Lale Sürmen Aran

I was born and raised in Ankara, capital city of Turkey. Being the daughter of a lawyer and an economist, I had a culturally diverse upbringing. Thru my parents and their social circle, I developed an awareness and understanding of life in a formal capital city; at the prestigious private school I attended I had a rigorous academic formation; and I enjoyed being a country-side child during holidays and weekends I spent with my grandparents in their farm house in a tiny village on the Taurus Mountains.

I became one of the youngest certified national guides of Turkey in 1989, even before I graduated the university I attended, the Hacettepe University in Ankara.

My early assignments as a guide were concentrated around Ankara, these included the Hittite and Phrygian (Phrygia of Midas with the golden touch) sites and Cappadocia. I loved what I did. I was in awe of meeting new and interesting people and learning more.

After I graduated from the university, I didn’t need to think twice to stay in travel business and develop it into a life long career.

Thru the first decade of my career I worked for a wide array of travel companies both in Turkey and abroad; mass travel, sea-sun-fun type of companies; and those that provided educational tours. I even managed to fit in a year of working as the Sales & PR manager of a high-end hotel in Ankara. All of these experiences helped me to appreciate and accept diversity. Working at the hotel and Elderhostel (nowadays called the Road Scholar) contributed most to my approach, understanding and practice of the travel business.

What we wanted to do and a good coincidence brought us together with Rick Steves, a like-minded senior traveler and guide. In those years, he was only known to a small circle of travelers. Today, he is a globally acclaimed travel guru and we are very proud of being part of his European team. Rick helped us to evolve into the travel professionals we are today. He inspired and encouraged us to grab the pen and start writing, hence we became the co-authors of the best selling Rick Steves Istanbul guide-book.

Meanwhile, we managed to fit in many projects in our life, writing for Turkish travelers, building a small boutique hotel, serving at the board of Istanbul Tourist Guides Chamber, working on and co-hosting 3 Rick Steves TV shows about Turkey for PBS, and raising a family with two sons.

Being the daughter of a working woman, and being a working woman myself, I tried to expand SRM Travel network of suppliers with women and families sending their children to school, especially daughters. It has always given me a great happiness seeing one such child to grow up and finish school. All I hope of them is to pay it forward.

Today, I live between Istanbul and Cappadocia. I still lead tours, research and write for travel, provide consultancy and develop custom itineraries for travelers who doesn’t prefer the cliché.