Lyn and her partner Jigme set up Dragon Trails bespoke Bhutan Tours, ‘bringing Bhutan to you and you to Bhutan.’
What’s your story
Bhutan was my ultimate adventure. I went on a whim, to trek alone and to challenge myself physically. I was so blessed and took from the trip a sense of wanting to protect the ruggedness of nature, the heritage of Bhutan and supporting the youth and their development. I found my own ‘happiness’ space. Gross National Happiness (GNH) was no longer a concept I read about.
I could also connect with Bhutan, a small country with a big purpose, beyond the size of the country or the population, just like Singapore!
I was compelled to use my skills and passion to create a vehicle where I would bridge the gap between the curious Bhutanese youths, wanting to link with the advancements beyond their beautiful kingdom and the youth in affluent cities like Singapore and expose them to a different type of ‘affluence.’ A travel advisory which would create visibility and support causes related to youth leadership exchange and focus on tourism with a purpose.
And so, I decided to create my own ‘small country, big purpose’ and thus the story of how I came to found Dragon Trails Bespoke Bhutan Tours, with my Bhutan partner Jigme Dorji.
What excites you most about your industry
The travel and leisure industry is about adventure, fun, dreams and desires. It’s everything that we relate to relieving stress, life and work harmony, about creating new experiences and making new friends.
I love the fact that we get to be part of making someone’s dream or desires come true.
We are spoilt for choice with the limitless options on travel these days. People look for a little extra. It excites us that we have the chance to craft and customise a unique experience for our guests. This is something I do for myself and for my friends anyway, so extending it to our guests and treating each guest as a family member and friend is what makes it fun and worthwhile.
It also gives me a chance to introduce my ‘small country, big purpose’ mission to our guests too.
What’s your connection to Asia
I am Chinese and born and bred in Singapore. I have lived and worked in the USA and Europe throughout different stages in my life. The more I have lived and worked away from Asia, the more connected I have felt to Asia. I’m in a MNC in what you would call an Asian female talent. And since I have benefited from being groomed and developed as an Asian female talent, my desire is to give back to other Asians the privilege I have received. I am a public speaker in Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, HK and India) on leadership and people related topics. I also contribute as a mentor to the local universities, as part of my purpose to develop youth leadership.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I will sound biased as a Singaporean, but Singapore is my choice. These are my three criteria.
1) Ease of travel and connectivity. Singapore is fantastic if you work in a global role and you have to be plane hopping to meet with partners, customers and colleagues. I have always appreciated how easily I can travel to anywhere in the world from Singapore.
2) Things work! I am amazed how quickly I got my home office request approved by URA. It was done online and approved within 5 minutes of my application. Or how quickly one can check information on CPF, IRAS or get a new bank account started in this country.
3) We have great hawker food and a variety of eateries to suit different wallet sizes, conveniently dotted around our little Red Dot.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Dream as big as you want and reach your potential. Never hold back and never doubt yourself.
This came from my mum. My mum came from a very poor family, put herself through school, she and my dad built a successful business from scratch and put my siblings and I, the five of us, through university. We all did extremely well and have my mum to thank. She was a visionary with a big heart. If born in a different era, she could have easily become the CEO of a company.
I am where I am today because of the words from my mum.
Who inspires you?
My friend and mentor, Carolyn Kan, owner and founder of Carrie K., the seven year old local jewellery brand which has made it to the world stage. Carrie K recently collaborated with The Walt Disney Company to design themed jewellery to commemorate the release of the film Alice: Through the Looking Glass. Carrie is my inspiration because she is creative, fun, quirky and translates this personality into her jewellery pieces which I often proudly wear. Carrie is very talented and generous with her time. She always has time to lend a listening ear, provide a helping hand, give her professional input. She is the force behind Keepers, which is a platform to promote other local designers, artisans and artists. When I ‘grow up’ I want to be just like Carrie!
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently attended a lighting conference or forum at the National Museum, organised by another talented friend. Incidentally, this very good friend was a stranger whom I had met at an airport lounge in Poland six years ago. Another testament to the wonders of travel!
The conference topics ranged from ‘Neuropsychology in vision and lighting techniques,’ to the ‘Use of Colours in Artificial Lighting Design’ and ‘Lighting Design for Paintings.’ I was totally blown away by the presentation by the renowned Serena Tellini and Francesco Iannone on how they digitised the colours of nature and used it to create colour palettes to light up the Ascona waterfront in Switzerland. The lighting colours change throughout the day and night and seasons to reflect the colours of nature.
I was so amazed as I didn’t realise that good and sustainable lighting is the collaboration of architects, engineers, photographers and lighting designers creating captivating memories and unforgettable experiences. That was an evening well spent for me.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I think I would have been a lot more curious when I was in school. I have always done well in school without trying very hard. I remember being a last minute ‘mugger’ and always did well enough to be in the top cohort. I did not use the talents that I had to explore, seek out new ideas or try new things. If I had done that, I think it would not have taken me as long to be as comfortable in my own skin, as I am today.
I also think I would not have waited so long to have my two dogs, who are my most precious beings, right after my two beautiful girls. They are one of the reasons why I am still sane today, with a full time day job and a business which my partner and I have started, driven by passion and purpose.
How do you unwind?
It sounds insane if I admit that I unwind by planning holidays, trawling through hotels and sights and train and plane schedules. It gives me a sense of anticipation and upcoming adventure.
When I am not insanely unwinding and doing travel plans, I love meeting up with close friends over tea, taking a walk or going to the gym.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Other than Bhutan, which is a great location for mindfulness retreats and relaxation, my other favourite location is Japan. I am a great fan of Japanese food, and the sashimi in Japan is too heavenly to describe. Japan is also a culture of anticipatory service and as a visitor, I can always be assured of the best service and comfort possible. The Japanese service is an artform in itself. I also like the good mix of traditional, cosmopolitan and nature which Japan has to offer. And lastly, the onsen is great for relaxing and melting away whatever remaining stress from shopping, hiking or eating!
Everyone in business should read this book
Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra.
Shameless plug for your business
Dragon Trails Bespoke Bhutan Tours create and deliver personalised, all-inclusive itineraries for our clients, the way a trusted friend would do for guests travelling from afar to visit our home.
We want to deliver bespoke travel experiences with the seamless efficiency of butler coupled with the friendship, care and warmth of the Bhutanese people.
We will find you the best-fit accommodation, be it a luxurious spa retreat or a local-run ecolodge, secure safe and reliable ground transport and run your daily programme of activities. Our guides will share our history, culture and philosophy as we journey with you in the mystical land of the Thunder Dragon.
Bhutan stands out in the world for taking a unique stand on measuring its success on Gross National Happiness. We embrace the values and philosophy of this special place on earth – spirituality, love and respect of people and of nature – as we bring Bhutan to you and you to Bhutan.
I don’t have a Twitter handle but my FB and Instagram is @dragontrailstours
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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