Every year at about this time, we tend to look back and remember all of the things and people we are thankful for. And this year, we’re especially thankful for Narla Phay, who is celebrating 10 years of working at Journeys Within Tour Company this month.
Over the last 10 years, Narla has made a huge difference in the tours of thousands of Journeys Within guests, and we can truly say the company wouldn’t be the same without him.
To celebrate his 10-year anniversary, we asked Narla to answer a few questions, solicited feedback from some of the longtime Journeys Within staff members, and put together a great slideshow of Narla’s tenure with Journeys Within here.
Journeys Within: When you first started working for Journeys Within, did you think you’d still be with the company 10 years later? If not, what did you think you’d be doing instead?
Narla: I stated working with Journeys Within in April 2006 as a front desk guy at the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel. I did think I’d still be with the company after the first year working there. I love the idea of how the company is run.
JW: What is your favorite memory from the past 10 years?
Narla: There are many favorite memories from the past 10 years, but there are a few that stick out. First, graduating from university through the JWOC Scholarship Project because I was about to drop out of school before I get the job at Journeys Within. Second, when Andrea gave the role of Tour Country Director to me in 2008. I was really nervous that I might not do the job right, but it turned out well. Third would have to be my first trip out of country for 16 days to Vietnam with Andrea’s family in 2008. It was the dream come true because I never thought I’d be able to be on the airplane and experience such an incredible trip.
JW: What has been the most difficult part of the job?
Narla: Studying English as a second language and being unable to write perfect English is the most difficult part of the job. I always want to do an excellent job, but when it’s time to write official emails to our suppliers, team or guests, sometime I worry that I might make some mistakes.
JW: How has Journeys Within changed over the past 10 years?
Narla: The company has changed so much during the past 10 years. I remember Linda was running the Tour Plan system and I was running the Ground Operations, while sharing the office on the ground floor of the main building at the hotel. Back then there were only a few people working in the tour company in Cambodia, and there was so much stuff for me to do including the hotel work, which I loved so much. We were small when we started and the package tours we provided were limited.
JW: What do you hope for over the next 10 years?
Narla: For the next 10 years I hope Journeys Within continues to be one of the best tour companies around for providing unique experiences with outstanding service to travelers from all around the world. I think one of the keys to our success will be more cooperation with overseas partners from the U.S., Australia and Europe. I also hope our company name will be well known by the big media outlets, helping us spread our name and expertise worldwide. And I hope we continue to have such a good time doing it.
What Journeys Within Staff are saying…
Andrea Ross: Because Narla is a scholarship student he often accompanies guests when they’re visiting and learning about JWOC. On one occasion we had a wonderful guest who had donated a microloan to a single mom. Narla came back from taking the guest to meet the loan recipient and I asked him how it went:
“Well, the loan recipient cried, because she couldn’t believe that her luck was changing, and the guest cried because she was so happy to change a life like that.” I looked at him and said, “oh wow, what did you do?”
His eyes got big, “Oh, it was amazing, I cried too!”
Narla has a heart of gold. I have also been lucky enough to travel all over the world with him, but my favorite trip I ever took was returning with him to his hometown and staying with his family in their house on stilts. He is as lovely and hardworking as he is because of his lovely family and my kids and I were honored to be their guests.
April Cole: When Narla first came to America he visited our office and we offered him a glass of water. I walked over to the sink and poured him a glass of water and he paused.
“You can drink water straight from the sink???!” he said. “America is awesome.”
I still think of that every time I pour myself a glass of water from the sink.
Anna Baldwin: Some of my happiest memories of working with Narla are when he came to visit me in the UK to help me exhibit at the World Travel Market. In addition to having his amazing support throughout the show, it was such a special experience being able to show him where I grew up and to reunite him with my family whom he had already met during their previous visits to Cambodia.
Throughout the trip we explored England’s cities and countryside, and he was continuously asking questions about everything from history to food to politics, as well as sharing his own experiences and knowledge about Cambodia and other countries he had travelled to.
Any friends or family that met him said the same thing about Narla – what an impressive and charming young man. His curiosity, intelligence and drive have led him to some amazing places, but it is his positive, generous and open-hearted personality that makes him one of the most loved and respected members of the Journeys Within team.