Coffee Time with Industry Vets: Harry Dalgaard

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Harry on board the Concorde in 1990.
Harry on board the Concorde in 1990.

Think you know Harry Dalgaard, think again….

There’s more to Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit.

No sooner than Harry began walking, he was traveling. However, it took a bit of rejection for him to truly break into the industry. After serving in positions at Pan Am, American Airlines and Green Carpet Tours, Harry realized he belonged in the travel business. Now a seasoned vet, he’s not opposed to collecting a souvenir magnet or two and enjoys reading Nordic crime thrillers to pass the time while flying. We’ll let him explain in the Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A series.

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
I was born in Oslo—my father worked for Pan Am, and we lived in Europe until I was 18. My first trip from Oslo was to Copenhagen when I was 5 years old. You could say I was born traveling.

What is your most vivid travel memory?
I have two. One was riding on a jet ski around the lagoon in Bora Bora. It was just so beautiful. The other was seeing Patagonia for the first time—the vastness of it—just me and the sheep.

What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
Rejection from other industries. Seriously, because my dad had worked in the travel business, it just seemed natural to start there. I worked for Pan Am, then American Airlines and then a tour operator (Green Carpet Tours) here in Portland. When I was fired by the tour operator, I decided to see if I could make it in another business. Frito-Lay said they didn’t know what to make of me with my travel experience, that I was a square peg in a round hole, so they turned me down for the job of traffic manager. And that’s when I realized, I really do belong in the travel business.

Harry, his wife and children enjoying Lake Oswego Rotary Club’s Annual Lobster Feed and Auction in Oregon.
Harry, his wife and children enjoying Lake Oswego Rotary Club’s Annual Lobster Feed and Auction in Oregon.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We were starving students. We got a package for $79 per person for two nights and a dinner at Sun River Resorts in Bend, Oregon.

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
We were hosted by the Aquitaine region in France. The most memorable meal I have ever had. And wine to die for.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
Myanmar, Cambodia and Bhutan. It’s a good thing we’re selling Asia now!

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
No. Normally I am given so many souvenirs by people I meet on my travels, I don’t need to buy anything myself.

You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
Occasionally, if it’s really interesting or indigenous art.

What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
I read, mostly Nordic crime thrillers (translated into English).

Who is your favorite travel companion?
Myself—I have multiple personalities. Seriously, I treasure my time alone. I get on a plane and purposely avoid talking to people next to me. I love anonymity. Because when I get where I’m going, I am talking to all kinds of people all the time—employees, colleagues, suppliers, guides, people in restaurants.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
Not just a hotel room, but a suite at the Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento. And of course, we sell it. It’s so easy to sell what you love.

If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
London, because I lived there for eight years as a teenager—the time of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Carnaby Street—and because of the incredible cross currents of different delicious cuisines you find there.

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
The best food was at the Michelin three-star restaurant in the hotel Les Pres d’Eugenie in Eugenie-les-Bains in Aquitaine. That day, the “Terroir Sublime” meal featured—among many other dishes—a trout covered in parsley that was probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. The strangest? Shark meat cured in its own urine, an Icelandic specialty that must be consumed with copious amounts of aquavit.

What can’t you travel without?

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
A winemaker and restaurateur in the hills outside Sorrento. I remember him as Mr. Zlow Food, because slow food is his passion and he loves to describe how everything is prepared “zzlow.” We had a 6-hour meal.

Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Tropical beach, hands down, preferably Bora Bora.

City or countryside?
Countryside—like the rolling hills of Shropshire, where my sister lives in England. Or the incredible views at Torres del Paine in Chile.