Sigrid Carter's life story is worthy of becoming a movie. This was true before she even turned thirty. As an adventurous girl in her twenties, she and two girlfriends from Germany hitchhiked from Colorado to the Pacific coast of Mexico, where the trio took a canoe into the ocean, got lost, and found themselves surrounded by sharks just as bad weather set in. Somehow, they survived. The tide carried them to the shores of Peru, where they spent time living with Indians in the Amazon and working for biologists researching the rainforests, one of whom later became Carter's husband.
A Peruvian filmmaker did, in fact, turn the ordeal into a television movie, but Carter professes not to know the title or release date. She has no time for such things—she's too busy continuing to live a life most of us can only imagine.
It was her adventurous spirit that led Carter to set up her agency, Envoyé Travel, in 1971 in Lubbock, Texas, where her husband has established himself as an associate dean at Texas Tech University. Lest you think married life and operating a thirty-six-year-old business has tamed her, Carter kayaks every morning, and a few days after we spoke, she was on her way to a polar bear expedition in Churchill, Canada.
"Whatever you do in life is a big commitment, so it needs to be fun," says Carter, who's been to all seven continents. "I love this business. There is nothing more fun in life than talking about destinations."
And Carter has a lot of stories to tell—so much so that she landed the cover of Travel Agent in 1992 and in 1995 self-published a book, Travel Like a Millionaire Without Being One, which is being updated for a second printing.
Her zest for life is infectious. She personally runs select small group trips, leading people on a pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain, and taking others to the Arctic Circle to stay with Eskimos. Many of the local operators she uses have been discovered – and vetted – through her own travels.
"Wherever I go, I make friends," Carter says, who also works with such suppliers as Abercrombie & Kent, Butterfield & Robinson, and Clipper Adventures. "I went to India, and my goal was to experience yoga with the best teacher there. I checked the prices, and it was $850 a night! I thought, 'I'm not going to spend that kind of money.'"
She left for India and, on the way, met a yoga teacher who invited her to dinner. "It turned out that the family is the number-one yoga family in India—even the Clintons have studied with them," Carter shares. "They live very, very basic, but the simplicity of their lifestyle is something that we all can learn from."