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, including those in the Lake Minnetonka area, 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.” 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 in St. Cloud, Minn., when she traveled to Europe to perform in a high school choral concert. “I was amazed at how others lived their lives … That’s when travel became my passion and later, my profession,” she says.
This sense of adventure sparked Duffy’s move to California, where she became a receptionist for a Los Angeles travel agency and 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 arranging advance visits to shops that were closed to the public 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.
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,” Duffy says. “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 show that would focus on people who’ve experienced challenges in life (frontline workers, teachers, a couple who’ve missed out on a honeymoon or families longing to reunite) and send them on a five-star vacation. At the conclusion, the traveler will be ask how travel helped them or improved their quality of life.
The show is set to air online on JUL-TV, and Duffy says there have been discussions with the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime.
“Travel brought me joy when I didn’t have a lot of joy in my life,” Duffy says. “I know there are a lot 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.”