Bob Shindelar spent six years with Tao Group, a constant presence at Tao’s door as the club’s director of VIP services, then as an emissary of Las Vegas nightlife culture charged with opening Marquee Sydney in 2012. But a year later—poof! He struck out on what would prove to be a 10-month journey that took him to 18 countries. It was the adventure of a lifetime, and one invisible to everyone, apart from “Vagabond Bob’s” 5,000 Facebook followers. Vegas Seven caught up with Shindelar during what proved to be a quick stop back in Las Vegas. Now he’s at it again, this time northbound, chasing snowstorms.
You left Las Vegas to open Marquee Sydney. How was that experience?
I was marketing director. Director of VIP services doesn’t exist in Sydney; VIP hosts didn’t exist before we got there. One of our biggest challenges was to try to create a market for bottle service that people didn’t understand, and keep them interested enough to come back. I assumed that Director of VIP Services position along with several traditional marketing type roles: graphic arts, social media and promotional street team, front of house, security staff and stuff like that. It was a marketing director position on title but encapsulated a lot of different things that didn’t exist before. In our first year we won two of the reputable awards, and we were well received by the industry.
What were the challenges of opening Marquee Sydney?
A “regular” was something we had to adjust for. Here in Las Vegas, the amount of people coming in on a weekly basis dictates how your marketing is, and in Sydney it’s much more of a New York mentality: The locals have to sign on. There is a percentage of the population where they’re in just a beach-bum trucker hat, tank top and flip-flops, and if you say I can’t come I’m gonna hate on you and blast you on social media. No matter what we try, they’re gonna hate on us because we have a dress code and we’re from Las Vegas and we’re not local. For the people who were open-minded, we won them over with programming, a constant influx of DJs whom Australia never sees. Other challenging things with Australia are it’s obviously so far away, you need a work visa for DJs two weeks in advance, and that’s a big process. We overcame that because of the relationships we have in place in the U.S.
Why did you head off for 10 months of vagabonding?
I really started to plan for it like seven years ago with my first international trip to Italy. Something just struck me with the traveling bug, and I never shook it. I was determined to live a different lifestyle than most people in nightclubs. I would do triathlons, marathons, go backpacking and mountain biking—kind of an anomaly for people who were working till 4 o’clock in the morning. I’ve always had this dream of traveling for a year or two or three.
What were the highlights of your adventures?
When I left Sydney I went to see Ayers Rock, “Uluru”; everybody calls it Air Rock. That was my only outback experience. I did a little bit of surfing in Byron Bay. There were a couple of cool festivals going on, like Fringe in Adelaide. Just south of Adalaide I went cage diving with the great whites, a bucket list thing. I went from there to Tasmania and had this eight-day hike, Overland Track, one of the best trails in the world. I went to New Zealand and I rented a van, I drove around for a couple of weeks on the North Island and did a couple of treks there. Then I went to the South Island, got a jump-on-jump-off bus pass to see the South Island a while and do the treks I wanted to do. Then I headed to Nepal, and I did the Everest Base Camp trek and the Annapurna circuit. I definitely have some good advice for people looking to do the Everest base camp. I lost three different sherpas on the mountain.
What’s that story?
First I flew into a little airport called Lukla. It’s the most dangerous airport in the world statistically for crashes. They have to fly through the Himalayas and most of it is blind, in old prop planes without computers or anything. On top of everything else, it’s not a flat runway—it’s like a 2 or 3 percent incline. So they have the most fatalities of any airport in the world. Then there was a game sherpas played on me. I read that hiring through corporations didn’t give money to the people who earned it. So I hired locally, and they bait-and-switched me. The next day they told me a girl needed to go to the hospital in Kathmandu, so he left me with someone else, who left me with someone else. Then he ended up getting altitude sickness, so I carried his bag back on the third day. I ended up meeting with this Australian and German guy, but I was carrying my own bag at that point.
What did you learn on your trip?
How to not get fucked over by a sherpa. I wasn’t really searching for a meaning of life or anything. It wasn’t a spiritual journey. I remember one time in a hostel I overheard a girl, one of those self-righteous travelers—which I was determined not to turn into—say, “The more you travel, the more you appreciate the things you have.” She was on the right track, but completely wrong. The big lesson I had was that the more you travel, the more you realize the shit you have, you don’t actually need. There are some happy people in the world who don’t have anything. It was a lesson on material wealth, what’s important and what makes people happy.
Why did you ultimately decide to return?
I made a promise to my mother I’d return for Christmas when I first sailed off. But I returned earlier because my plan is to continue traveling, so I wanted to come home and get everything situated. I still have a house here, and I still have two dogs here. Vegas is always home to me. So I wanted to come check off some things I had to do, and then figure out my next step with traveling.
There’s more on my list than is feasible to do. I plan on driving through the U.S. doing a snowboarding tour. My brother lives in Park City, Utah; I have family in Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Mount Hood. My plan is to head up to Alaska in the summertime, but I want to keep my dogs with me the whole time because I’ve been a bad father to them for two years. Hopefully I can squeeze in a month in Europe or a month in South America, or both. I also want to do a long-distance bike trip. A goal I always had was the continental divide, which basically starts in Canada and ends in Mexico. A friend of mine I used to work with in a nightclub 10 years ago is trying to convince me—he’s doing a cycling tour from Alaska to Patagonia, which is maybe a year or two long. I’d like to see Burning Man and Coachella—I never went to either of those. Any combination of the things that I mentioned.
Do you have any professional plans?
I don’t. I’d like to open up a little bar somewhere and chill. I’m not saying I’ll never get back into nightclubs again. I had a great time working in nightclubs, but I’ve been working in the industry for 12 years. You build a network, and you build a skill set that doesn’t really translate into too much else. It translates into a bar business if I wanted to do that. I was working at good places for a long time, and I made a lot of friends who would help me out if I ever wanted to get back into it. I’ll be back in Vegas 100 percent at some point. I still plan on calling this my home base. I’m not gonna do an extensive, completely off-the-grid [trip] for another year. I’ll be driving around and coming back to Vegas every few weeks. I’ve been overseas and abroad for two years, and now I’m back. There’s not gonna be another “Welcome back.” This is it.