Our staff of expert travel planners is exceptionally well-traveled and extremely knowledgeable about our destinations. We couple an unrivaled depth of experience with an unmitigated enthusiasm for foreign culture, history, language and geography.
This wealth of experience, knowledge and information that benefits our clients immeasurably.
President and co-founder of MIR, was inspired to grow the company after traveling to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s on a goodwill exchange between members of the Soviet Olympic volleyball team and players of the sport from 11 U.S. states. He has made over 100 trips to our destinations and is a member of the Explorers Club. Whether exploring archaeological sites in Central Asia and the Caucasus or leading “Inside the Russian Space Program” tours to the Baikonur space launch site, Douglas’ trips have spanned MIR’s destinations since our inception in 1986. Doug shares his favorite memories from MIR's 30 years of travel in our MIR in a Nutshell series.
Recent travels include the DPRK (North Korea), Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
Annie Lucas, Vice President,
Vice President, has been with the company since the very early years. Her background in Russian & Eastern European studies serves her in her role overseeing company-wide operations, systems and product development. With a passion for out-of-the-way places (favorites include Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), Annie personally scouts emerging destinations and has an extensive travel history.
Dmitry Rudich, Director of Custom Group Tours, grew up in Ukraine and traveled in his home country, in Russia, the South Caucasus and Turkey before coming to the U.S. for an international business degree. Since then he has been from Minsk to Moscow to Vladivostok, across the snow-capped mountains of Tajikistan, and throughout Eastern China. Most recently, he traversed Central Asia with a contingent of Land Rovers, toured North Korea, and crossed Turkey from Lake Van to Istanbul by train.
Anne Thorsteinson, Tour Specialist, was born and raised in Alaska and came south to the University of Washington for a B.A. in Russian Language and History, followed by an M.A in International Relations.
She has studied Russian in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok, lived in Budapest, and traveled throughout Central Europe, Central Asia, the Baltics, Balkans and Russia. Most recently she spent time in Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Alex Whan, Tour Specialist, is a native Seattleite and graduate of the University of Washington. He earned his B.A. in International Studies and his M.A. in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, and learned both Serbian and Georgian language in Belgrade and Tbilisi respectively. He has traveled extensively throughout much of Eastern Europe, including the Balkans, Turkey, and the Caucasus, and has lived in Lithuania, Serbia, and Georgia.
Andrew Barron, Director of Service & Support, studied Chinese and Russian in college and spent a year living and working outside of Beijing.
His travels have taken him across China, from Xi'an to Lhasa, on an extended overland expedition from Shanghai to Urumqi, through Chinese Turkestan and from Western Russia to Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan at the heart of Central Asia.
Jake Smith, Director of Operations, earned a degree in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Washington. While working on his degree, Jake's participation in two study abroad programs in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan reinforced his passion for Central Asia. Jake went on to spend six years supporting educational and cultural exchange programs in Central Asia with an international nonprofit, four years of which were based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. His most recent travels include Iran, China, the DPRK, the South Caucasus and Kamchatka.
Jonathan Gann, Tour Specialist, has lived in various countries throughout his life and traveled to over 100. Having earned advanced degrees in linguistics, he speaks multiple languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian) and has held a variety of positions all over the globe, working as a guide in Latin America and Eastern Europe and in the international education field for over 20 years. Proud of his U.S. and Brazilian roots, Jonathan loves the opportunity to travel and meet people from around the world, and has a special affinity for Brazilian bossa nova music, soccer, volleyball and tennis.
Willis Hughes, Tour Specialist, migrated to the Pacific Northwest from Nevada, earning his undergraduate degrees in political science and Russian, Eurasian & Eastern European Studies from the University of Oregon. After traveling abroad to teach in the Republic of Georgia and the United Kingdom, he returned to the US to complete his master’s degree in Eurasian, Russian & Eastern European Studies at Georgetown University, where he focused on development in the Caucasus. He has studied Russian in Vladimir and Kazan and Georgian in Tbilisi, and traveled extensively across Ukraine, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
Joanna Millick, Director of Sales, was born in Warsaw and speaks a host of Slavic languages. Her experience in Poland as a tour manager complements her Master's degree in International Studies. She has led groups through the Balkans, to Iran, and along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Joanna is our resident expert on Jewish Heritage tours in East and Central Europe, and recently led a group to Holocaust sites in Poland.
Amy Stidger, Travel Sales/Client Services Specialist, hails from Texas where she earned a Bachelors in History and a Masters in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. She has studied Russian in Moscow and Voronezh, Eastern Armenian in Yerevan, and has traveled around Russia, Armenia, and Europe. Her recent travels include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Kevin Testa, Travel Sales Assistant, is a graduate of Portland State University, where he earned degrees in both international business and Russian language. During his final semester, he had the opportunity to spend several months in Budapest, Hungary, studying economics and the history of the former Eastern Bloc at Corvinus University. Since then, Kevin’s travels have taken him to many of MIR’s destinations, including Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Most recently, he toured Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Olga Hayes, Senior Private Journeys Specialist and native of St. Petersburg, Russia, worked for many years as a senior curator for the State Russian Museum, as a consultant to museums throughout Europe and as a professor at St. Petersburg University.
She has a Doctorate in Russian Culture specializing in Russian icons and has served as a tour guide in St. Petersburg for many years. She returns to St. Petersburg regularly.
Lisa Peterson, Private Journeys Specialist, earned her degree in International Studies from the University of Washington and taught English and history in Romania and Russia. She has traveled extensively in Eastern Europe, and has a special affinity for the Balkans, studying and working in Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and Zagreb.
Lisa has recently explored Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Iran, and the Russian Far East.
Liz Tollefson, Marketing Director, grew up in Delaware where she earned a degree in Mass Media Communication. Her love of adventure, the arts and the internet brought her west to Seattle where she has found a way to combine all of them at MIR. Liz has explored Western Russia, Bulgaria and Romania as well as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Jessica Clark, Marketing Coordinator, grew up in West Virginia and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica. She earned a bachelor's in mass communications and a master's in international business, and has studied and interned in Dubai, India and New Zealand, as well as worked in tourism in South Africa. Her most recent travels include Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Iran.
Helen Holter, Content Manager, is a media strategist specializing in TV/digital storytelling and cross-cultural communication in Seattle and internationally.
An Emmy-winning journalist, Helen was a senior correspondent reporting in Russian for Soviet TV. She especially loves Siberia and the Trans-Siberian Railway, Turkey, Balkans, Central Asia, and – of course – Russia.
Mariana Noble, Copywriter, earned her Russian Studies degree in Seattle and studied Russian language in St. Petersburg. She’s traveled in Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Republic of Georgia, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but her favorite vacation spot is Siberia. Lately she’s been scouting the islands around Seattle, where she plans to retire.
Emily Kelso, Marketing Associate/Copywriter, is a travel enthusiast with a strong interest in off-the-beaten-path locales and languages. A University of Colorado grad with degrees in English and fine arts, her love of Asian art and culture propelled her to explore Japan, China and other far-flung places across the globe. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, yoga and hiking the trails of the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, and makes it back to her quirky hometown of Boulder, CO whenever she can.
Jered Gorman, Director of Air Travel/Logistics, was born in Seoul and lived in the Netherlands and Germany as a child before settling in the Pacific Northwest. Jered studied in Guilin toward a degree in Chinese Studies, and he has traveled throughout China, Mongolia, Southeast and Central Asia, Europe, Turkey and the South Caucasus country of Georgia.
Megan Gilboy, Accountant/Benefits Coordinator, grew up in Bellingham, Washington, received her accounting degree from Western Washington University, in her hometown of Bellingham. She has been passionate about the dance and music of Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East since she was 17. When she’s not accounting, you can find her dancing and creating costumes with Anar Dana, a dance troupe in Seattle. Her most recent travels include Turkey and Uzbekistan.
Davor Svetinovic, Administrative Assistant/Travel Support Specialist, was born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After moving to the Pacific Northwest, he attended Western Washington University, where he earned his degree in fine arts before landing happily in Seattle. He’s passionate about film, music and the arts, and has an especially strong background in Slavic art and culture.