We had the good fortune of connecting with Riley Ellis-Beach and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Riley, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Do you like Tom Petty? Random question, I know. It’ll make sense in a second, you’ll see. As a young teenager I strongly disliked Tom Petty. The fact that it was his strange voice playing over the car stereo rather than my poppy music drove me crazy… “Come on Dad…” Fast forward a decade, and after hearing the lyrics “you belong among the wildflowers… you belong somewhere you feel free…” on family road trips, something must have stuck. I grew up in Salida, Colorado, a small mountain town on the Western slope. Both of my parents worked hard and saved so that we could take a family road trip at least once a year. I always loved seeing new places, but surprisingly had never been on an airplane until I was 18 years old. When I graduated high school, I took my first airplane trip to Ecuador with a group of students. I quickly learned that my Spanish wasn’t what I thought it was (not even close), and that I was meant for adventure. Shortly after, I moved to Fort Collins to begin my undergraduate degree at Colorado State University. I studied Spanish and International Studies, did the study abroad thing and then, with the full support of my family, moved to Costa Rica as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Whenever I take a big trip, I always make myself a playlist for either the car or the plane, and you better believe Tom Petty was at the top of this particular playlist. Thanks Dad. Fast forward to present, I would say I have a permanent travel bug. I have visited several different countries, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Morocco. Recently I have fallen in love with domestic travel, which I think has something to do with all those family road trips growing up. (We once drove all the way from Colorado to Florida…without AC…that’s a story for another day!). I am a high school Spanish teacher that on any given day has 10+ tabs open with different travel searches running. SkipTown, my travel agency, was born out of a realization that planning travel takes a lot of time (that not everyone has) and that we all deserve that magical feeling that you can only get from travel. I am truly thankful that my family always made space for that feeling.
What should our readers know about your business?
My vision with SkipTown is to provide travelers with the opportunity to disappear somewhere new for a little while, leaving the mundane behind to relax and reset…and to feel a sense of surprise. Think about it, how often as adults are we really, truly surprised? You know, that feeling we got as children before Christmas morning? That is what I am excited about… for travelers to receive something in the mail that will literally make them jump up and down, to get people to explore new places that they may have never considered before and to live a little excitement. I am the one that plans travel for my family and friends. One Christmas I gifted my husband with a trip to go snowboarding in Hood River, OR. While watching him open his present and seeing the excitement on his face I remember thinking to myself, “this is so much fun.” That is where the idea originated. I put the idea on the back burner for a few years, but it kept coming back up, so finally I decided to just go for it. The travel industry has a huge learning curve, from finding the right fit for a Host Agency, to learning about license requirements to the specifics of how to book air travel. I have learned a lot and am excited to continue learning and growing. I started the process in November 2019, was gaining momentum…and then, surprise (not the fun kind) Covid. Not a good time to be in the travel business. Again, I put SkipTown on the back burner, but something my family and friends know about me is that I am resilient and won’t take no for an answer. Our second son was born in July 2020, so it actually was a good time to hit pause for a moment, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to provide something for travelers. If anyone was like me, they were feeling cooped up at home, counting down the minutes until they could book travel again. This feeling, along with some sleep deprivation that only a parent of an infant can understand, led to the “Literal STAYcation”…a fun idea that I am proud of! It is a getaway in a box. I shifted my focus to bringing the vacation to my clients’ living room, capturing the “essence” of a destination via the 5 senses. Along with planning personalized travel, I plan to release “special edition” boxes every now and then. I am excited to see how it will evolve, perhaps as a subscription box in the future. What I want to emphasize with my brand is something that I have learned from many years of travel. Most of the time the best experiences happen unexpectedly. Like the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you stumbled into, or the funky pinball bar found by chance. Be open to surprise.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Gosh, as much as I love Northern Colorado (like a lot!) if my best friend were visiting I would immediately want to take them to the Sangre de Cristo area! This is my favorite place. There is something so magical about the valley. I would break it down something like this… Day 1- Arrive in Denver and drive to Salida, CO. Make sure to grab lunch at Coney Island in Bailey, CO. It’s tacky and worth the stop. Need a pick-me-up after a long drive? Try the Steam Caboose…a drive through coffee caboose! Day 2- Breakfast at Patio Pancake, an old school diner with awesome breakfast burritos. Check out the downtown shops and grab a bite to eat for lunch. Head to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for an evening soak in one of their many pools, or in the river, under the stars. Day 3- Go whitewater rafting with American Adventure- Brown’s Canyon if you’re not quite ready for the big rapids, or if you’re feeling daring try the Royal Gorge. Order Pizza from Moonlight Pizza and relax after working hard on the river! Day 4- Take a day trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park- rent a sand board or just hike! Day 5- Take a hike, go for a mountain bike ride or visit Cottonwood Lake. Grab a beer at Elevation Brewery before heading to dinner. That evening go bowling or maybe go on a ghost tour of Salida. Day 6- Take a look at all the other things to do….take your pick! Places to stay: Stay Amigo…the CUTEST motor lodge- you can stay in a hip airstream or fun, updated rooms. Mt. Princeton Hot Springs- whether or not you stay here, you absolutely must go for a swim in the river! Other Places to Eat: Amicas- woodfire pizza Little Cambodia- their noodle bowls are delicious The Fritz- Tapas style restaurant, awesome place to share small plates Drink: Soulcraft Brewery Eddyline Brewery Wood Highs Mountain Distillery What to do: Ziplining in Buena Vista Hike “S” Mountain Mini Golf Take a yoga class Visit Monarch Pass Take a painting class
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a few people that I would love to recognize! My family of course. They have always supported my wild ideas and desire for travel. My husband for letting me surprise him with travel, which really led to this business. He also deserves a big shout out for the travel agency name. I had a hard time landing on the perfect name. He came home from work one day really worn out and not looking forward to work the next day. I said, “well, we could just skip town.” It just slipped out like that and we both laughed and said that would be a great name. And finally, I’ve got to thank my friends, specifically the ones who have fallen victim (willingly) to my surprise travel shenanigans.