home.

Luxury tents in the Cambodian jungle
What item can you not travel without?

I always travel with my journal. While I'm not the best at keeping up with writing at home, it's such a relief at the end of a day of travel to pour all of my memories and impressions onto the page and know I will have that first-hand real-time account to re-visit in the future.

Pick one of your favorite photos from your travels and explain why.
Making connections in Jawai, Rajastahn

This photo was taken in Jawai, rural leopard country in Rajasthan, India, and is one of my happiest memories. We took a walk through the shepherding villages that lie dotted throughout the region and met the communities living there. I'm a huge photography fan but I'm always conscious not to impose too much or take unsolicited pictures of people. That said, my huge camera was spotted and I was approached by a group, young and old, who took such delight in being photographed and seeing the results. While there was a language barrier, I can still hear the laughter and gentle teasing as they poked fun at each other—it felt like a connection was made without words which made it all the more special. This was a completely candid moment that I had no idea was being captured but I'm so glad I can look back on that beautiful encounter now.