Stray was founded by Neil Geddes. He was one of New Zealand’s true backpacking industry pioneers and also started Kiwi Experience back in 1988. You could say he knew what he was doing! This is his story…
“I remember my first backpacker bus trip. It was December 1988 with my mates Duncan and Mike. We had 24 hard won passengers to play with on our new thing which we called Kiwi Experience (I sold KE about 12 years ago and created Stray). This trip, which has been credited as being the first ever "get-on, get-off" (although we called it "get off on us") backpacker bus trip - if we had known it was going to be so special maybe we would have remembered to fuel the bus.
I remember our second trip. We had no pre-bookings, as we used to just tell people to turn up, so the morning of departure we drove around the Auckland hostels in our cars looking for passengers. We ended up with 7 backpackers and Gyro the dog in my old VW and Duncan's old Holden for the first hour and a half of the trip, until we picked up the bus...
I remember my first trip around New Zealand for Stray. It was in my old truck, with a clean sheet of paper and an open mind. I was on a mission to find alternative things for travellers, to show them a better New Zealand. I was so blown away by how much great stuff there is out there that people were missing out on and how much potential there was to offer something great and different.
Finding accommodation was one of the biggest challenges we faced in these amazing places. Like Abel Tasman National Park, Hahei and Raglan; we really had to work hard to find suitable options. This is probably why other companies take the easy route and stay in larger towns and cities rather than right next to the attractions.
I remember my first Stray travel agents famil (industry slang for showing people stuff). I was with Ceri, the sales rep, 28 travel agents, a Stray bus group, and a group of Maori school kids at our alternative cultural show.
Ceri said, “Mate, you must be so happy,” and yes I was. This was the perfect example of 'down to earth' New Zealand we wanted to get travellers involved in. The great thing was this was just one of the many unique things that we discovered around New Zealand and is now a top rating feature for Stray. It’s not just about helping adventurous travellers fully experience the real New Zealand; it’s about helping local communities too.
Anyway, the point is - we have a huge amount of experience and a passion for showing off the real New Zealand and we’ve now added this passion for adventurous, flexible travel to Southeast Asia.
The best thing is - and our customer surveys and reviews prove this – whether you’re travelling here in NZ, or in Southeast Asia, you will love it!”
Neil Geddes, Founder of Stray
So there you have it! Stray is still proudly independently owned and run by a young team of Strayers who have lots of experience and are fiercely passionate about showing off the real New Zealand to you!
Stray has grown a lot over the past fifteen years! In 2010 we made the big move and took our adventurous, flexible travel and orange buses to Southeast Asia. So if you’re heading to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam or Myanmar and want to get further off the beaten track; make sure you check out Stray Asia.
Stray gives adventurous travellers access to many exclusive and amazing things. But don’t just take our word for it, come find out for yourself!
The Stray Team