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As a young boy growing up in his native Colombia, David Mendal had already found his passion. He would urge his parents to take him to the airport as he stood mesmerized simply watching the planes take off and land. By age 9 he was hired part-time at an airline reservation desk because of his bilingual skills. After immigrating to the U.S., he started working at a travel agency at 16. He earned his pilot's license, but that was just for fun. By 21, he bought a small travel agency for less than $30,000. Mendal has since grown Forest Travel into a 200-employee luxury travel company that now encompasses several subsidiaries, including Prive Jets, Prive Yachts, Ultimate Jet Vacations, Luxury Cruise Connections and Luxury Hotel Experts.
Annual revenues top $100 million and the company is constantly evolving, according to Mendal. His latest endeavor? Mendal says his travel company is one of only 50 that is authorized to book space travel through Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which plans to provide space flights to the public. Not only is Mendal already signing up clients, but he also has his own ticket to fly into space in 2014.
For this interview with 'Trep Talk, I sat down with Mendal, 48, at his private hangar in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He shares why he doesn't make quick decisions anymore and how he's inspired by changes and challenges, as they have led to his success in the travel industry.