Lisa Wurzainer

Meet the Expert: Lisa Wurzrainer

Zegrahm Expeditions|July 8, 2020|Blog Post

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Where are you from and where have you lived?  

I was born in Seattle, WA and I have lived in Minneapolis, Klamath Falls, OR; Colorado Springs, CO; Munich, Germany; and now Whidbey Island, WA.

Tell us about yourself—what path led you to becoming a Zegrahm Leader?  

I started working for Zegrahm in 1993(!) shortly after I finished getting my M.A. in International Studies. Initially, I worked in the office planning our expeditions, but the sea was calling and soon I was out in the field full time as Cruise Director and Expedition Leader. I met my husband, a chef, while working on board a Russian icebreaker in Antarctica. When we had our first child, I returned to office work so I could be home to raise our children and for many years was the Director of Expedition Staff, responsible for putting together all of our expedition teams—for both ship trips and land trips. As our children grew, I would work a couple of trips a year as Cruise Director so I could get to know our guests and see the field teams in action. In late, 2018, I decided to return to Cruise Directing exclusively, as my children were getting older and I could be away from home more. I love being back in the field and nothing is more satisfying and rewarding than working together as a part of a team to pull off an incredible adventure for our guests.  


What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have? 

I have my Master’s in International Studies and my B.A. in Political Science. I was so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity travel around the world by ship while I was an undergraduate and soon realized how important travel is for fostering a global mentality, greater understanding, and compassion. In addition, until very recently, my husband and I owned and operated a restaurant on Whidbey Island (for nearly 18 years!) We were so fortunate to have had the ability to live and to raise our children in such an incredible place!

What other fields are you passionate about? 

My husband and I are both passionate about feeding those in need. We have long been big supporters of our local foodbank and have sponsored many fundraisers over the years. In fact, this desire to give back is what prompted us to sell the restaurant so that my husband could take on the position of Food Service Director for our local school district focussing on high-quality, scratch made, and locally sourced food. 

Any awards, publications, appearances documentaries etc. do you have?

The restaurant received many awards over the years, but I think my husband gets the majority of credit for those!

What organizations are you a part of?

Most of the organizations I’ve been a part of were related to the restaurant. 

What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Zegrahm?  

As I said before, working together as part of a team of enthusiastic, knowledgeable, committed, funny people who all have the same goal—delivering the best and most authentic experiences possible for our guests. When it all comes together, it really is magic!   

Zegrahm family

What is your favorite Zegrahm memory? 

So many good ones, but the memory that stands out the most is from the mid 90s. We were making a landing on Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands. Mike Messick, Carmen Field, and I were shore party. There was a fair bit of ice for the Zodiacs to navigate through to get from the ship (an icebreaker) to the shore. Once the Zodiac drivers were through the ice, there was a pretty heavy swell running. Mike had found a moderately secure spot where if the timing was right, he could wave in the Zodiacs, we would pull them alongside a rocky outcropping and guests could disembark. Well, one Zodiac (the driver will go unnamed, but he didn’t ever work for Zegrahm after this trip!!) didn’t wait for Mike’s cue and came barrelling in. Since Carmen and I were waist deep in the water, backs against the rock outcropping, when the Zodiac came in too fast, in order to avoid being hit by the Zodiac, we had nowhere to go but under the bow of the Zodiac.  Mike got the Zodiac in position, disembarked the guests, looked at the two of us—absolutely soaked through—and through and asked if we were ready for the next boat. We both nodded and continued the landing. What I love about this story is that there was no doubt in any of our minds that our number one priority was to get the guests ashore and we did!

Can you tell us about a time that you were on an expedition that ended up taking an unexpected turn or made an unexpected discovery that took you off the planned trail?

In 2012, I was on the Clipper Odyssey in the Middle East and we were supposed to visit Beruit the following day. However, I was notified by the captain that due to civil unrest, we would not be allowed to disembark Beruit or do any of the planned tours. So, we scrambled and changed plans and ended up spending two days in Cyprus and it was absolutely fantastic! Sometimes the unexpected deviations are the best. Only one staff member among us, Allan Langdale, had been to Cyprus, but fortunately he knew it well and had contacts there and before you know it, we have two full days planned.  The guests loved it and I think we were all happy to have found a wonderful alternative to those two days.   

What non-for-profits or causes do you support or feel strongly about?  

We support our local foodbank and the M-Bar-C Ranch which is owned and operated by the Forgotten Children’s Fund. The Ranch is a horse farm and old western town, replete with costumes, stores, jail etc. that was constructed by volunteers. In the summers the ranch hosts groups of children at risk or with mental or physical disabilities.  They allow the children to ride and care for the horses and play in the western town—it is an amazing experience.   

What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?  

South Georgia Island, Antarctica, and Polynesia.


What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there?   

Melanesia because it is always a staff favorite and it is high time I get there! Borneo to see the orangutans and Southern Africa for a safari because I am usually on ships, but I have always wanted to do a safari—ideally with Lex Hes or Chris Stamper!

What does being a part of the Zegrahm family mean to you? 

Exactly that—family. The expedition staff team are comprised of some of my very closest friends. I love that we can work together like a well oiled machine because everyone knows their role and what needs to be done. That is such a rare thing to find in a job and what is best of all is we all know that it is something really special.   

Who is the Zegrahm Explorer/Traveler? 

A Zegrahm traveler is inquisitive, flexible, fun, intelligent, and always ready for an unexpected adventure.