UP FOR SOME JAMES BOND CLASS TRAINING, CARS, CLOTHES, AND EXOTIC LOCALES? THEN A UNIQUE TRAVEL SERVICE IS OFFERING THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME

BY DAVID PORTER

Love James Bond? Consider yourself one of the happy billions who’ve enjoyed 007’s exploits since 1962, when Dr. No, based on Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel, was made into a lm starring Sean Connery? According to Nigel Cawthorne, author of A Brief Guide to James Bond (Running Press Adult, 2012), “half the population of the world has seen at least one Bond movie.” This number should increase exponentially next year when Bond 25, starring Daniel Craig, arrives in theaters.

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But if you want to actually be James, then you’ll need to talk to Shane Mahoney. The career traveler and entrepreneur’s executive tour company, Lugos Travel, is offering a new travel product later this summer, “Experience 007,” an immersive, interactive experience in which you become the famed secret agent.

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A cinephile, Mahoney is a lifelong Bond fan who wanted to create a role playing adventure that would give clients a chance to play the character in a cinematic but real life experience, one along the lines of films such as David Fincher’s e Game and Michael Crichton’s original Westworld. Mahoney was also inspired after seeing Steven Spielberg’s lm about virtual reality, Ready Player One.

“I started thinking about how travel is going to change,” Mahoney said, “including about virtual reality, and wondered, ‘Once you can put on a pair of goggles and stroll along the Seine, how do you make actual travel experiences real… unforgettable?’” So, Experience 007 gives each client the license to be Bond by creating a realistic milieu that takes the interstice between fantasy and reality and serves it shaken, but not stirred.

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The experience begins in Florida, with three days of training with a former Navy SEAL and ex CIA officer in the essentials of spy craft, which include performance driving, shooting (on the ground and from helicopters), SWAT incursion, and surveillance detection routes (how to tail someone and, more importantly, how to not be tailed). At the end of the three days, the client receives gadgets designed and built by a team of in house engineers, who serve in the role of “Q.”

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Ideally, Mahoney would like to send clients home following the training. After a few weeks, they’d get a call indicating that their assignment begins in 24 hours, approximating Bond’s operational tempo (since 007 never actually plans a mission). Mahoney feels this short notice will enhance the verisimilitude of the experience and that separating the training and the mission heightens the client’s anticipation. This idea is still being developed; however, in the current iteration of Experience 007, the client begins his or her mission right after training.
What is that mission? We can’t tell you, of course, but each client is flown business class to Northern Italy and billeted in a suite in a five star hotel where, upon arrival, a master tailor delivers a wardrobe of handmade suits and leisure wear.

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“At some point we’ll also stock the suite with the client’s favorite toiletries, so all he or she has to do is board the flight,” Mahoney said. “I’ve never seen Bond carry a suitcase.”
With clothing, gadgets, setting, and transportation in place, the mission begins. Mahoney has worked with top shelf Hollywood screenwriters to craft the storylines, and what helps make them feel real are the “interactors” who also participate.

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“I wanted to figure out how I could employ actors who could accomplish what Deborah Unger’s character, Christine, does in The Game, which is to pull Michael Douglas’s character, Nicholas Van Orton, back into the story whenever he goes off script.” This led Mahoney to Simu Life, a company that creates fictional stories centered around one or more participants that play out over several days, in real world locations, with a full cast and crew.

The cast of Experience 007 is given a psychological profile of the client during a six to eight week deep dive prior to the mission. The client controls the experience, with the interactors responding in real time to each decision he or she makes as the mission progresses. What also helps make the experience so believable is that the client never knows who’s an interactor and who isn’t who’s a friend and who’s a foe. Stopping for an espresso at a chic Milanese café? Your barista may be part of your experience. Or not.

“It’s part of what makes this magic,” said Mahoney. “We give our client 100 percent free reign during the experience. There are no wires, no nets…it’s not enough to put the client through training, to give him or her cars and clothes…I want to touch each one at the deepest level. I want each to feel as if he or she is, literally, Bond.”

Throughout Experience 007, a surveillance team films the proceedings with a variety of cameras, including buttonhole and infrared types. Sometime after the mission is complete, the client receives a professionally compiled film of the experience.

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Once Bond has again saved the world and vanquished evil, Experience 007 honors the tradition of the ending of most Bond films, wherein James finds himself with “the girl” on an island or on a boat, usually somewhere tropical and lovely. Thus, the final five days of this curated adventure are spent at GoldenEye, near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where Fleming wrote his Bond novels. Golden Eye is now an all inclusive resort where the client and the person he or she loves most can spend nearly a week relaxing and, of course, parsing recent adventures in lush splendor. They’ll finish where James started.

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Lugos Travel
3825 S. Florida Avenue, Suite 2, Lakeland, Florida
646.930.4496 / lugostravel.com