“I realized that I was a travel junkie because, even after visiting over 40 countries, from Iran to Cambodia, there were still so many other places I wanted to go,” says Ruzwana Bashir, founder and CEO of Peek.com. It explains why the 31-year-old, a woman clearly of many talents — the British Pakistani was the first woman of Asian descent to become president of the Oxford Union, was a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Business School and worked as an investment banker in London — decided to start an online travel company that provides celebrity-curated travel recommendations and high quality activities and tours. Backed by tech giants like Jack Dorsey and Eric Schmidt, Peek allows real-time bookings on their app and website in 17 American cities, as well as London and Paris.
But it’s not just a to-do list — it’s the how-to-do list that’s key. Bashir has used her considerable influence (she was named in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in tech list in 2012 and Silicon Valley’s Most Stylish in Vanity Fair) to cull from the famous and well connected their own personal recommendations and travel itineraries. Do a foodie crawl in San Francisco like Chinese American chef Brandon Jew; plan a perfect Napa Valley trip à la Japanese American model Devon Aoki; see Vegas the way ultimate Vegas insider Tony Hsieh of Zappos does; or experience “the closest thing to heaven on Earth” on Kauai’s north shore courtesy of Bloomberg’s Emily Chang.
“I travel to see awe-inspiring sights, to be enthralled by new cultures and to seek out those special experiences that end up being truly unforgettable,” says Bashir. She recommends that travelers “embark on adventures that push you out of your comfort zone, as these will help you learn about yourself and create fantastic memories that you’ll cherish forever.”
Audrey Magazine: What’s your favorite itinerary or activity on Peek right now?Ruzwana Bashir: I love views of beautiful landscapes, so my favorite experiences are floating over Napa in a hot air balloon and taking an amazing helicopter tour in Hawaii. Not only do you fly over the world’s most active volcano, you also enjoy stunning views of the hidden tropical valleys, lush rainforests and roaring waterfalls below.
AM: Where are two places you haven’t been to yet and are dying to go to?
RB: I’m really excited to head to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for a safari. I’m also desperate to visit Bhutan, to trek through the countryside, visit beautiful monasteries and immerse myself in a fascinating culture.
AM: Where are you off to next?
RB: This month I’m staying in the States, with visits to Aspen, Yellowstone Park and Lake Tahoe.
AM: Pick one: free clothes from your favorite designer for a lifetime or a trip around the world?
RB: Numerous research studies have shown that having experiences makes us twice as happy as buying products, so I would have to go for the trip around the world!
AM: You’re now based in San Francisco. Describe your own perfect day there.
RB: My perfect day in SF would include visiting the Ferry Building for breakfast, and then taking a seaplane over the Golden Gate Bridge for majestic views of the city. Then I would head to Golden Gate Park to see the California Academy of Sciences — at heart, I’m a geek who is obsessed with nature, so this place is a feast for the senses. Then I would have a pit stop at the Japanese Tea Garden, followed by Foreign Cinema in the Mission District for dinner with a film in the background. Finally, on my way home I’d stop by Bi-Rite for an ice cream sandwich.
This story was originally published in our Fall 2014 issue. Get your copy here.