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.
Cody strives to deliver a friendly, informed, and heartening experience to the sum of TravelQuest’s patrons. She excels at cultivating harmonious relationships with TQ’s partners and clientele, recognizing those valuable people as the heart of our business. Cody demonstrates excellence in team management and organization, and has her sights (enthusiastically) set on TQ’s future.
Cody has led five total solar eclipse tours since the dawning of her career with TravelQuest in 2014. She’s stood in the Moon’s shadow in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Jackson, WY, Vicuña, Chile, as well as the Antarctic interior – so far the “crown jewel” of her eclipse adventures.
Cody embraces a challenge and eagerly awaits the next unique travel experience. However, in between celestial happenings, she trains in ballet with her daughter and dabbles with her “closet hobby” of portrait painting.
Sunde was raised on an organic pumpkin farm outside TravelQuest’s hometown, which instilled a discerning love for the natural world and anything to do with the outdoors. She first fell in love with travel as a teenager when she journeyed to Australia to take on the Aussies in a basketball tournament. Her love of people, cultures, and foreign destinations has only grown since then. Hence, Sunde was undoubtedly thrilled to return to Australia to witness her first total solar eclipse with TQ in 2023.
Working alongside the TravelQuest team since 2020, Sunde has honed her skills and developed her leadership and client support roles to assist TQ clients in all aspects of their tour experience from start to finish! Not only does she bring aptitude to the behind-the-scenes operations at TQ, but she’s also demonstrated her responsibility as Trip Leader through Iceland’s exotic landscape to witness the elusive aurora borealis. When she isn’t traveling, planning to travel, or booking tours for others, she is being a mom and taking care of her 4 beautiful children.
Sunde’s eagerly anticipating her next TravelQuest assignment and hopes to see you there!
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, first for the U.S. Naval Observatory and, after 1990, with Fred Espenak, under NASA auspices, official compilations of upcoming eclipses. When the NASA publications ended, Jay continued to make his eclipse weather studies available on his web site eclipsophile.com. In the more than four decades since the weather studies began, he has travelled to over 30 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. After his retirement from Environment Canada, Jay taught classes in meteorology and climate change at the University of Manitoba for a number of years. He still helps in teaching a storm-chasing course at the University. From 2005 to 2015, he acted as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and still continues to write for the publication. Jay has recently completed a book, The Peterson Field Guide to Weather, with co-authors Jay Pasachoff and John Day.
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.
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.
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 TravelQuest 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, Turkey, Chile, Iceland, and Norway for eclipse and aurora viewing. He maintains that Iceland is one of the most amazing (and photogenic) places on Earth.
Dr. David Gerdes is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy and chair of the Department of Physics at the University of Michigan. He is a solar system astronomer who uses telescopes on the ground and in space to study small body populations from Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids to the Kuiper Belt and beyond. Using the power of machine learning techniques to extract these very distant, faint objects from deep images, David and his collaborators have discovered hundreds of new solar system objects, several of which have been observed by the James Webb Space Telescope and by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it traverses the Kuiper Belt. He also discovered the possible dwarf planet 2014 UZ224, nicknamed DeeDee, which at the time of its discovery was the second-most-distant known object in the solar system, at over three times Neptune’s distance from the sun.
Growing up under dark skies in Ohio, David fell in love with astronomy. As a teenager, he traveled to Manitoba, Canada to experience totality for the first time in 1979. He is passionate about communicating the excitement of science with people of all ages, and has received the University of Michigan’s highest award for excellence in undergraduate education. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, homebrewing, beekeeping, and playing with his retrievers, Rupert and Junie Bee.
Michel has been involved in the South African eco-tourism industry for the past 36 years. Having worked with well known safari lodges such as Sabi Sabi and Djuma ….Michel now consults 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 become 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),Bali Indonesia (2016), USA (2017), Peru/Chile (2019) and Antarctica (2021).
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.
Raised in the Chicago suburbs, Xandra was born into the travel world through her parents’ tour operator business, which is one of the first companies to bring commercial tourism to China when it first opened in 1978, and later to the rest of East Asia. In fact, her first trip was to China while still in her mother’s stomach! Since then, she has traveled to all seven continents, 107 countries, and lived abroad in Shanghai, Barcelona, Sydney, and Hong Kong, as well as all over the U.S. She speaks Spanish and Mandarin. Throughout her career, she has worked in multiple fields of hospitality; restaurants, bars, music, hotels, and of course, her family’s travel company, where she has escorted tours to China, Mongolia, Japan, and North Korea. (Yes, you read that right!)
Xandra’s first solar eclipse was in 2017 when it passed through southern Illinois. Her second, in 2019, was much more exciting when she joined TQ’s South Pacific Cruise to Totality, including a visit to Easter Island. The connection with TQ was kismet and now she is excited to be a part of the TQ team and help others have the best eclipse experience possible!
Alec Kozak has been a Trip Leader for TravelQuest since 2015 and has worked alongside the TQ Field Team in places around the world such as Norway, Indonesia, Iceland, South America, and Antarctica. Alec has seen four total solar eclipses and was hooked ever since his first totality in Norway in 2015. Alec is a familiar face, having worked in the TQ office for over 5 years. During that time, he helped develop and operate many memorable TQ tours.
Alec is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, with a degree in graphic design and filmmaking. He has written and illustrated several graphic novels and comic books, and has also created artwork for a few independent video games. Today, he lives with his wife in Prescott, Arizona, where he is a financial advisor for a local firm. When he is not working, he continues to create through painting, graphic design, and 3D printing. He enjoys running, hiking, and traveling, and has a great passion for films.
Dr. Jim Little Jr is a family physician in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He runs a busy urgent care and family medicine clinic, with special interest in travel and altitude medicine. Jim’s father is also a physician and started the family tradition of eclipse chasing more than 40 years ago, which Jim now continues with his wife Carolyn and son Zack.
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.
Tony’s lifelong passion for astronomy was kindled by the Apollo missions and viewing the First Quarter Moon through a small telescope he received as a childhood Christmas gift. He worked as a part-time lecturer at Vancouver’s HR MacMillan Planetarium while earning his bachelor’s degree in Computing Science. His summers were spent with their Community Astronomy program, travelling to various Provincial Parks giving lectures on astronomy and showing campers the night sky through a telescope.
Tony led a bus tour to Portland Oregon to view the 1979 solar eclipse under cloudy skies. Returning to Oregon 38 years later the weather was spectacular for the 2017 total eclipse. He gave live interviews for CBC Radio before and after that event.
Tony is a regular contributor to Sky & Telescope magazine, writing about astrophotography for beginners in a column titled First Exposure. From 2016 to 2019 he authored the popular Capturing The Universe column for SkyNews magazine, which is now published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
He enjoys sharing his love of astronomy through public outreach events sponsored by the local astronomy society. It’s a thrill to relive childhood memories when hearing someone gasp at their first glimpse of the Moon through a telescope. Although he started as a visual astronomer most of his time these days is spent capturing images with a camera attached to a wide-angle or telephoto lens.
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.
Now in charge of several itineraries throughout Iceland, Scandinavia, and Finland, Kristen can often be found bundled up near the Arctic Circle, hunting for the elusive aurora borealis. In 2017, Kristen joined TravelQuest for the Great American Eclipse in the Pacific Northwest.
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’s extensive travels, both professional and personal, have taken him to Europe and Africa, on cruises in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Alaska, and on explorations of Asia, Australia, and Indonesia. His experience in handling large corporate groups as well as small, special interest groups is a great asset to managing TravelQuest’s tours. In recent years, Dean has led several TQ eclipse trips including to China in 2009, Mangaia in 2010, and a Cruise to Totality in 2012; in 2017 he joined TQ for totality in Oregon.
Gary has always had stars in his eyes. From childhood on, the night sky has excited his imagination and fuelled his curiosity. He has spent more than three 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 Consulting Editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, Gary has encouraged thousands of people to look up and enjoy the wonders of the universe.
Gary is a seasoned traveler and led TravelQuest’s eclipse tour to Egypt (2006), Australia (2012), and the Faroe Islands (2015). He also served as the ‘resident’ astronomer for TravelQuest’s annual Costa Rica Southern Sky Fiesta since its inception in 2004, to 2017.
Dr. Angela Speck is a Professor of Astrophysics and the Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Until Fall 2019, she was an astrophysics professor at the University of Missouri for 17 years, where she built both the astronomy academic program and their public outreach program. She has also been co-chairing the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force since its inception in 2014. While her professional science research focuses on the nature of origin of stardust, she became an expert on eclipses over the last decade or so and led many efforts to prepare the US for the 2017 Total Solar eclipse, including appearances on the NASA 2017 Eclipse Press Launch, C-SPAN and NPR’s Science Friday. Originally from Yorkshire (England), Angela went to college in London where she was able to pursue her childhood dreams by majoring in astrophysics. After a brief stint as a R&D technician in a Lancashire company run by crazy new-age hippies, she returned to London and completed her PhD in astronomy in 1998. She has lived in the US since 1999 and became a US citizen in 2012.
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.
Josepha has traveled the world by land and by ship, for work and on holiday, with her husband. She has visited all the continents except Antarctica, but that is at the top of her bucket list. Born and raised in a small town in the southern part of the Netherlands close to the Belgium border, Josepha has worked in the travel industry for more than 20 years as a travel agent, a location guide for a cruise line and, for the past several years, as a group leader on board different cruise ships. She currently spends at least 200 days a year at sea on cruise ships.
Josepha has a passion for nature, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife, and when she is not sailing on a cruise ship, she enjoys working at home in her lovely garden. She is very excited to be joining TravelQuest for the 2023 Bali to Broome Total Solar Eclipse Cruise.
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