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 -

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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.