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John Spence

WANDERLUST John Spence is San Diego’s go-to guy to arrange a one-of-a-kind vacation.

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Tripping Out

By Kayleigh Donahue Hodes

Photography by Cameron Gardner

12.01.16

John Spence’s Aardvark Safaris merges with United Kingdom’s luxe travel firm, Scott Dunn.

When it comes to selecting the person you’d entrust to plan your next vacation, it takes only five minutes to realize that following John Spence to the end of the Earth (and back) would guarantee an unforgettable travel experience. “I was an ill-educated outdoor-adventure person—I’m British and we encourage gap years to see the world,” explains Spence, the newly minted president of Scott Dunn USA. “I worked in France [as] a chalet boy; then I lived in Cape Town as a bartender and white-water raft guide; and eventually I decided that I was never going to be [one to wear a] suit—I wanted to be in the travel business.”

That realization translated into starting Aardvark Safaris in 1999—a tour company specializing in high-end, bespoke vacations to Africa. From luxe honeymoons to a traditional safari in the bush, Spence was the go-to guy for the experience. After many successful trips to Africa, Aardvark’s clients began requesting similar getaways to Europe and South America, but Spence—who books only vacations that he or someone on his staff has experienced firsthand—did not feel capable of offering the same level of service to every spot on the globe. “Ultimately, we did not want to grow unless we could be very good at it,” he recalls.