Sarah Dandashy is an award-winning concierge and travel influencer. She won the title of Best Young Concierge in the world in 2015 from Les Clefs d’Or International–the international professional organization of concierge. Through her Ask A Concierge website, she is considered a verified source of travel information as both a local expert in Los Angeles and a through her concierge connections around the world.
1.) Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
I somewhat like to think that travel is in my DNA. I’m half-Lebanese, which means that half of my family lives in the Middle East and Europe. So although I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I took my first flight when I was 3 weeks old—as soon as my passport came in. We flew to Saudi Arabia, which is where I lived for the first 6 years of my life. Travel was part of my upbringing; it was what I did as a kid. I do remember being about five years old and telling my mother, mid-flight, “I could live on a plane.” It’s funny to see how things come full circle, as now I work in the travel industry and travel a fair amount myself!
2.) If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
I would create an epic around-the-world trip and create videos about dancing with strangers.
3.) What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
There are very few things I’m scared of, other than the dark and heights and the woods… at night… Man! I guess I am afraid of more things than I thought. Haha! In all seriousness, when I think of this question, I think of limitations. And I don’t believe in limitations. I believe in being present, trying your best, and being honest with yourself. That is the best way to approach a challenge or something that you might be afraid of. Most of all, I don’t let being “afraid” hold me back from trying.
4.) What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
Google Maps, The Delta App, and Blinkist. Google Maps so I can get anywhere. The Delta App is amazing—it even tracks your luggage! And Blinkist is an app that offers super condensed versions of books. I don’t have time to read, but I love to learn new things. So I like to keep it quick!
5.) What place do you wish more people have seen?
The Seven Wonders of the World. Granted, I haven’t seen them all. But I think that physically going and experiencing those places would really put the world, history, and life into perspective.
“Don’t focus on what you can’t control. Focus on what you can control!”
This is a big part of my life motto. My mother shared this with me at an early age. By no means am I a control freak, but it’s about being proactive. In life, so many things are thrown our way that we can’t control. Some are good, and some are not. You can’t sit there and wait for luck to strike, and you can’t sit there and mope if things don’t go your way. You focus on doing the work and making your life happen.
7.) When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
I’m surprised every time I travel. I find when I travel, I become very present. I think we all have to be. Everything is so new to our senses; we are inspired to live in the moment. It is in those moments where I notice that, in general, people are kind. From helping translate something, to communicating when you don’t speak the same language, I love connecting with strangers. Haha! I mean, this shouldn’t be a surprise since it is what I do nearly every day as a concierge—I connect with travelers, quickly learn about them, and given them genuine suggestions and advice to make the most out of their trip!
8.) What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
I was lucky to grow up internationally, so it wasn’t ever a choice, so much as the way one lives in this world. I would 100 percent recommend everyone to spend and extended amount of time in another country. It teaches you so much about the world. Arguably, it’s the best education one can get!
9.) I travel because….
I love to live. It sounds so silly when people say “to travel is to live.” But it is true. I travel to learn, I travel to experience, I travel to broaden my mind. Travel gets people out of their comfort zone. It forces people to communicate across cultural and language barriers. Travel inspires us. It teaches us lessons, about humanity and about ourselves. So yeah, when you really think of it that way, “to travel IS to LIVE.” And I choose to live this life fully.
10.) My favorite travel or business book is…
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?
Shhhh, I have a secret. I’m not a hotel snob. I’ve worked in five-star hotels for over 15 years, but for me personally, I just like a great bed, clean sheets, and a nightstand that I can plug my phone charger into. I’m simple!
I do like to explore hotels with history like The Palace in San Francisco or The Willard in Washington DC. But my taste is more modern, so when it comes to staying at hotels, I like ones that really do something unique. I recently stayed at The Alise Hotel in San Francisco and loved their whole Pineapple theme! To me, it’s all about the little touches that make a hotel stay… special!
Lastly, can you please recommend a resource for up-and-coming travel writers; this could be a course you know, a book, conference etc.
Attend events. You can read books, take online courses, but nothing impacts a person like attending an event. Some great ones include: Travel Massive, TBEX, and TravelCon.
Along with hotel brands, from The Peninsula, Four Seasons, and Fairmont Hotels, Sarah Dandashy also works with big brands within the travel realm, Trip Advisor, Airbnb, and American Airlines to name a few. People seek her out for her travel tips, advice, and knowledge of trends from the frontlines of travel!
Stay up-to-date on her travels at:
Our next Travel Influencer interview will be up soon, follow the series here.