Luxury travel expert helps people envision what’s possible.
Sara Duffy is a travel enthusiast and owner of SRD International, a luxury travel concierge business with offices in Minnesota and California. Most of her work in Los Angeles involves celebrities and CEOs, people she says tend to take travel for granted, whereas her Minnesota clients have a greater appreciation for travel. That appreciation resonates with Duffy who says, “Travel has been a savior in my life, knowing there is always something more out there.” This year, Duffy hopes to provide that feeling to a broader audience through a new television show called Trip of a Lifetime.
Duffy’s appetite for travel began when she was in high school. She grew up in St. Cloud, Minn., and took her first “trip of a lifetime” to Europe to perform in a high school choral concert. “I was amazed at how others lived their lives,” says Duffy. “I, like many Americans, tended to think others live like us. But travel helps us appreciate home more. That’s when travel became my passion and later, my profession.”
This sense of adventure sparked Duffy’s move to California where she became a receptionist for a Los Angeles travel agency, gained advanced training in Dallas and at a Beverly Hills agency which led her to a role in executive travel for Paramount Studios. She launched her own travel business in 1995 that would later include a concierge service to accommodate unique requests like visits to shops that were closed in advance or helicoptering people to wineries, etc. Her work led to a Bravo TV reality-based show called First Class All the Way which aired in 2008 but only for one season. A financial crisis paired with the network’s desire for Duffy to behave more like a celebrity housewife made the show a turnoff for viewers as well as Duffy. “With an economy going down, nobody wanted to hear me talk about a suite that only costs $13,000 euros a night,” says Duffy.
She continued to work in entertainment, coordinating publicity travel and studio press junkets, and says, “It was fun but exhausting,” so she returned to individual travel because she still appreciates the joy it gives to people. Post-COVID, Duffy hopes to help ease the reluctance some would-be travelers might have about getting back out there. She’s also excited to make another television show, one more suited to her vision.
“I had this idea 10 years ago,” says Duffy. “So, when a producer friend called and asked if I wanted to do another TV show, I said, ‘no tone-deaf lifestyle of the rich and famous.’ There is only one show I want to do, mine, called Trip of a Lifetime.” Duffy’s long dreamed of the show would focus on people who’ve experienced challenges in life; “frontline workers, teachers, a couple who’ve missed out on a honeymoon or grandparents longing to reunite with grandchildren, and send them on a five-star vacation. In the end, we’ll ask how travel helped them or improved their quality of life,” she says.
Duffy got a call back within 24 hours with a green light and began shooting the pilot episode this past summer. The plan is for the show to air this fall or winter. “Travel brought me joy when I didn’t have a lot of joy in my life,” says Duffy. “I know there are a lot of people hurting out there, people who’ve been isolated and without joy. Mental health is tied to our experiences and travel is just part destination; it’s also part psychology, looking for a feeling or emotion. I want to give people that, which is why most of my clients have been with me for so long because I try to get to the heart of what they’re looking for.”