Ricardo Araujo Is the Journey Guru Who Makes the Wealthy’s Wild Desires Come True


The journey was about to start out, and Ricardo Araujo wanted to discover a mermaid.

His consumer, the inheritor to a big American household fortune, was embarking on a three-week cruise that may comply with the trail of the epic poem The Odyssey. Araujo, a luxurious journey agent who makes a speciality of bespoke holidays, had spent six months and tens of millions of {dollars} planning the journey, and he wanted one thing really spectacular to complete it off. When he heard the consumer’s granddaughter cherished mermaids, he knew what it was.

Araujo scoured social media for the right skilled mermaid—sure, they exist—then flew her from Scotland to Capri. He employed a submarine and made the motive force and the actress rehearse ceaselessly, mapping out her entrance, her exit, the route she’d be swimming when the submarine handed. He even looped within the household’s safety element, to verify the mermaid wouldn’t be taken out if she swam too shut.

Two weeks into the journey, the woman and her mom acquired on the submarine to take a look at deep-water fish. On their means again up, the vessel turned out of the blue, revealing a quick glimpse of a stunning, aqua-tailed mermaid wiggling previous the window.

Once they returned to New York, Araujo mentioned, the woman was nonetheless leaping up and down and screaming in regards to the sighting. “I haven’t seen a happier child ever,” he mentioned.

Her mom was much less completely happy.

“What am I supposed to inform her?” Araujo says she requested him. “I’m alleged to say mermaids don’t exist.”

This was one of many seemingly magical moments created by Araujo, a journey planner who purchasers name a “magician” and the press has deemed a “journey alchemist.” His enterprise, because the founder and CEO of Ariodante Journey, is to tug off the seemingly not possible, from mermaid sightings to a non-public go to to the Vatican to an evening on high of the Arc de Triomphe.

However the secret to Araujo’s artistry isn’t magic, it’s cash: His journeys price anyplace from $250,000 to $22 million, and he targets clients with a private fortune of at the least $400 million—wealthy sufficient to provide him what he calls a “clean verify” to design the holiday of their desires.

Whereas most People are scaling again their journey plans or scrapping them altogether because of the financial system, Aruajo’s fat-cat purchasers haven’t any such issues.

“It’s the high fashion of journey,” Araujo mentioned. “However it’s not about cash—although, as you’ll be able to think about, it prices a fortune. It’s about which means.”

Araujo was born in Colombia, the son of a diplomat who moved the household to Brussels and again once more earlier than he was 13, and he initially skilled as a classical pianist and composer. He got here to London in 2014 to pitch a startup concept, an app that may train folks to learn music utilizing AI, however bristled towards the inflexible constructions of the enterprise capital world.

He landed a short lived job lecturing on music and philosophy at King’s School and a radio present the place he answered questions on music. After a number of months, Airbnb reached out to see if he would host considered one of their native “experiences,” taking vacationers to classical music concert events. “I mentioned, ‘Why not?’” he recollects. “‘It’s a free live performance.’”

Considered one of Araujo’s first purchasers was a rich couple from Boston who appreciated him a lot they requested him to hitch them on the Royal Opera Home the following night time. Araujo mentioned he could be delighted to, however that the live performance was offered out. The couple known as him a number of hours later to say that they had not solely secured three tickets, however among the greatest seats in the home. That was when he realized what precisely cash might purchase.

Araujo acquired his begin taking purchasers backstage at London’s Royal Opera Home.

Courtesy of Ricardo Araujo

Later, after a celebratory dinner and a number of other glasses of whisky, Araujo proposed taking the couple again to the opera home for a backstage tour. He had some buddies within the enterprise who owed him a favor; it could solely be a matter of creating a number of calls. The couple was thrilled. They spent the following day touring the orchestra pits, by chance stumbling into rehearsals, and consuming the “garbage” rooster within the cafeteria. Then they returned to Boston and informed all of their buddies in regards to the expertise.

Out of the blue, Araujo had a brand new enterprise.

However Araujo wished extra than simply taking moneyed People to the opera home. These had been ludicrously rich retirees with boundless time and seemingly infinite sources. He didn’t blame them—“Whenever you don’t know one thing is feasible, you’ll be able to’t ask for it,” he says—however Araujo wished to provide them one thing extra.

So when a consumer known as asking for a tour of all of the Tudor palaces in England, he jumped on the alternative. He dubbed the journey concept “boring” and prompt a brand new one, based mostly on the consumer’s love of Shakespeare—a tour of the Tudor dynasty by the eyes of the Bard of Avon.

Over the following a number of weeks, Araujo known as in each favor he had, utilizing his art-world connections for entry to hidden archives and his reward of the gab for all the things else. In the long run, he took the consumer on a tour round southern England, visiting Tudor palaces, viewing a few of Shakespeare’s verified signatures, and visiting the home the place Christopher Marlowe—who some suspect was the actual Shakespeare—was killed. He capped it off with a go to to an elementary college within the city the place Shakespeare was born, the place the scholars carried out a play directed by actors from the Royal Shakespeare Firm. The actors carried out for the consumer in an area pub later.

One consumer requested Araujo for a tour of all of the Tudor palaces in England.

Courtesy of Ricardo Araujo

The consumer was ecstatic. This was what Araujo wished. This was alchemy.

Within the years that adopted, Araujo expanded his imaginative and prescient, planning roughly 15 journeys throughout 30 nations. Lately, Araujo gained’t plan a trip in lower than two nations or for lower than $250,000 (excluding the price of journey; purchasers usually wish to use their very own personal jets). He indicators ultra-rigid agreements that forestall him from disclosing his purchasers’ full identities however describes them because the “monetary and mental elite”— rich, however with a ardour for historical past or tradition.

His course of goes one thing like this: He interviews the consumer, sussing out their pursuits, their passions, and their desires. He makes use of that to generate an concept for a visit, write out a plan, and conduct analysis on tips on how to make it doable. He calls his purchasers’ private assistants, chauffeurs, and cooks, pulling out the tiny, private particulars that may make the journey particular. (How does the consumer’s daughter like her orange juice? Does the household have a most well-liked model of almond milk?) Then, and solely then, does he focus on the price range.

“Finances” is a time period Araujo makes use of loosely, preferring to deal with the tip outcome reasonably than the ticket worth. He compares the method to designing high fashion: In case you’re ordering a custom-made costume, you don’t know the way a lot you’re going to pay moving into. It’s your decision further adornments, extra alterations, or a unique materials. “At first, I don’t know if it’s going to price $100,000, $500,000, 1,000,000, $500 million,” he says. “Some supplies are value greater than gold.”

That’s why Araujo has two guidelines for his purchasers: no last-minute bookings—magic takes time—and no itemized receipts.

Take the couple who spent the night time on the Arc de Triomphe. Araujo needed to haggle with the French ministry to get permission for the sleepover, then spent months hassling French architects to assemble the just about invisible, all-glass suite. As a closing contact, he outfitted the room with a bottle of Krug champagne from the yr the couple had been married.

The champagne was a shock—one which price him roughly $20,000 at an public sale in Hong Kong. If he’d listed it as a line merchandise, it could have ruined the joys.

Plus, he knew they may afford it.

“Is that bottle value $20,000, or is it value $1 million?” he asks. “It’s value something, as a result of it’s a reminiscence they may always remember.”

Gaining access to these unique experiences requires cash, sure, but additionally connections—and greater than a little bit creativity. When approaching a museum or different cultural establishment, he polls his community for the precise contact, then thinks of an issue he can resolve for them. “They all the time say no, it’s not doable. After which it’s important to discover out, why is it not doable?” he says. “After which it’s like, ‘How can I resolve their issues earlier than they are saying there’s a drawback?’”

The opposite secret to warming up potential contacts? “Poker,” Aruajo says. “Plenty of poker.”

There’s one more reason Araujo doesn’t like merely paying his means in. Wealthy folks—and right here he chooses his phrases rigorously—nicely, they have an inclination to get bored simply. Not as a result of they’re uninterested folks, however as a result of they’re used to seeing and experiencing extraordinary issues. “In case you are a billionaire and also you go to Louis Vuitton, you get the personal VIP room, you might be handled like a queen,” he mentioned. “For you, it turns into regular.”

Purchasers who’ve seen all of it gained’t be wowed by a restaurant or museum itself—they want the folks inside it: a chef whose household lived within the space for many years, a librarian who will get so swept up within the story he runs into the archives to seize extra paperwork. (The latter really occurred on a visit to the location the place the primary French structure was signed; the ecstatic archivist grabbed the unique minutes from Marie Antoinette’s execution.)

To carry out his greatest, Araujo must embody the mindset of the filthy wealthy—so it helps that he comes from a comparatively privileged background. His father’s household was outstanding in Colombian politics and enterprise; he even claims he acquired presents from presidents on his birthday. The journey agent is never impressed by his well-heeled clientele; nor does he appear particularly troubled by the sheer extravagance concerned in his journeys.

The truth is, he makes a observe of by no means asking his purchasers how they made their cash. It’s not about that, he says: “For me, it’s about their passions.”

Which, whereas good in concept, has backfired on him at the least as soon as.

A map exhibits the place the BBC’s High Gear traveled when attempting to succeed in the Magnetic North Pole, in comparison with the place Araujo wished to take his consumer.

Courtesy of Ricardo Araujo

Araujo deliberate to take one consumer to the northernmost level on land, in Greenland.

Ariodante; Nomadic Street

Two years in the past, Araujo was speaking to a enterprise associate who prompt—considerably jokingly—that he devise an expedition to the northernmost level on land. The placement, on the northernmost tip of Greenland, had by no means been reached by land, a lot much less by automobile. Anybody who went could be setting a number of world data. Araujo determined he needed to go.

With out a consumer lined up, Araujo spent eight months—and consulted greater than 120 folks—to assemble the dream trip. His workforce secured satellites and {custom} tanks to drive on the icy floor; they interviewed specialists and despatched reconnaissance planes to take footage and scout the route. Araujo even talked the Danish navy into letting them fly right into a navy base. The ultimate workforce included scientists—a lot of the journey could be recorded for local weather change analysis—videographers, a physician, and naturally, a chef. A cruise ship was organized to choose them up on the finish.

In December 2021, Aruao secured the ultimate factor of the journey: a consumer. A pal of a pal prompt a Russian billionaire who was captivated with scientific analysis and prepared to pay the roughly $22 million price ticket. They had been nicely into discussions about when to depart when Russia invaded Ukraine, and the West issued a listing of oligarchs to be sanctioned. Araujo’s consumer was high of the checklist.

“I couldn’t consider it,” he mentioned. “I used to be like, come on, am I cursed or what?”

Araujo is planning a brand new, homicide mystery-themed journey on the S.S. Delphine.

Courtesy of Ricardo Araujo

The homicide thriller cruise will happen over 4 days within the Mediterranean.

Courtesy of Ricardo Araujo

Araujo nonetheless desires of that record-setting expedition, however he is aware of it might take some time to seek out one other consumer. Within the meantime, he’s planning one other fantasy trip: a multi-day, Nineteen Twenties-themed homicide thriller within the Mediterranean. Company might be flown to Paris for custom-made outfits, study the Charleston dance in a well-known brothel, and be served onboard by Michelin-starred cooks. Then they’ll be transported to an outdated steamship, which is the place the thriller begins. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime expertise,” Araujo mentioned.

Tickets begin at $400,000.