Soldi Foster with her children and her late father on a family trip in South Africa.
SLICE OF RYE
Soldi Foster Has a Case of Wanderlust
By Robin Jovanovich
As a girl, Soldi Foster, a sixth-generation South African, traveled to every nook of that part of the world with her family. She and her two older brothers camped out and walked in the bush. From a young age, they were captivated by flora and fauna and confirmed conservationists, like their parents.
Foster vividly recalls the day her family drove from their farm out to a friend’s safari farm to see the shipment of cheetahs that had just arrived.
“My father was a teacher and we didn’t have a great deal of money,” she said, “but we were surrounded by beauty and adventure and I had a magical childhood.”
When she was 17, she traveled by plane for the first time — to Bremen, Germany, as a Rotary exchange student. “Those few months opened up a new world for me.”
But to South Africa she returned for university, earning a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree and working every summer at a safari lodge.
She was accepted into medical school but chose not to go. After working for a year as a hospital and retail pharmacist in Durban, she jumped at the chance to move to London and work for GlaxoSmithKline, first in business development and then as a clinical trials associate. She went on to work in medical communication at Merck.
It was while living in London that she met her husband, Bradley Foster, another South African with a passion for travel. Before moving to the United States where his career in finance took them, they traveled as their work schedules allowed and lived in Tokyo for two years.
Fifteen years ago, the Fosters moved to Rye from Manhattan. “We only had one child then and I was hoping to stay in the city a little longer, but my husband needed his outdoor space, his barbecue,” said Soldi. “The best thing we’ve ever done was move here.”
While other families traveled to the usual places over school and summer breaks, the Fosters and their three children, now 16, 13, and 9, went far afield. “Friends were always asking me how we handled traveling to Costa Rica, Africa, Asia, and more with little kids. Pretty soon I was talking them through their concerns and helping them with their itineraries.”
Two years ago, while taking her father, who was sick with cancer, on a family trip retracing trips he’d taken her on as a child, Soldi told him that she was itching to work out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Whatever it was, she hoped it would give her the opportunity to use her skills behind a camera and telling stories. His response was: “What are you waiting for?”
Last year, she launched Journeys by Soldi. She organizes and designs tours to Africa and select Indian Ocean destinations. This year, once the pandemic is under control, four families from Rye, whom she’s created itineraries for, are going to Africa for the first time.
“Every family making plans to visit Africa asks me the same two questions: ‘What are our chances of being attacked and eaten by wild animals?’ ‘What are the chances we’ll be hijacked?’” Foster, who grew up in apartheid South Africa, assures them that safari destinations are not only memorable but remarkably safe. “The guides pick you up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Travelers return filled with the wonder of the wild kingdom — seeing the animals up close, in awe of the abundant flora — and having forged close connections with the locals — guides, botanists, craftspeople.
“I have the best job because every family is so different, as are their interests, and I’m bringing them closer to a part of the world I know and love,” said Foster, who works with first-rate companies hopes to run her own trips one day soon.
Isolde (her grandmother was an opera singer) “Soldi” Foster has another dream for Africa. “We need to assure all the communities that depend on tourism that tourists are coming back later this year or next. With the coronavirus raging, all those workers who have been trained to be chefs and guides and all those waiting to climb out of poverty and into employment are idle, and wildlife conservation efforts are stalled.”