TravelQuest International President, Aram Kaprielian, grew up within the travel industry. In the 1980s, he worked for and managed his father’s group travel company, Travel Bug International, one of the original pioneering astronomy travel companies.
Having traveled to almost every region of the world, Aram fell in love with the mountains of Arizona and founded TravelQuest in Prescott, Arizona in 1996.
Since that time, he and the TQ Team have made it their passion to create innovative travel programs to all parts of the world – from the American Southwest, to Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even Antarctica and the North Pole – and provide the very best in client services
Aram personally scouts out emerging destinations, and has visited all seven continents. His passion for sharing unique, one-of-a-kind travel experiences with travelers from around the world is evident in every TravelQuest program.
Operations Manager & IT Specialist
Alec was born and raised in Prescott, Arizona, the TQ office’s hometown. His travel experiences through US NationalParks and worldwide destinations helped shape his exploratory view on adventure. Alec’s natural leadership qualities, love of travel, and attention to detail are just some of the many qualities that he brings to our TravelQuest family. His artistic and designer’s eye proves very helpful when maintaining the TQ website and when creating TQ documents we send to our trip leaders.
In his free time, Alec illustrates comics and children’s books, and does graphic and video game design. He has experienced totality three times: Svalbard in 2015, Bali in 2016, and Wyoming in 2017.
Office & Client Relations Manager
Cody Carter, head of Client Relations, strives to deliver a friendly, informed and heartening experience to the sum of TravelQuest’s patrons. With an ability to sculpt a positive and memorable interrelation with the consumer, she is set to help mold the creative clay of upcoming tours, and provide a harmonious relationship with all of TravelQuest’s clientele… the heart of our business.
Cody has led two total solar eclipse tours since the dawning of her career with TravelQuest in 2014. The 2016 eclipse over Sulawesi took her to Indonesia for her first acquaintance with the moon’s shadow, and more recently, she experienced totality in Jackson, WY, while functioning as a Trip Leader for the Yellowstone and Tetons Family Adventure.
The behind-the-scenes phases of tour development and document writing provide a gratifying combination of continually expanding knowledge, and the recognition that there are always new and exciting adventures on the horizon. Cody eagerly awaits the next unique travel experience, while maintaining the TravelQuest standard of excellence in between celestial happenings.
Eclipse Meteorologist Astronomer
After acquiring a BSc in Physics and Astronomy from the University of British Columbia, Jay became a weather forecaster with Environment Canada, the Canadian government’s official forecast agency. He compiled a study of weather prospects for the 1979 total solar eclipse and has been producing studies of the climatology along eclipse tracks ever since. In 1990, he joined with Fred Espenak to create, under NASA auspices, official compilations of upcoming eclipses.
In 1994, he joined Travel Bug (the precursor to TravelQuest) to help find an eclipse-viewing site in Bolivia. When Travel Bug turned into TravelQuest, Jay became an instrumental part of TravelQuest’s eclipse-site location team and has worked with Aram Kaprielian steadily since that time. He has also led numerous TQ eclipse tours. Now retired from the Meteorological Service, he is currently the editor in chief for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, an ongoing contributor for the RASC’s Observer’s Handbook, and an occasional instructor in meteorology and climate change at the University of Manitoba.
Bill is an associate editor at Discover magazine, where he writes and edits stories about all the sciences, but he remains the resident “space guru.” Before joining the Discover staff, he worked as an editor at Astronomy magazine and spent time at the Mayo Clinic and New York Times Student Journalism Institute. He’s always loved space and the physical sciences, and enjoys convincing people (in person or through his writing) that they do, too. He even has a favorite equation, and knows how to juggle.
Bill lives in Milwaukee with his wife and her cat, taking every chance to talk about astronomy and visit other exotic locales. Since his youth, he’s enjoyed varied and storied travels, from the tunnels beneath Seattle to the rooftops of MIT, and the swamps of south Florida to the cafes of Paris. Perhaps one day, he’ll watch c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
Kelly is a Senior Editor at Sky & Telescope magazine and has been explaining the science and wonder of astronomy to the public since 1974. An award-winning writer and communicator, he specializes in planetary science and space exploration. He holds a Bachelors degree from the California Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.
Kelly enjoys sharing his passion for astronomy with a wide spectrum of audiences, from children to professional astronomers, and his work has appeared in numerous other magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias. You’ll occasionally hear his interviews and guest commentaries on National Public Radio. He observes the night sky often through one of his eight telescopes.
He has been leading astronomical tours since 1991, including eleven total solar-eclipse expeditions. Two of his three TQ airborne charter flights that carried passengers literally to the ends of the Earth — skirting the North and South Poles — to witness totality. He orchestrated TQ’s viewing of the 2004 Transit of Venus from Castel Gandolfo, Italy, served as Trip Leader/Astronomer for the 2012 Venus Transit tour in Tahiti and led a trip to Costa Rica in 2015 to enjoy the Southern Sky.
Eric is an associate editor at Discover magazine, where he covers everything from cosmology to climate change. He holds a degree in both astronomy and physics, and he studied Mars before adding another degree in journalism. Prior to joining Discover, Eric worked at Astronomy magazine and was a science reporter in Flagstaff, Arizona — the world’s first International Dark-Sky City. He now lives in Milwaukee and enjoys restoring his old Volkswagen camper, Vega. Eric also loves peddling science to the public in fun ways. He’s worked the halls of ComicCon and was recently onset in Budapest for the Hollywood blockbuster The Martian.
In his travels, Eric tries to get off the beaten path. He’s seen the southern stars from Patagonia, surveyed some of Antarctica’s most remote glaciers, explored the defunct Superconducting Super Collider tunnels, and backpacked hundreds of miles of Southwestern canyonlands. His favorite place in the world is still the Grand Canyon after dark.
Cathrine was born and raised in Norway and later studied economics and history in Norway and Sweden and returned to the cold, natural beauty of Norway where she now lives (albeit part time). For years Cathrine worked as an alpine ski instructor while also escorting large incentive groups all over Europe. Nowadays, in addition to living with her family in a small town by the Oslo Fjord, Cathrine spends time in Paris which she also loves.
In 2001 Cathrine fell in love with Africa and, for the past 8 years, she has managed her own company, Ditt Afrika – a tour operator which allows her to indulge another passion, camping in the African bush. In fact, Cathrine met our TQ team on a train in South Africa, and then joined us on a South Pacific Cruise in 2012, adding a new passion! Being a proud Norwegian she obviously joined us for the Svalbard eclipse in 2015.
Cathrine is super-organized and accepts travel challenges with her great smile and infectious laugh.
Hans Clugston trained in anthropology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He had the typical stints of university teaching, museum work, lab work, and fieldwork in Latin America. Hans also worked on-tour for a national travel company and as the Director of Operations for a Central American tourism development company. For more than 20 years, Hans and his family have made their home in Prescott, where these days he is a partner at one of the oldest law firms in Northern Arizona.
Hans has accompanied eclipse-chasing TravelQuest travelers since 2008 — to the Gobi Desert, Shanghai, and Mt. Kenya. He has also participated in TravelQuest’s pre-tour scouting trips and worked with numerous TravelQuest trip leaders and tour professionals. Without question, eclipse travel has become one of the most important destinations and journeys in his personal and professional life.
For more than four decades, Paul has been helping others discover the wonder and beauty of the night sky via his work at several Canadian planetariums and as an editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. While at S&T, he joined his first TQ trip — a 2002 northern lights tour to Alaska. Since becoming a freelance astronomy writer/editor, Paul has combined his passion for astronomy with his love of travel, journeying with TQ to China, Chile, and Norway for eclipse and aurora viewing. This is his ninth trip to Iceland leading TravelQuest’s aurora watching tours, and he maintains that Iceland is one of the most amazing (and photogenic) places on Earth.
Travel and education have been at the heart of David’s life path. David has found a way to combine these two endeavors, leading to hours of adventure, service, and learning. As a former classroom teacher, school principal, and now teacher of teachers, David has helped lead learning experiences all over the world.
As a School Designer for Expeditionary Learning, David works to both create and transform schools around the United States. At the heart of Expeditionary Learning is the opportunity to learn experientially, a component that aligns well with helping lead trips for TravelQuest (including our annular eclipse trip in 2012). David loves exploring and encouraging others to gain as much from an experience as possible — you can ask his three children, who are not sure if their dad knows what “vacation” truly means!
Dave Eicher is one of the most widely recognized astronomy enthusiasts in the world. He has been with Astronomy magazine for 34 years, beginning as an assistant editor and working through associate, senior, and managing positions. He has been the magazine’s chief editor since 2002.
Dave has spoken widely to amateur astronomy groups, logged many hundreds of hours at the eyepiece, and written eight books on astronomy. Among the most used by amateur astronomers are The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions, Comets: Visitors from Deep Space, The Universe from Your Backyard, Deep-Sky Observing with Small Telescopes, and Stars and Galaxies. He is currently working on a major book on galaxies.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Starmus Festival, President of the Astronomy Foundation, Editor-in-Chief of the international Asteroid Day project, and very involved in mineralogy, blues and rock drumming, and studies of American history.
Dr. Rick Fienberg
Dr. Rick Fienberg is Press Officer of the American Astronomical Society. Earlier he spent 22 years at Sky & Telescope magazine, the last 8 as Editor in Chief. He’s a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 9983 Rickfienberg in his honor, and NASA awarded him its Exceptional Public Achievement Medal “for exceptional service to the nation in [his] tireless efforts for the public’s safe solar viewing of the 2017 total solar eclipse.”
Before joining S&T, Rick earned his B.A. in physics at Rice University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University; he has done research on the aurora borealis, asteroids, planetary nebulas, active galaxies, and the center of the Milky Way. He is a co-creator of the Galileoscope educational telescope kit, a Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and the International Year of Light 2015.
Though trained as a professional astronomer, Rick remains an amateur at heart, observing the sky and taking astrophotos from his private observatory in central New Hampshire. An inveterate traveler and eclipse-chaser, he has visited all seven continents and the North and South Poles.
Michel has been involved in the South African eco-tourism industry for the past 28 years. He spent 16 years as Operations Director at Sabi Sabi Game Reserve and has owned and managed his own lodge since 2000. Michel is also a consultant in the eco-tourism field, and his consulting experience, in places as varied as Madagascar and Bhutan, stands him in good stead when dealing with operations at diverse destinations.
His association with TravelQuest started in 2002 when he coordinated our South African Solar Eclipse tour in Venda. Once exposed by TQ, he was instantly hooked on this unique astronomical niche. Visiting exotic places to view “when the crocodile eats the sun” (a Shona proverb for a solar eclipse) has becoming a passion for Michel. He has subsequently worked for TQ as a Trip Manager for eclipses in Turkey (2006), China (2008), Easter Island (2010), on the Paul Gauguin South Seas cruise (2012), Ethiopia (2013), Faroe Islands (2015) and Bali Indonesia (2016).
Raised in South Africa, Warren has an immense appetite for the natural world. His career has steered him through a variety of organizations from the Wilderness Leadership School, where he pioneered trails and led groups through South Africa’s unspoiled wilderness, to Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, South Africa’s premiere Private Reserve. Here he worked as a game ranger and escorted more than 5,000 travelers on photographic safaris, including prestigious groups for the Museum of Television & Radio and National Geographic.
Currently Warren resides in rural Virginia where he operates a niche marketing company dedicated to supporting those tourism ventures that show commitment to the environment, both natural and cultural, in which they operate. His first eclipse trip with TQ was in 2012 in the South Pacific and he joined TravelQuest again in Svalbard in 2015.
César is a student of history, art, food, and good wine. He also loves languages and is fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Italian. It’s said that César lives, breathes, and eats the past, as he is recognized as one of the most knowledgeable experts on 16th- and 17th-century Spain. He resides in Spain with his wife and daughter.
He has guided numerous TravelQuest groups through Europe, including a 2014 Expressions of the Past trip through northern Spain and southern France; 2016 Portugal & Spain – The Age of Discovery trip exploring the Iberian Peninsula. He has led many TravelQuest eclipse trips including Libya (2006), China (2008 and 2009), Easter Island (2010), Australia (2012) and the Faroes (2015). Besides possessing great knowledge about the places where he leads groups and the people they meet, it is probably César’s charming wit and humor that make him such a popular TravelQuest trip leader.
Thomas D. Jones, PhD is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, speaker, author, and consultant. During 11 years with NASA, he flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit, and led three spacewalks to help build the International Space Station. He has spent nearly 53 days living and working in space.
Tom is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and holds a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Arizona. Before joining NASA, Tom piloted B-52D strategic bombers, studied asteroids for NASA, engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA, and now consults and writes about the next generation of human space exploration and how to prevent a future asteroid collision with Earth. Dr. Jones has published six books, is a regular on-air TV space commentator, and is active in the debate about our nation’s future in space.
Jake is an associate editor at Astronomy magazine, where he covers topics ranging from spaceflight to exoplanets to cosmology. He holds an undergraduate degree in both astronomy and physics, and though he briefly worked in the medical software industry following his undergrad career, Jake soon returned to school to obtain a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication. He has also previously worked as a science writer for both The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jake has always maintained an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially when it comes to anything related to outer space. Ever since he was a kid, Jake’s looked up at the night sky with a deep sense of appreciation and wonderment, and he can’t wait to see what the next few decades hold in store for the field of astronomy.
Jake now lives just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along with his wonderful wife and dog. He enjoys working in the yard, hiking, going out with friends, and the not-so-occasional video game. Jake is also one of the few people that can maintain interest in the game “fetch” longer than his dog, Maggie.
Born and raised in America’s midwest, Kristen Rafdal’s passion for travel and exploration was sparked by her time in Florence, Italy as a student and an Au Pair. She then moved out to Seattle where she found Tour Directing and attended the International Tour Management Institute. After a summer escorting guests through Alaska and the Yukon, she started leading US and European tours full-time for a large American tour company.
In 2017, Kristen was introduced to TravelQuest as a Trip Leader for the Great American Eclipse in the Pacific Northwest. She is very much looking forward to more time spent in the moon’s shadow during 2019’s journey through Peru and Chile. Now in charge of several itineraries throughout Iceland, Scandinavia and Finland year-around, Kristen can often be found bundled up near the Arctic Circle, hunting the elusive Aurora Borealis.
Dr. Jim Little Jr.
Jim lives and works where he grew up. He is a Family Physician and medical director of a busy Urgent Care clinic in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and has a special interest in travel and wilderness medicine. Jim’s father started a family tradition of eclipse chasing more than 40 years ago, a tradition Jim carries on with his wife Carolyn and son Zack.
In 2010 Jim joined TQ for a total solar eclipse on the remote island of Mangaia in the Cook Islands; in 2013 he traveled with TQ’s eclipse group through Ethiopia. He is looking forward to August 2017 when a total solar eclipse passes through his backyard in Jackson Hole, Wyoming! When he is not working or traveling, Jim also enjoys skiing, hiking, photography, flying, and amateur astronomy.
Although born and raised in northern Germany, Martina fell in love with the Icelandic countryside at the age of 18. For several years thereafter, Martina lived in both Iceland and Germany. She attended the Iceland Tourist Guide School and graduated in 1992. That same year she started guiding visitors as a summer job. After receiving her bus-driving license and moving permanently to Iceland in 1996, she began working full time as a freelance driver-guide.
Martina specializes in leading hiking and camping tours through Iceland’s wilderness during the summer, but in the winter she takes groups all around the country on hotel/bus tours. Her favorite Icelandic sites are usually well off the beaten track, located primarily in the highlands of the interior. She also loves Icelandic folk tales and saga stories, and delights in sharing them with her touring companions. She has guided each of TravelQuest’s Iceland aurora tours since the first one in 2002.
Dean was born and raised on a dairy farm outside of St. Louis, Missouri, in the great American Midwest. He always knew that travel was his passion and he started his career as a travel agent fresh out of high school. He started with Air 1, an all-first class carrier based in St. Louis. A bigger and better opportunity landed him a fifteen-year career with TWA. American Airlines eventually purchased and Dean is now a flight attendant for American. Based in St. Louis, Dean has been flying on international and domestic flights, and was honored by having a plaque in his name put on a 767 aircraft in recognition of outstanding inflight service.
Dean has led TQ eclipse trips for a few years now, including China 2009, Mangaia 2010 and a Cruise to Totality in 2012.
Gary has always had stars in his eyes. From childhood on, the night sky has excited his imagination and fueled his curiosity. He has spent more than two decades sharing his passion for backyard astronomy with the public. From his early work as a show presenter and producer at Vancouver British Columbia’s famed MacMillan Space Centre, to his current positions as Contributing Editor at Sky & Telescope magazine and columnist for SkyNews in Canada, Gary has encouraged thousands of people to look up and enjoy the wonders of the universe. In 2008 he received the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Simon Newcomb Award in recognition of his outstanding writing.
Gary is a seasoned traveler and led TravelQuest’s eclipse tour to Egypt (2006), Australia (2012), and the Faroes (2015). He has also served as the ‘resident’ astronomer for TravelQuest’s annual Costa Rica Southern Sky Fiesta since its inception in 2004.
Chuck has called Phoenix, Arizona his home since the age of six. He has worked in the transportation and tourism industry since 1974. In 1999 graduated from the International Tour Management Institute in San Francisco and began his career as an Independent Tour Director and Guide.
Since 1998 Chuck has worked with TravelQuest on trips both in the USA and abroad to Central America, North Africa and China. Chuck’s management experience relates to any country he travels to, and he loves to extend his care and knowledge to make our travelers’ experience with him as rewarding and special as possible.
Paul began his travel career in the safari industry in 1987 as an apprentice guide in the remote Linyanti Region of Botswana. He steadily worked his way up through the ranks at some of the finest game reserves and lodges in Southern Africa, and was recognized by the Condé Nast Portfolio as a preferred African safari guide. Before moving from South Africa to the USA in 1997, Paul served as General Manager for the award winning Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa, where he was instrumental in the development of the original “Game Rangers Course” for guests. He is currently the president (and the founder) of Natural Migrations.
A master of logistical planning, Paul has led ten previous TravelQuest eclipse trips to South Africa, Zambia, Libya, twice in China, Cook Islands, Easter Island, Australia, Kenya, Svalbard, and most recently Indonesia in 2016. When he is not in his office he enjoys whitewater kayaking, snowboarding, and horseback riding.
Richard is a senior editor at Astronomy and brings to the magazine a lifelong interest in the science of astronomy as well as observing the night sky. He graduated from Marietta College, Ohio, in 1976 with a degree in mathematics. After attending graduate school at the Ohio State University, Rich returned to Marietta in the early 1980s as a lecturer in the physics department and joined the staff of Astronomy in early 1986. Rich has written more than 100 feature articles on both the science of astronomy and observing the night sky. He is author of Teach Yourself Visually: Astronomy, an introduction to observing the sky with naked eyes, binoculars, and small telescopes. He also authored, in collaboration with Joel Harris, Chasing the Shadow: An Observer’s Guide to Eclipses. Rich has seen 10 total solar eclipses.
Bill Whittington is a practicing attorney in Arizona, with a passion for travel and anything TravelQuest does. He is a veteran traveler with TravelQuest, having joined us in West Africa in 2013 and Indonesia in 2016. Bill brings to the table a substantial travel experience, including Spain, Morocco, Australia, Malaysia, England, Ireland, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Turkey, Portugal, Belize, Cancun, the Canary Islands, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Lucia, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, China, Mexico, Senegal, St. Martin, and the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii). Bill has a special affection for Yellowstone National Park and the Snake River, just outside of Jackson, WY, and has spent many days fly fishing the backcountry there.
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