Archive for September, 2009
Hi There, VivBounty here with more tales of working in the travel industry. In my career in travel, I have worked in both retail and wholesale.
Retail travel is the actual store. The traditional travel agency at consumer level is where you go to book your flights, hotels, rental cars and vacations. This is where you make your reservations, pay for them and pick up your tickets, vouchers and where you call if anything goes wrong.
The wholesaler puts the tour and travel packages together coordinating things at the supplier level actually securing blocks of hotel rooms, guides, agents to meet, greet, assist with customs and immigration, coaches for sightseeing, entertainment packages, and transfers between the airport and your hotel.
In an earlier post I wrote that I didn’t find sitting behind a desk taking orders and watching other people travel very glamorous or gratifying. However, my very first “fam” tour, as the travel agents familiarization tours are called to Amsterdam did enable me to make the best of the situation. Knowing I was new and had a passion to travel to Kenya, a senior agent advised me, to see the boss about adding an extension on to my “fam”.
Since Amsterdam was the connection point for flights between Toronto and Nairobi, I took an additional 3 weeks off without pay after the 4 nights in Holland and purchased an AD75 ticket (code for “Agents Discount 75% off the full retail price”) on to Nairobi. Landing in the sunshine of equatorial Africa was just what I needed after the frozen canals of Holland and a bad bout of the flu’. Fortunately my father had a childhood friend in Holland whom I contacted and whose wife fed and nursed me through my flu’. He picked me up in the hotel lobby in Amsterdam, not having seen me since I was an infant, calling out across the group of travel agents saying he’d know me anywhere as I so resemble my dad. I then carried several gifts from him to friends in Nairobi.
The trip fired up my passion for travel to warm places and the possibly of living and working abroad during the winter months, having the best of both worlds. At the seasonal travel marketing seminars, a presentation about Egypt, Israel and Greece peeked my interest. I wrote to the tour operator to complement him on his presentation and got a job interview where he informed me that being a tour guide wasn’t glamorous. In fact, he added, the guide on his current tour was just making arrangements to transport the remains of a tour participant who had a fatal heart attack overseas back home to his family. I took the job anyway and worked for his company for the next 5 years.
Egypt was one of two main destinations for this travel wholesaler. The company was Canada’s #1 tour operator to the former U.S.S.R. at the time and again that winter I found myself going to a freezing destination. I escorted 16 people on an art and theatre tour to Moscow, Leningrad and Yaroslavl at Christmas. Although very enjoyable with many guides, rich in culture, the 150 proof vodka, always on offer, did its job well as anti-freeze. More on this and how long it took me to get another trip to sunny Africa in my next post.
Safari To Success
Hello There! VivBounty here with a wonderful experience. Now whether you call it culture, custom or tradition, doesn’t matter. I’ve seen definitions that tradition is part of culture, or “an inherited pattern of thought or action”, or custom: a specific practice of long standing.
In my attempt to share with you the wonderful cultures and traditions I have been blessed enough to experience in my extensive travels, I’ll just call it fun! This Labour Day weekend is the last long weekend of the Summer in North America. We have had perfect weather; sunny, warm, with a cooling breeze to keep things temperate for a week now and loving every minute of it!
The highlight of the weekend was our invitation to a pig roast on Saturday which essentially amounted to a large family reunion. Our hosts had a guest list of 200 people, mostly family, and a few close friends. The venue was a beautiful spot on the shores of the Northumberland Strait. My mother calls this space their “boma”, a Swahili word, meaning homestead. Our hosts and their family have nine opulent trailers arranged in a circle-the-wagons fashion all facing the shore. They are not roughing it by any means. Satellite TV, decks built around each trailer, minimum 2 bedrooms each, roll-out awnings over the expanse of each deck, sliding screen doors to keep insects out are just a few of the comforts of home to note.
For occasions such as this, where family and friends travel long distances, there is plenty of room for tents, parking for 30 cars, a large shed with fully equipped kitchen, 2 fridges, shower, toilet, and even a circular enclosed gazebo which comfortably sleeps 4 people close to the facilities. Each family has brought playground equipment for the children and all sorts of aquatic gear to enjoy amenities of the coast.
We arrived to find this delicious pig still roasting, little tots keeping cool sliding on a toy water slide, the long plastic sheet kind, clusters of people on various decks and seated on around tables on the grass. There was a tented buffet table with wine and glasses, another stand with hot water pots for tea and coffee, a barrel cooler full of beer and pop. We dropped wine and my 4-cup salad off in the kitchen shed and began the rounds of meeting and greeting.
Soon one of the 11 or so siblings arrived with catering van from his restaurant, and dinner was being announced in both French and English. Too many varieties of pasta salad to count, green salad, baked chicken, more desserts than salads, rolls, dips and pickles accompanied the many large trays of carved, tender delicious pork.
One in-law provided live music, folk and country in French and English, singing and playing guitar. Again a little tent had been set up as a little bandstand, strung with lights, for as the sun set, the bonfire was lit and the entertainment began. Folks aged from 6 to 86 years and beyond danced on the grass around the fire circled by guests on lawn chairs.
How wonderfully precious the memories this family made at this pig roast. As we were leaving, about 6 hours after we arrived, making the rounds to thank our hosts and bid adieu to the wonderful family which had welcomed us so warmly, our hostess, who owns this little piece of heaven, shares with me, with tears in her eyes, how it means the world to her parents, now too elderly to travel much, to have this place where their family, (5 generations came), can all gather to bond and celebrate life.
Call it culture, tradition or custom. I call it love and feel very blessed to have been a part of this Canadian family’s celebration of generations of it making me again grateful that we chose to live here now.
Until next time, hug your family and tell someone you love them.
Safari To Success