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CLOSE UP

MICHAEL POLIZA Continued from page 63

Some of your clients are billionaires and movie stars. What is your own

How much does that cost?  €3.80

background?  My

Why do you call yourself an experience designer? Isn’t that a little over-ambitious?  Rather than randomly lining up accommodation and

experiences, I create an arc of suspense. A successful trip works like a well-written novel: it has a soul, a narrative and offers unexpected twists. You only give away part of the itinerary, because you want to surprise the clients. As an unsuspecting guest, you may, for example, be taken to a forest clearing before sunrise, where a hot air balloon awaits you. Hours later the balloon lands in a deserted part of the savannah, where you find an opulently laid-out breakfast waiting for you. Such “wow” experiences are the DNA of our trips. What have you learned about your clients? It’s important to take guests out of their comfort zone, but not too far or for too long. For example, guests may spend one night in tents and sleeping bags at an altitude of 2,000 meters on the edge of an active volcano, with a great view of the redhot, bubbling lava and the bright yellow sulfuric rock. After this glimpse into hell, they will spend the following night at a high-end lodge with box-spring beds and a luxury spa.

parents ran a restaurant and bar in Hamburg that was open from 7 pm to 3 am. They weren’t the type to settle down, so I moved house 19 times before my 18th birthday. How did you become an actor at age 10?  My parents’ restaurant was located close to the Studio Hamburg film production company, so their patrons included many producers and directors. One of these gentlemen took a shine to my sister and thought the quickest way to her heart was through her little brother. So he offered me a part as an extra. You acted in roughly 80 movies. Why didn’t you stick with acting?  At 17, I played the young version of German writer Walter Kempowski in a two-part TV drama and decided that this was the right moment to leave. Parroting words in a script written by others wasn’t going to be fulfilling in the long run. At the age of 18, I moved to the U.S., where I graduated from high school. I went on to study computer science in Oklahoma before founding an IT company in Hamburg that quickly became very successful. One of the photos from back then shows you with a bespectacled nerd who these days is worth an estimated $90 billion and is the second richest person in the world:

I could put this photo in a silver frame and display it on my Is it worthwhile takmantlepiece to show ing a trek to see the off. Quite frankly, One of Iceland’s landmarks: Mossy Mount Mælifell boasts a greenish sheen after last mountain gorilthough, there was no rain showers. It’s an inhospitable place surrounded by glaciers and volcanic sands, las?  Yes it is. Lookglamour in the comand the road leading up to it is only accessible for six weeks from mid-July onward. ing straight into the puter industry back eyes of our closest in the 1980s. The relatives is an almost name Bill Gates only spiritual experience. The most luxurious lodges for gorilla trekking meant something to a few insiders. At the time, he was traveling econtours are in Rwanda. However, you should be aware that, fortunately, omy class back and forth to Germany to do some networking for Migorilla watching is heavily regulated these days. Visitors get an hour, crosoft. We met on one of these occasions. One time, we wanted to atnot a minute more, and prices are exorbitant. In Rwanda, you pay tend the Systems computer trade fair in Munich, but arrived too late to $1,500 per person, in Uganda it is $700. You also have to factor in be- get a hotel room. In the end, we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast in a Batween 20 minutes and three hours for the hike up to where the goril- varian village. I still remember brushing the dandruff from his jacket las can be found – and we’re not talking about a walk through Cen- on the way to the trade fair. tral Park, either. The rainforest is wet and slippery, and you have to In 1996 you sold your IT company and two years later founded the Cinemaxx movie theatre chain, together with entrepreneur Hans-Joawalk uphill. What kinds of mistaken expectations do clients sometimes have when

chim Flebbe. Why did you end up leaving that company eventually as

they book an African safari?  Safaris

well?  I wanted to do something that would make me feel happy inside.

aren’t the right kind of vacation for catching up on lost sleep. You should get up early enough to be at your destination by sunrise. This is why I advise adding a few days on the beach to the end of the trip, to regroup and relax. At what age is a safari a worthwhile experience for a child? Children should be at least eight years old. Some lodges offer programs that also cater to 4- or 5-year-olds. We can provide further advice on this. Are there any client wishes that you refuse to fulfill?  We don’t offer hunting trips. We like the animals to stay alive after we find them. Where do your clients come from? Half of them are from German-speaking countries, the other half are from Canada, Mexico, Australia and the U.S.

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Bill Gates. Today,

Bill went on to make more money whereas I followed my heart. I acquired a ship and traveled around the world in 1,000 days with a crew of eight. In collaboration with Stern magazine, I had collected the necessary funds from sponsors, and then off I went to explore the world’s hidden paradises. The aim of the Starship Millennium Voyage was to make people understand how endangered all these places are. At the end of the three-year trip, I sold the Starship to Hollywood actor Gene Hackman and moved to Cape Town. From there, I explored Africa and discovered my passion for wildlife photography. I am self-taught, but my photos caused a stir because of their artistic angle. 

Continued on page 202

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INTERVIEW: SVEN MICHAELSEN, PHOTO: © MICHAEL POLIZA

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