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Meet the Curator: Dean

"I remember reading the phrase 'the world is so big, why do people stay in one place?' and that always stuck with me."

Dean Hayter
Origin travel curator

A Senior Travel Curator at Origin, Dean spent his 20s living in Dubai. He's currently based in London but is always considering where his next home country might be. When he's not designing incredible trips, Dean can usually be found at a music festival, drinking tea like a true Brit, or playing video games. He also loves bread and can scout out a bakery wherever he is in the world.

What sparked your passion for travel and how did it become your career?

I was a huge bookworm as a kid and that’s where I started to get a sense of awe and wonder from new places. I remember reading the phrase “the world is so big, why do people stay in one place?” and that always stuck with me. As I grew up I started playing video games and they were always about explorers in faraway places, so it makes sense that the day after graduation from university I jumped on a plane and went on my first real adventure backpacking around Asia for three months.

I then moved to Dubai to look for a job in film but ended up helping out at a booth at the Arabian Travel Market, which was my first introduction to the travel industry and I loved it. Eight years later I was managing travel for the entire Middle East at my company, which meant lots of travel around Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and others. I eventually moved back home to the U.K. to be closer to family and continued working for bespoke travel companies, which eventually led me to Origin and the rest is history.

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

I have visited around 18 countries so far and my top three would definitely be Greece, Sri Lanka, and Kuwait. Greece has so much to offer like islands, mountains, cities, history, diving, food—it really has it all. Plus the people are so warm and its culture is very Mediterranean but also distinctly Greek.

Kuwait isn't an obvious choice, but it left a lasting impression on me. It is a small country with an interesting history, but there is something special about Kuwait that I really fell in love with. I was there once during a particularly hot summer and it was so hot, the traffic lights melted!

Wow is all I can say about Sri Lanka. It's so picturesque and in two weeks I saw so many different types of places, and the people are lovely!

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

I have wanted to travel through Iran for quite some time but it just hasn't happened yet for different reasons. I saw a travel documentary by the iconic Joanna Lumley on a tour through the Silk Road, which spent an entire episode in Iran. Ever since, I've been captivated by the bazaars of Tehran, the mud-brick antiquity of Yazd, the emptiness of the Dasht-e Lut Desert, and the Persian gardens of Kashan.

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

We are a tiny blue planet floating through an infinite void of stars, planets, moons, and gas. To our current knowledge, we are the only planet in the galaxy that has managed to not only create life, but also sustain it for over 3 billion years, and it is our duty to protect our unique home. Humans have devastated our planet and have destroyed so much, so it's our responsibility to all the creatures who call this planet home to take care of it and ensure its survival.

How can you promote positive change when traveling?

I'm a huge fan of slow travel, particularly by train! Trains are a great way of traveling responsibly by cutting out air pollution and taking a greener approach. Also, do not exploit animals for tourism! Elephant rides and photos with tigers are big no-nos. And finally, don't litter. Leave natural places you are traveling to in the same condition you would want to find them: pristine and untouched by humans.

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

On my way to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, an elderly woman in a plaza tried to sell me seeds to feed the pigeons. I politely declined, but she insisted and put two bags of seeds in each of my palms as I tried to walk away. She then flipped my hands over so the seeds fell all around me and the pigeons dove in to feast. She then demanded I pay her for the seeds I didn’t want and, when I refused, she reached into my front pocket and took my money. Before I even realized what happened, she ran off while clapping her hands so the pigeons flew up into my face while she made her getaway. My friends still laugh at the story of how I was outrun by an 80-year-old.

Which was the most memorable property you've ever stayed at? Why?

The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, hosted me during a luxury travel show and I've never felt so pampered. The building was originally built to be a royal palace but after completion, it was turned into a spectacular palatial hotel. It was also the first time I met a Saudi Princess by accidentally locking myself in a room with her—it was a very memorable trip!

What item can you not travel without?

My headphones! I am a huge music lover and I couldn't travel hours on a plane without my go-to playlists. I also use them for listening to local radio stations, which is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture by listening to popular music, news events, or even advertisements!

Pick one of your favorite photos from your travels and explain why.

There’s a story behind this photo. I was in the Seychelles with a group of fellow travelers and we rented bikes on my favorite island, La Digue. We grabbed some beers and rode off to a beach on the opposite side of the island, but didn’t know realize there was a mountain we had to cross (it was really just a hill). I went down way too fast and had to use my bare feet to stop, cutting them up pretty badly. We continued on and arrived at the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever seen, where someone took this picture with my feet covered in sand to hide the blood—it was well worth it though!