Krystal Tan is the founder of Blue Sky Escapes, a boutique travel company that unlocks experiential journeys around the world. With years of experience as a corporate M&A lawyer, she came to see her travels as journeys as a means to discover a truer life. The core of Blue Sky Escapes is to build a business that stands for a more inviting world – a world unlocked and without barriers, brimming with rich experiences that shun discrimination and encourage self-discovery.
From a corporate M&A lawyer to the founder of Blue Sky Escapes, a bespoke travel & lifestyle business – how do the dots connect to now?
The business found me by accident! If it weren’t for some random search results on Google that threw up Nat Geo’s accreditation of the Cordillera Huayhuash trail as the second-most beautiful in the world, my partner and I would never have found ourselves in a remote corner of the Peruvian Andes in 2014, camping at 4,900m with a freelance guide, who later asked us to partner with him to set up a Peru trekking business. One destination led to another, and Blue Sky Escapes was born. After juggling law and Blue Sky Escapes for three years, I was then faced with the difficult decision to choose between a safety net and the great unknown — and we all know how that worked out.
What’s one thing you’ve learned as a lawyer that’s helped you run Blue Sky Escapes?
As a transactional lawyer, juggling a multitude of complex deals and commitments all at once was part of the job. No doubt this equipped me with the necessary taskmaster abilities, problem-solving skills, and more importantly, mental fortitude to work well under the everyday pressures of running a business.
What is the value of traveling?
This is the part where I basically rehash whatever it is that Blue Sky Escapes stands for. Experiential travel, when done right, should have you stepping out of your comfort zone, discovering the world we live in and enriching your sense of self. This is the core of the Blue Sky Escapes philosophy.
From Bhutan to Abruzzo, you spend a lot of time travelling and taking on adventures – which has been the most memorable? Do you have a favourite to share?
It’s hard to pick a favourite! Perhaps one experience most fresh in my mind is from a recent recce trip to Morocco in June 2019. A new experience we uncovered involved a short hike in the High Atlas Mountains (supported by local mules) to the top of a peak where a local Berber tribe family lived and welcomed us into their home with open arms.
We had climbed so high that their entire home was shrouded in the clouds with falcons and eagles soaring right beside us. They then performed a traditional mint tea ceremony and we enjoyed a local Berber breakfast with them, eating with our hands and sharing from the same ceramic pot. We then made ourselves at home in their stone-carved kitchen, rolling dough with the grandmother, chopping vegetables with the head of the family, and seasoning Moroccan tagines with the children.
The dishes we made together were so tasty, but our time with the family was shortened when we heard thunder outside. Before long, it started hailing. Without any rain gear on hand, we borrowed thick jackets and a couple of tiny umbrellas from the villagers around to find our way back down. We ended up taking a shortcut in the pounding rain and had to traverse down what appeared to be a mini waterfall. Not going to lie, it was pretty nerve-racking but exhilarating all at the same time. We were then picked up at a designated pick-up point by a local Berber driving a beat-up classic car, completely drenched but with our hearts full, smiling from ear to ear.
These are the types of experiences I love — the ones that surprise you by some unexpected turn of events, yet it brings you closer to the people you meet and enriches your experience in the destination.
Throughout your travels, how do you go about making a place feel more like home?
I think any place feels more like home when you are in touch with the local people of a place and can experience the place through their eyes. There’s little point in visiting a place and spending most of your day in the lodge by the pool. In any place I explore, I always make it a point to have meaningful conversations with the people I meet. I often ask them what they get up to in their free time so I can gain a more intimate understanding of their daily lives. If it’s something that catches my fancy, I usually end up doing the same thing. This is also how we go about designing experiences for our travellers, so as to ensure that they’re always getting under the skin of a place.
The ability to continue my own personal routine in a place I’m visiting always helps too. When I travel, it’s important to continue my routine of intermittent fasting, which means skipping breakfast in the mornings (despite some very tempting hotel spreads you find out there), three-minute morning workout repetitions, and gratitude journaling. I think it’s important to always feel like you’re growing. Exploring the world should never set you back.
What’s the biggest misconception that people may have about the work that you do?
I think most people think I have the best job in the world since I get to travel all the time. What may surprise them is that making travel a career, in fact, destroys travel for you. Each time I travel for work, the days are packed, sometimes beginning as early as 6am and ending past midnight so as to maximise time. Being so obsessed with the details, you’re also constantly questioning how each hotel room, local experience, vehicle and food can be improved. This mentality has also slipped into leisure travel for me — you can never really let go and enjoy the experience for what it is. Call it an occupational hazard!
Top 5 packing tips?
I have four:
1. Grouping by colours helps a ton with outfit planning (especially when living out of a suitcase)
2. For long or complex outfits that crease easily, give them a good roll and stack them
3. Dividers are essential to cope with seasonal clothes, e.g. separating warm clothes from summer clothes
4. Linen is my go-to material for both warm and cooler climates. It’s breathable and extremely versatile.
What is the relationship you have with your clothes?
I view clothing as a second skin. As such, it has to — at the very least — be comfortable, fairly uncomplicated, and not over the top. Every occasion calls for a different style, and I realise whatever I put on usually reflects my own inner motivation for such occasion — nude or all-white for meditation sessions, or black with a burst of colour for hiking.
About paying tribute to the thought, love and positive energy put into the handcrafted fabrics we so often take for granted in this consumerist world. In bringing back the pride of the traditional works to the artisans through story-telling, we are celebrating and humanising each piece, and facilitating the transfer of that vitalising energy channelled into the craftsmanship to all who have the pleasure of owning these delicate pieces.
We are inspired by Krystal’s intention to create a platform that encourages self-discovery and are proud to have her as Fieldtesters, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Krystal is wearing the Reversible Haori + Parva Ash in Size 1.