Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Traveler or Tourist - Which Are You?

I came across a quote the other day which, at first, seemed very self-explanatory.  I wrote it down and thought, "I'll just tuck this away for future reference.  It will certainly come in handy for something."  Then the more I tossed it about in my mind, I felt there is more to this than meets the eye.  The quote was simply, "Don't just be a tourist, be a traveler."  

When I think of the word "tourist", I immediately conjure up images of humorously clad men and women, decked out with wide-brimmed hats, smeared with sunscreen and laden down with a variety of camera equipment.  These people complain when residents of the foreign country they're visiting don't speak their language and can't understand why things look, taste and sound different from home, where, of course, it's always much better.  I often wonder why they don't just stay there. However, with all their perceived faults, tourists are welcomed just about everywhere on the planet because of the green they drop along the way.  The economy of many regions can rise or fall on the money spent by tourists.

Travelers, on the other hand, are those folks who appreciate different cultures, like to sample new foods, and try to learn at least "Hello", "Please" and "Thank You" in their host country's language. They may look the part of the tourist in their garb and accents, or not, but their attitude is what differentiates them from the quintessential tourist.

I'm not a linguistics expert, but these terms seemed pretty clear to me.  But, what do other people think?  I ran to my trusty computer and started searching comments about tourists and travelers and the differences between them.  I'm not sure that anything I read could be considered expert opinion, nor is mine, but it was interesting to see what was out there.  Some responded that there is no difference.  It's just a matter of semantics - a slight nuance of meaning between words.  However, for the most part, the consensus of opinion is quite close to my description.  Perhaps in different words, but with the same implication.

Being a tourist is only seeing a place on the surface; trying to take as many pictures as possible of sights you won't remember once you get home; and, not really caring about the impact of your visit or the people you meet along the way.

If you prepare for your journey or visit by researching where you are going, what you will be seeing and the people you will be meeting, you're on the road to being a traveler.  If you consider yourself an ambassador for your country and realize that every action you take, will make an impression and you want it to be good, you are a traveler.  If the highlight of your trip is mingling with the locals, you are definitely a traveler.

To get the most out of any itinerary, we need to be part tourist and part traveler.  It is as important to see all those sites for which a place is famous, even though they may be labeled touristy, as it is to get up close and personal with the people.  Just appreciate the fact that you have the opportunity to travel.

Until the next blog - happy and safe travels no matter where you go.

Barbara Voerg, Travel Consultant
Hudson Valley Traveler

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's Your Travel Style?

As we go through the various stages of our lives, we have different needs and find that what appeals to us at 20 may not hold quite the same attraction at 50.  Our attitudes change, our interests change and our physical ability changes along with everything else.  Whether we're talking about our style of shoes - the older we get, the lower the heel; the level of our patience - "I love my grandchildren, but I'm happy they have their own home"; or, our music choices - somehow the slower, softer tunes find their way to the top of our play list.  When we think of our travel styles, it's not so different either. The trick is to match the way we travel with our stage of life.  Today, as travelers we are so incredibly fortunate to have any number of qualified, professional tour operators to help us experience the places we want to visit in the way most comfortable for us.  Finding the right one for you, however, can be a daunting task.  That's where developing a relationship with a qualified travel agent is worth more than you could possibly imagine.

When I was first starting out as an avid traveler, the last thing I thought I wanted was to travel with a tour group.  Remember the movie "If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium"?  Who wanted to be stuck with a bunch of people you didn't know, being led around by someone with a flag, everyone doing the same thing at the same time and trying to cover so much ground in a short period of time that your entire vacation was nothing but a blur?  I wanted to do my own thing at my own pace.  Rent a car, plan my itinerary, stop when and where I felt the interest moved me.  What did it matter that I had to lug my own bags around, find a decent place to spend the night, get lost and miss some spots along the way because I wasn't aware they existed?  I was young and energetic and I would most likely return again at some point in the future.

Well, let me tell you, that attitude has changed a great deal over the years and so has my options for traveling.  First, when I'm in a new place I do want to see and do as much as I can.  My travel pace tends to be active, unless I'm at the beach, but that doesn't mean I want to skim over everything either.  I want an overview and then the opportunity to see what interests me most in further depth. Today's tour operators have gotten the message that this is actually a travel style.  Most operators build in some free time to their tours realizing that not everyone's tastes are exactly the same. Second, I've been on some organized escorted tours lately and I'm finding I like having my baggage handled for me.  I enjoy not having to fight to get to the front of the line because now I'm part of a "group". It's not so bad following the flag and being led to he right places at the right times.  Third, the amount of time it saves me and often the amount of money as well, is worth moving into the realm of being part of a tour group.

Best yet, there are tour operators that cater to every type of travel style - be it Family and Multi-Generational, Religious, Seniors, Singles, Adventure - you name it, there's probably one out there for you.  In addition, they run the gamut of price points as well from Budget to Luxury and everything in between.

So, am I pushing escorted tours?  Not necessarily, what I am driving at is that we each have a specific way of traveling - what feels comfortable for us and will provide the best value, interest and experience.  Be flexible and realize that your tastes and ability today maybe different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago.  Don't stop traveling because you can't keep up with the way you used to do it.  You have choices:  Independent Travel, Escorted Tours, River Cruising, Ocean Cruising, All-Inclusive Vacations - to name a few.  And, your travel agent can help match you up with just the right style.

There's so much to see and do around the world or even around the corner.  What are you waiting for?

Call Barbara at Hudson Valley Traveler -

See what's on our group agenda at

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Trip to Israel

Every trip I've ever taken I've labeled as, "A Trip of A Lifetime", and rightfully so.  Each has had unique memories about the place, the people we met and the friends we've traveled with.  That said, our recent trip to Israel stands alone as taking my breath away.  Perhaps I wasn't sure what to expect.  Perhaps it was such a distinct experience.  Perhaps it was travelling with members of my family.  Perhaps it was meeting so many new friends. Perhaps it was the religious connection.  Perhaps it was everything rolled into one.

If I were to recount our itinerary piece by piece, no one would finish reading this blog.  So, I will dispense with that format.  What I will write about is Israel as a country.  I was totally amazed at its beauty and diversity.  I really had no idea when we began organizing our venture as a faith-based pilgrimage that we would have such an amazing experience exploring so much of this rather small country - not much larger than the State of New Jersey - 250 miles long and 50 miles wide.

Of course, much of our success is attributable to our Palestinian Guide, Mich, who made sure to include everything we wanted to see and do.  In order to engage as a tour guide in Israel, you must be licensed by the government.  Requirements include at least two years of college education, extensive training by the Israeli tourism office and continuing re-certification through refresher courses.  It's no easy task and you can understand why.  Non of the sites we visited had docents.  Your tour guide is responsible for not just providing general information about the country, but details about every single place he or she takes you - the history, archaeology, politics, fauna, flora, climate, religions and so on.  Wow - that's a lot to remember! Great job, Mich.

Our drives through the country from Jerusalem to Qumran to Masada to Jericho to Galilee to Tiberius to Caesarea to Jaffa to TelAviv brought us through everything from arid desert like regions to lush, almost tropical terrain.  Twice, we went through checkpoints as we returned to Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but in all honesty, it was no more than crossing the border between New York and Canada.  Never once did we feel threatened, intimidated or concerned about where we were.  While in Jerusalem a few of us ventured out at night to see the activity during the Purim Festival and we did the same one night in Tiberius.  Both were wonderful.

We ate the absolute best dates ever and the tilapia from the Sea of Galilee was to die for!  Each meal offered a bounty of fresh and grilled vegetables which would have been sufficient for dinner, but was only an accompaniment to the many other choices.  The variety of salads was outstanding and I couldn't even begin to describe the creamiest of hummus and the most amazing falafel I've ever tasted.

We had the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea, ride a camel, sail on the Sea of Galilee, experience Yad Vashem, eat at a kibbutz, tour an olive oil factory and so very much more.  My faith experiences were personal, but I will say that I have a much greater connection, understanding and appreciation for what I believe in having been to the Holy Land sites of my faith.

If you're thinking about a trip to Israel - faith-based or not - my suggestion is there's no time like the present. Don't hesitate because of things you hear on the news.  Go with a reputable tour company who will make sure that you are not taken to any of the so called "hot spots" - they are not all over the country.  You will be amazed at how the Jews, Palestinians, (80% of the Christian population in Israel is Palestinian), Muslims and others actually live and work side by side.  You will be awed at the beauty of the country; astounded by the culinary delights; and blown away by how much there is to see and do there.

Call me at Hudson Valley Traveler Worldwide if you have any questions about a trip to Israel or anywhere else.  I love to travel and totally enjoy helping others do the same.  Until next time, be safe and stay healthy.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Too Far From Home

Barbara Voerg

You know what they say about the best of intentions.  They pave the road to hell.  So, I guess that's where I'm headed because I am loaded with great intentions!  Things can get pretty crazy around here and time just seems to fly by.  I really, really, really planned on posting a new blog every Friday, but I'm already getting a little behind.  I've decided to change my goal to "doing the best I can".  We all know that when the chores pile up, it's time to prioritize and as much as I enjoy writing this blog, I've had to give in to other more pressing issues.  But, I did want to share the activities of this past weekend with you as I think they were a little out of the ordinary.

It's always nice to take a trip somewhere and I encourage everyone I know to travel.  There's no better experience than meeting new people, seeing new places, tasting new foods and learning about new cultures.  And, you're never too old or too young.  That said, we can't always travel to distant lands.  Those are the times you look around you and say, "What new experiences can I find in my own backyard?"  It just so happens that we found ourselves in the middle of two unique and very special situations close to home.

If you're a friend on Facebook, you are probably familiar with the film Cigarette Soup. It just so happens that the writer and director is Damian Voerg, and yes, he is related - my youngest son to be exact.  I won't go on and on about his talents, you'll see for yourself when the film is completed.  It turns out that the script called for a few extras so we offered our services and lo and behold, unless the scene gets cut, our acting debut is just on the horizon.  Although this is not Damian's first project, I had never been a part of his work so this was a totally novel experience.  If you're not familiar with the process, there's a lot of waiting involved, but while you're waiting you can meet some really interesting people.  You can also learn about what goes on behind the scenes of a movie and, in general, just feel kind of important for a few hours while you lose yourself in what is going on around you.  So, if you have an opportunity to venture outside your comfort zone, even just a little, and try something different, my advice is always - Just Do It!

On Sunday we found out that one of the small local parishes in Port Ewen, Presentation Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was celebrating its annual Mass for all those, past and present, who earn their living working on the vessels that ply the waters of the Hudson River.  It had been many years since we attended Mass at this particular church, so we decided to make this Mass a priority of the day and how glad we were to have been there.  Instead of being held outdoors because of the rain, the little church was filled with people from various parishes all there with the same intention - to remember and pray for past boatmen and ask the Lord for protection for those who work the tugs today.  Stewardship of the River was also included as an important task for those who enjoy it for recreational purposes.  As Father Johnson so graciously commented in his homily - we prayed for sun, but someone must have prayed harder for rain.  Weather is one thing you can't control - be it for a wedding, graduation, vacation or outdoor Mass, but it truly did not dampen any aspect of the day.  It is amazing that such a small church could have such a wonderful music ministry and everything about the celebration was just exhilarating.  And, much to our surprise, there was a fantastic brunch served at the church hall immediately following the Mass.  How nice!  How hometown!  How enjoyable on a rainy Sunday morning!

We think the world is big and that it is, but it can also be very small.  When you think of those six degrees of separation you often find it's really a lot less than six.  We did meet a few other people at the Mass - friends and acquaintances - and then discovered that the statue of Our Lady of the Hudson was dedicated in 1952 by a cousin of the Voerg family who had five sons working on the tugboats.  And, the statue was sculpted by local artist, Thomas Penning of Saugerties who also created the bluestone statue of the Blessed Mother in St. Mary of the Snow School in Saugerties. My brief internet search about this artist didn't bring up any significant links for which I apologize.

OK, so that was my weekend and so what's the point, you may ask.  The point is, travel doesn't always have to involve great distances and lots of money.  Look around you and there's a great deal to do right in your own backyard.  However, if you don't look for it, it doesn't always come knocking on your front door.  Everything doesn't have to be as exciting as an African Safari to be fun.  But, when you do decide to take that African Safari, River Cruise, or explore Europe, make the most of your time and money by working with a qualified, professional travel consultant.  You will come home with a greater appreciation of the whole wide world and a special appreciation of your own neighborhood.

Until next time - as always - safe and happy travels.  Be sure to contact HVTworldwide@gmail.com for any travel needs - around the corner or around the world!

St. Clare's Church in Albany is hosting an informational evening for the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land which departs on March 10, 2014.  The meeting will be on Tuesday evening, August 13 at 7:00 pm.  Please call 845.345.6100 if you'd like further information or to let us know you'll be there..

Thanks and have a great week.

           Barbara Voerg, Travel Consultant

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recalling Some Great Travel Times

Barbara Voerg

Some of the best travel stories we have involve our road trips with Sugar and Bob in the RV.  They got to be so popular that our friends and relatives would make a point of knowing when we were returning so they could call and get the details of our latest escapades.  Each year, usually in the Fall, we would plan anything from a two-week to a six-week vacation that could take us anywhere from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the beaches of Florida or the Canyons of Utah.  We've camped in major cities such as Las Vegas and New Orleans (yes, they do have RV sites right on the Strip and in the French Quarter) to the near deafening silence of places like Capital Reef.  As happens, times and circumstances change, so this will be the first year in over a decade that we won't be heading out on one of our yearly treks together.  Our plan is to stay closer to home and enjoy some of the great opportunities that abound right here in the Hudson Valley.  I'll keep you posted on those plans as they develop further.  Hopefully, we'll pick up where we left off next year or the year after that with our travels, and I may be nostalgic about what we've done and miss not doing it again in 2013, but I couldn't possibly be sad.  I'm just thankful for all the great memories and wonderful stories I have in my head.

One such story revolves around our trip to the Mid-West a few years ago.  I won't give you a day by day description, but will cut right to the chase of the highlight of our trip - there always is one most memorable event in every excursion.  We had wanted to attend a Native American Pow-Wow since we were going to be in Wyoming and Montana at the end of the summer season.  We searched before hand and just couldn't seem to get the right connections with the proper timing.  So, we decided to "wing" it and see what we could come up with as the trip progressed.  One night after just crossing the border into Wyoming, we came across an obscure announcement about a small, intimate Pow-Wow which was to take place on the Wind River Reservation, not too far from where we were camping.  We called the number to confirm and were enthusiastically instructed to show up at the school the following morning at 11:00.  The parade would begin then.  This was really great.  We were so excited and could hardly wait for the next day.

We drove onto the reservation and followed the directions, but surely, we must have made a mistake - there wasn't anyone else to be seen.  But, as we arrived at the designated location, we did find the participants readying their floats and preparing to step off.  I stopped a woman who looked like someone of authority and she suggested we drive the short distance to the parking lot.  We could see and enjoy it much better from there.  "Oh!", we said, "That must be where everyone else is parked."  Having had past experiences with Native American events, we knew that time was not something that was necessarily adhered to.  So, when the parking lot also was empty, we just parked our 29-foot RV and pulled out our folding chairs to get the best view of the impending parade.  As we waited, a black pick-up truck pulled up and confirmed we were in the right place and soon the parade would begin.  Finally, we heard the music coming from down the road.  As the various floats and flatbeds approached, we stood and clapped and the marchers and riders threw us token candies like any other parade we've been to.  The only difference is that we were the only spectators!!  Not a one - and I truly mean - not one other person was present.  Did we feel a little awkward or what?  As it ended, the woman we had met from the black truck returned and thanked up profusely.  She was Caucasian and introduced herself as the President of the School Board.  She and the people of Wind River would be very honored if we would attend the Pow-Wow scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm.  Only problem, she cautioned, is that's "Indian Time".  It could be 1:00 or maybe 1:20 or maybe 1:40 or even 1:59. You just couldn't tell for sure.  That was OK.  We'd be back.

And return we did.  Upon entering the gym, we saw only a handful of other Caucasians.  We were definitely in the minority, something I have always felt everyone must experience a few times in their lives.  We were greeted graciously and brought to a place where we could enjoy the festivities.  We were concerned that we would appear like intruders on what obviously was a very private affair as everyone there knew each other. Perhaps they all were pleased to have guests, but that I'll never know for sure.  Some faces remained serious throughout the afternoon while others would shoot an occasional inquisitive glance.  Fortunately for us, there was a newly installed Principal at the school who was also a bit uncomfortable in her new surroundings so we bonded quite quickly after being introduced.  After the main events were over, she took us on a tour of the school and provided insight into what it's like to be a teenage resident of such a reservation.

The competitive dancers paraded out into the center of the gym and were judged on dress and technique. There was a great deal of excitement as the winners were announced.  Then there was a pause while several of the men brought out long banquet tables and large, large boxes all with gifts wrapped in colorful paper. The Principal then explained to us that this Pow-Wow was truly special and not a regularly scheduled event. It seems that the President of the Board of Education, whom we had met earlier, was actually the wife of the former President.  Her husband had been killed in a hiking accident just a year prior.  He and his two young teenage children were caught in a rock slide.  To protect his children, the father hovered over them and was struck by a falling rock and killed.  The teens had to leave their father's body on the mountain and go for help.  Aside from the tragedy of losing a father and husband, the school district was left without adequate leadership.  Understanding the situation, bravely, his widow stepped up to the plate and took over as President.  This Pow-Wow was organized by her in appreciation to all the people who supported her and her family during their mourning period.  Starting with her mother-in-law, she presented each of her close family, friends and colleagues with an appropriate gift as a show of thanks.  The announcer then called small groups down to the center floor - "anyone who is a junior or senior in high school", for example, - and they were able to select a gift from a designated box.   And, this went on and on.  Just as the emotion was reaching a crescendo, we hear the booming voice of the leader over the microphone announce, "And, the people in the RV with the Massachusetts license plate, come down to the floor and select a gift.  There's one for you here, too."  OMG, how embarrassing, but what could we do other than follow instructions?  My gift was a small glass jar filled with candies.  The contents have long been gone, but that plain jar has a place of honor among my most treasured possessions.

The event concluded with a special dance by all the women.  Sugar and I were also asked to participate and given the mandatory shawls to wear for the occasion.  Need I say, it was by far one of the most memorable experiences of our travel days?  We would never have had this story to tell if we didn't step out of our comfort zone just a little.

The point of my story is that not everyone is comfortable with the same type of travel mode.  You may have concerns about flying and feel your choices of vacation spots are limited.  Not by any stretch of the imagination - there is a great big world to explore right in our own backyard.  On the same note, if you're not sure you want to get in the car and take off alone, there are many tour companies that provide itinerary planning services and make reservations for everything from hotels to guided tours and provide resources so you don't feel you're travelling alone yet you go at your own pace.  Or, you might rather leave the driving to someone else. There are some wonderful tour operators who have great itineraries in every part of the US and Canada.  And, often touring with a group provides great opportunities to meet people and make new friendships.  Or, if you have a special interest, how about a train tour or perhaps cruising would work for you.  No matter what your preferred mode of travel, today you can find something to fit your needs.  The best way to make the match, is to contact a qualified travel consultant such as Hudson Valley Traveler.

Whatever you do, just get up and do it!!  See and experience what the world has to offer.  There's so much out there and as Hans Christian Andersen said, "To travel is to live!".

Until next time, as always, safe and happy travels.

                   Barbara Voerg, Travel Consultant