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January Reflections and BTMs!

As January 2021 draws to a close and we are still learning how to manage this pandemic, I wanted to share some thoughts that I hope will inspire you to continue to dream of travel for the future. Currently there are so many different thoughts and opinions about travel. Is it safe to travel? Should we be allowed to travel? Is it responsible to travel at this time? The list is endless and the differing equally as endless and varied. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that my personal opinion is that travel is possible IF done responsibly and by following the guidelines required to do so. The most important of these is wearing an effective mask, physically distancing whenever possible, and washing our hands. I also fully support the additional requirements for testing, both when going to a country, and when returning to the US, in doing these tests, we are greatly reducing the risk of people traveling when they are positive for COVID and able to spread the virus to fellow travelers.

Enough on that topic though, what really triggered this post was my recollections of past travels in the month of January. My birthday is in mid-January, and for many of these I have been traveling at the time. This has resulted in many very special “birthday travel memories (BTMs)”. Like so many of you, I will remember this past birthday, not because of my travels, but rather how I celebrated “in spite of COVID”. I had a very enjoyable birthday at home this year and was incredibly lucky that the weather in Wilmington co-operated to enable me to meet up with a close friend for lunch. We ate at a table outside overlooking the waterway at Wrightsville Beach. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, I was in excellent company and the food and wine both delicious! What more could I ask for? At this time – nothing!! Much as I had wanted to be “away somewhere” for my birthday, with the significant increases in cases due to the Holidays, I felt it was the right thing to stay home for the time being.

As I believe, so many of us do on our birthday, I started to reflect on past birthdays, from childhood parties in the garden at home, the first birthday I spent away from home at a “new girls” weekend for school, where I met one of my best childhood friends who shared the same birthday. It was her first birthday spent away from her family too – turning 10 away from home was tough at the time! Enjoying incredible dinners at fine restaurants for “special” birthdays, such as turning 16, to those times I have been traveling on my birthday, The first of these was when I turned 15 during my time in South Africa (check out Cavatica Luxury Travel – A little history, the present and the future – Part I).

I have had so many very special BTMs since then, but a few more recent are the unexpected trip to Agra

to see the Taj Mahal during a three week business trip to Delhi. The team in the office I was visiting heard it was my birthday and so quickly arranged a weekend trip to Agra to see the Taj during my stay.

This was perhaps one of my most memorable travel experiences. Not only was I able to visit the Taj in the “usual” manner of most tourists, as I was working in public health at the time, the team also arranged for me to meet some of the families that lived in the villages behind the Taj on the opposite side of the Yamuna river, so I was also able to meet and spend time with the locals learning what it was like for them to live in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, which brought with it the advantages and disadvantages of the tourism industry. It also provided me with some incredible views of the Mausoleum that so many visitors never get to experience.

Another fun BTM was four years ago when I was flying with a business colleague to Tokyo on my birthday. I do have to admit I felt a little “cheated” out of my birthday that year as we boarded the flight at around 10:30 pm on the eve of my birthday and then flew for the majority of the day, arriving in Tokyo at around 8:00 pm in the evening – the time difference “stole” 14 hours of my birthday! That said the Japan Airlines crew were so lovely to me the entire flight, and even served me a special birthday surprise dessert!

I spent five days in Tokyo, before leaving to fly down to Singapore to celebrate my birthday again with my nephew and his wife and daughter.

This year, with a milestone birthday just two years away now, I started thinking about what BTM I wanted to create around that birthday. I have to admit my bucket list is a never ending, and growing, list of countries around the world, partly because I am so lucky to work with clients that are interested in traveling to amazing destinations, which, as I explore them in depth, quickly get added to my list if I haven’t already been there, or very often, added back to the list for a repeat visit to experience something I missed on a prior visit. All those years of planning my own trips, without the benefits of partners in-country, I have realized I missed out on many unique experiences you can't find through web searches!

Experiencing Antarctica is definitely very high on my list for the next two years, as is Madagascar, both of which have featured on my bucket list now for several years. And, perhaps not on many readers list, is Timbuktu in Mali. I don’t recall why Timbuktu has been on my mind since I was a child, but I do remember feeling that it was a far, far away place and I have never really lost that feeling that I really need to embark on the adventure of traveling there. I have started my research on the best way to get there and it isn’t an easy one, which I think is one of the reasons why it is still calling my name. Perhaps one day I will finally be writing a post on my travels to Timbuktu – won’t that be fun!!

One of the lessons learned from the COVID pandemic is that we never know what is around the next corner, what tomorrow is going to bring for each of us. For me this has meant that as the world opens-up to travel again, I want to make the most of every opportunity to experience all that it has to offer. And, just as importantly I want to help my clients see the world too – or at least the parts of it that are on their bucket list. I am sure not everyone wants to go to Timbuktu!! But, if you do, please let me know and maybe we can travel together!

Finally, as I think of the term “bucket list” which has been around for a while, and is much more widely used following the release of the film of that name with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in 2007, I tend to think of this as something that people wait to do until they know their time is limited. However, as we have been so cruelly reminded of by the COVID pandemic, we don’t know what may bring travel to a halt before it’s too late. I much prefer the term Wanderlist, which refers to a wonderful interactive tool that allows travel advisors such as myself, to help curate and your travel dreams into a life-long plan. This travel portfolio allows you to explore destinations and experiences that you are most interested in and helps you to prioritize those that matter the most with you and your traveling companion(s). In this latest version you can even add your own experiences to your Wanderlist. As an aside, if any of you are struggling with ongoing home-schooling, think about using the Wanderlist for those Geography lessons, it has great maps, and information about countries across the World and it can certainly help make learning fun!!

If you, a family member, or friend has just had a milestone birthday or has one coming later this year or even within the next two to three years, it is not too early to start working with a travel advisor, (I’d love to hear from you!) to plan how to create your special BTMs. Even better make it a multi-generational trip and plan to celebrate all those milestones missed during COVID. It may seem daunting at the moment to plan a trip with so many unknowns but please reach out and talk to me about what you are thinking – please don’t let many more months slip by without planning for a future trip. To know that you have something planned for summer 2022 will provide you with many months to dream about your trip and enjoy the anticipation. I know I am starting to plan my milestone birthday trip in the next few months for January 2023! Click here for the link to the Wanderlist tool with my compliments!

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