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, Douglas 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. He shares his favorite memories from MIR's 30 years of travel in our MIR in a Nutshell series.
Recent travels include Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
Annie Lucas, 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. She represents the company at industry trade events in the U.S. and around the globe.
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 and crossed Turkey from Lake Van to Istanbul by train.
Anne Thorsteinson, Senior Account Manager, Custom Group Tours, earned her bachelor's in Russian language and history at the University of Washington, followed by a master's 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, Anne spent time in Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Alex Whan, Account Manager, is a native Seattleite. He earned a B.A. in International Studies and an M.A. in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington. Studying Serbian and Georgian languages 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.
Nathan Cox, Account Manager, was born and raised in Utah, but has spent much of his adult life living in Russia and Ukraine. As an undergraduate, he double-majored in English and Russian literature and language and received his master’s degree in literature. Nathan worked for nearly nine years in St. Petersburg, Russia, as the director of study abroad programs. Beyond his extensive travels in western Russia, Nathan has been to China, Central Asia, the Baltics and Europe.
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.
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 Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. He 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.
Marisa Dodd, Tour Specialist, is a native Virginian with a deep-rooted knowledge of and passion for Russian culture. While earning her degrees in Russian language and literature and international affairs at George Washington University, Marisa spent a summer teaching English in Ryazan, a small town in Western Russia on the Oka River, and also participated in a study abroad program for a full year in St. Petersburg. She recently returned to the States after completing a semester-long internship in Moscow.
Tia Low, Tour Specialist, received her International Business degree from Washington State University, on the opposite side of the state as her hometown of Sammamish. She spent several years living abroad in Asia and South America, and has also traveled extensively around the globe, including visits to Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Her endless curiosity about the people and cultures of the world continues to feed her interest in MIR’s destinations.
Barrett Chapman, Tour Specialist, grew up in California and has a fascination with Central Asia's nomadic cultures. A travel enthusiast, Barrett has been to over 40 countries and completed volunteer work and an internship abroad. She recently spent a year traveling throughout Asia, Europe and South America, and has visited several MIR destinations including: Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Northwest China, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. Her favorite travel memory is going to the World Nomad Games in Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan. When not in the office, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, surfing, and taste-testing all types of cuisines.
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 and along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Joanna is our resident expert on Jewish Heritage tours in East and Central Europe, and has led tours to Holocaust sites in Poland, Austria, and Czech Republic. She most recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates.
Amy Stidger, Sales Manager, hails from Texas where she earned a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. She has studied Russian in Moscow and Voronezh, Eastern Armenian in Yerevan, and has traveled around Europe, Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Her recent travels include Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Olga Hayes, Senior Private Journeys Specialist and native of St. Petersburg, Russia, worked 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 served as a tour guide in St. Petersburg for many years. She returns to St. Petersburg regularly, and recently traveled to Czech Republic and Hungary.
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 also studied in Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, and Zagreb, and returns almost every year. Lisa has recently explored Uzbekistan, Macedonia, the Russian Far East, Latvia, and Lithuania, and has spent time wine tasting and truffle hunting in Croatia..
Kevin Testa, Travel Sales/Client Services Specialist, is a graduate of Portland State University, where he earned degrees in both international business and Russian language. He spent several months at Corvinus University in Budapest. Kevin’s travels have taken him to Central Europe, the Balkans, Ukraine, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the North Caucasus. Most recently, he toured Siberia and Beijing.
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.
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, and has lived in Turkey, the Balkans, Central Asia, and Russia. Helen most recently traveled to Armenia. She has a master's degree in Russian & Slavic languages and linguistics; a B.A. in Russian language and Soviet studies; as well as a B.A. in broadcast journalism.
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 Georgia.
Rebecca Morris, Office/Accounting Assistant, was born and raised on a small farm in Washington State with 10 horses of her own. She recently returned to the Seattle area after spending five years in Anchorage, Alaska, working with a center that specializes in treating patients with PTSD. Rebecca has traveled extensively around the globe, including several MIR destinations — the Balkans, Romania, Hungary, and Czech Republic.
Kelly Guerra, Administrative Assistant/Travel Support, is a native Texan with a thirst for adventure, the arts, learning, and the outdoors. Growing up in a multicultural community in Austin, she loves learning about different cultures, languages, eating ethic foods, and capturing people’s stories on film and in print. She enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her family, writing, crafting, martial arts, cuisine and viticulture, and traveling off the beaten path. Her travels have taken her to Austria, Slovenia, Germany, and France.
Jake Smith, Special Projects, 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 China, the South Caucasus, and Kamchatka.