Introducing… Sam although no one calls him that! To customers and friends alike he’s known as Sammy. He’s the owner and operator behind RatPack Travel, after just 2 years ago its become the best rated backpacker travel agency in Australia. When I think of a travel agency I think fancy high street store & expensive? Well… THINK AGAIN!
He’s travelled over 26,000km by car around the full loop of Australia, backpacked around New Zealand for two years and then found his ‘dream job’ working for one of Australia’s biggest travel agencies. However, after 2 years of working for a corporate organisation which offered tours and transport to first-time backpackers he soon realised that it wasn’t all what it was ‘cracked’ up to be.
The job was 100% sales based, the agency sold the most expensive trips on the market and often inflated prices to relieve backpackers of their hard-earned money… combine that with a terrible lack of after service support he became tired of ‘working for the man’. Sammy, spotted a gap in the market. A service that offered BackPackers quality tours at a discounted price with a complete personalised service. RatPack Travel was born.
- I am thrilled to be interviewing you finally after following your adventures for the last two years since you set up RatPack Travel. Every time I log on to Instagram I want to jump back on a plane out to Australia again… how did RatPack Travel come about?
Firstly I’m stoked that you’ve asked me to do the Q & A, I was reading the other interviews and there are some truly inspiring stories as part of your series…
Working in Australia selling trips to BackPackers with one of the big chain high street travel companies started to hurt my love for travel. No morals, no ethics & poor customer service for me was the polar opposite to what BackPacking is all about!
The original plan was to set up a website for first time BackPackers with money-saving tips and advice on how to avoid the ‘classic’ travel shop tricks. Then came my lightbulb moment… why just moan and limit myself to ‘ratting out’ the industry with an information website? Why not change the game and create a much better and more personalised experience for BackPackers to book trips & transport. That’s how RatPack Travel was born. When you are part of The RatPack it’s all about receiving honest & transparent advice from someone who has actually been there and done it.
- Where is your office?
When I first set up RatPack almost 2 years ago we rented a small office space that was attached to a hostel in Byron Bay… it suited the brand perfectly it was right by the beach and it was away from the hustle of the high street.
Early this year the independently owned hostel was sold to chain organisation with it an already established high street brand moved into the space as part of the deal. At first – I was like OH Sh*t… but I’m a firm believer in everything for a reason.
I thought, why not take RatPack completely mobile… I managed to source a run down 1973 Bus, with the amazing help of close friends and family (who were visiting from the UK) – we completed the renovation in just under 3 months. The bus is now our rolling, mobile HQ.
The move away from the hostel pushed us more online. We have recently launched a brand new website, which is one of the first sites to feature live availability – where an online user can go online and receive their travel voucher instantly.
It’s made us more flexible and reduced over heads – that’s the reason we can give such EPIC discounts compared to the competition.
- What was your background/career focus before starting RatPack Travel?
Like probably many of you… I felt COMPLETELY lost after finishing my university degree (2011)… after three years of hard work I asked myself, what the hell am I doing… I had no drive to get a job within my ‘specialised field’ and I knew that an office job in Manchester, UK was simply not going to cut it.
Working part-time post University, I scrapped together as many pound coins as I had and set off to BackPack around Thailand and then on to Australia. It was a time in my life that I had no path, no one telling me what to do and no particular goal in mind. Safe to say I loved it.
When I hit Oz, I bounced from job to job… production line work, farming, bar work & restaurants (I was one clumsy waiter)… Before you know it I had spent 4 years bounding around Australasia and remote parts of Indonesia… It never worried me that I had no stable career path. When I returned to Australia on my second year visa I stumbled across the job working for the travel organisation, since then I’ve never looked back.
- What inspired you to settle in Australia, as opposed to any other country?
Although I’m from Manchester, I’m an absolute beach bum! As a fellow Brit it would also be rude not to all mention the weather. Another factor was the lifestyle… the vast majority of the Aussie population ditch the ‘live to work’ ethos and instead roll with the ‘work to live’ mentality.
Talking about work though the opportunities that present themselves out here (if you are prepared to put in a shift) I feel are greater than the UK. With a small population for such a HUGE country and a minimum wage that is upwards of $19 an hour you can see why it’s such a desirable place to settle…
- Which destinations do RatPack Travel do? And which ones are your favourite?
We now have the ability to book (at a discounted rate) every tour operator and transport company in both Oz and NZ… Of course the East Coast is on the tip of everyone’s tongue – for good reason as it is EPIC. That though is a given destination to hit when you are here. So in no particular order…
1) Kakadu & Litchfield National Park. WOW, think the plains of Africa combine this with nutty Aussie blokes who go fishing amongst the Crocs and you are half way there.
2) Rottnest Island, in Western Oz is a snorkelers paradise
3) Uluru & Kings Canyon at the Red Centre can only be described as majestic!
4) Kangaroo Island. P.S. a heads up, time has stood still here… it’s like going back 50 years
5) The back streets and laneways of Melbourne & the Great Ocean Rd (in the summer – winter is COLD)
6) Oh and of course Byron Bay – surf, sea and hippie culture makes it a completely unique place, when you are here, come and find our Bus. Pop in and say hello!
- You are always on the go, despite being based in Byron Bay! Where are you at the moment and what’s planned for 2019?
As I touched on earlier taking the business completely mobile has allowed me to be way more flexible with where I’m based. This whole summer I’ve pretty much spent on the road using the UK as a base, I picked up a small van for 600 quid and used that as my office.
I’ve visited Ireland for the first time on a surf mission, spent an amazing week in Amsterdam and hit the road through Europe visiting France, Spain and Portugal.
In September I plan to hit 5 UK cities in 5 days for the upcoming freshers week… If you see someone dressed up as a life-size Kangaroo handing out info on all things Oz and NZ you now know who it is!
- I am a sucker for a gadget and invest money in things that I believe will make my adventures somewhat easier, less stressful and efficient. What is your favourite gadget when you are on your travels?
Go gadget Sammy is not really a thing if I’m honest… I have the essentials – my Macbook & a trusty I phone which I’m on at all hours. Other than that I’m the guy at the airport who has 7kg’s of luggage for a 4 week trip!
- What are some of your top travel experiences to date? And why….
Wow, that’s a tricky one. I hit a very remote part of Indonesia on a solo surf trip and the taxi took 12 hours to get me across Java (think that was the scariest) – the driver almost fell asleep, there was plenty of oncoming traffic and it was tipping it down with rain. I arrived at the accommodation (which was a bamboo shack) at 2 am, when I woke up the surf was CRANKING, it made the near death experience all worth while.
Also, how can I not mention this one. Driving through the OutBack from Cairns to Uluru (to the centre of Oz) – it took us 6 full days non stop driving, when I got to that rock, I’m not the most emotional guy, but I may have shed a little tear.
- There’s been a lot of criticism about the ‘social media filter’ recently and how are Instagram lives don’t reflect our real lives. Do you think it’s important as someone who works in the travel sphere to present a true representation of travel?
YES 100% – give it to the people real… it’s not always as ‘glossy’ as some people make out. To be honest that’s where the RatPack personalised service comes in… At times travel goes wrong – you get injured, a flight gets cancelled, a storm tarnishes the pre planned trip… Unfortunately that’s the nature of stepping out your comfort zone and into the unknown.
As a business owner and someone who takes pride in knowing we can help out in situations like this gives me great pride. From one BackPacker to another we keep it real all the way, that’s the RatPack way.
- When it comes to daily struggles there is always a place where you feel most comfortable. Mine is anytime I am in the water, mostly when I am snorkelling. The silence and being surrounded by nature in all its imperfection is my calm place!
Everyday is a hustle – you got to attack it head on grind it out and 100% find that balance of what puts you in your zen (haha such a Byron Bay word right there)… I’ll mirror you on this one though being in the ocean on my board waiting for that next wave is the one for me!
- What mantra/ethos do you live by?
I love a quote. I got this from my Dad… ‘See it do it. When you do it, do it well!’
- And finally, I ask everyone this, who is your ultimate travel partner?
Ohhhhhhhh someone doesn’t have problems only solutions, can camp in the rain and splits the food 70:30 in my favour…
Thank you so much to Sammy chatting for to me and my followers. Check out his Instagram RatPack Travel to immerse yourself in the Aussie way of life!
Sammy and the RatPack crew are all about creating epic Australian adventures for backpackers and saving them money at the same time! If Sammy’s story and Australian life has inspired you to get out and explore what the other side has got to offer then drop him a message to find out about how RatPack Travel can help you to plan your adventure >> he’ll even give you an epic 10% discount off all trips and transport so get in touch with Sammy at [email protected] remember to quote ‘SOPHIE10’.