Boatful of Serendipity

Destination Serendipity:

Where Millennials Go, Parents Follow

 Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

~Quote by an unverified source, widely attributed to John Lennon and used in his song, “Beautiful Boy”

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Reproduction of “Lebenslauf” (course of life) by Adi Holzer Werksverzeichnis via Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who has spent time with young children can relate to the lyrics of the song John Lennon wrote for his then-toddler son, Sean. To keep their sanity, most parents of babies and toddlers live in the moment. They stay flexible, roll with the mood swings, expect spilled milk and dirty diapers, and spend a lot of time answering the same questions over and over. But as children grow older and start school, both they and their parents settle into routines that usually allow very little free time.

This scheduling overload is probably one reason young adults want to open themselves to possibility and seek out new experiences, such as traveling and studying in foreign countries, when they leave home. According to the Institute of International Education, not only has the number of U.S. students studying abroad risen, but students increasingly choose to study in countries where English is not a primary language. In 2011, for example, there was a 44% increase over the previous year in the number of students studying in India, as well as sizable gains in the percentage of those studying in Egypt, Brazil, New Zealand and Israel.

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The Taj Mahal by Amal Mongia via Creative Commons

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Style Boat

Where Should You Stay?

Travel Style Dictates Choices

The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was.”

Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

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Sunrise View at Bories House, Puerto Natales, Chile

On the second-to-last night of my full-tilt trip through Patagonia, I gazed out at my version of the secret garden. Through the windows of my peaceful room at Bories House, an adobe hideaway on the outskirts of Puerto Natales, fallow fields glistened with late-winter rain. I had checked in just in time to see the sun set over the snowy slopes of Torres del Paine National Park. I got lost in that view as I snapped it again and again, knowing photos would never convey its lonely beauty. I  set my alarm to try again the next morning at sunrise.

Later, sipping a glass of Chilean Malbec in the small dining room, I asked the owner (who spoke fluent English) if he had many American guests.

“No,” he replied. “Americans want big tourist hotels, not quiet guest houses like this.”

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Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, Oahu

Maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I don’t think so. What  do the statistics say about the kind of accommodations Americans generally want? According to a 2013 Trip Advisor survey, the majority (70%) of the over 1,200 respondents said they would book hotels for their summer vacations.

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Empty Boat

Destinations for Good:

Let’s Take the Empty Out of Travel

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole…”

~Angel Clarence Oddbody in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 1946

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Coloseum, Rome, Italy, April 2007

Frank Capra’s holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” dramatizes the contrasts between the rich and the poor. There are people like George Bailey who give up their dreams of seeing the Coloseum and the Parthenon to stay home and keep places like Bedford Falls alive. There are others, like Sam Wainwright, who manage to escape what George would call their “crummy little towns” and make their names in the world.

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“Motherhood and Apple Pie.” by Scott Bauer, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Most struggling citizens of towns like Bedford Falls share George’s dreams of escape. The travel industry fuels these fantasies with free or low-cost trips (called FAM, or familiarization, tours) for bloggers, agents, tour operators and other industry insiders. In September I was invited to share this wealth for the first time: as one of Turismo Chile‘s guests on a week-long, all-expenses-paid trip to cruise the fjords of Patagonia and tour Torres del Paine National Park.

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Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

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Grounded Boat

Grounded by Fare Comparisons?

5 Tips to Help Your Travel Dreams Take Flight

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.’”

Douglas AdamsThe Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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Directional Signs at Berlin’s Tegel Airport by Matti Blume

A friend of mine recently reminded me that the word travel originated with the Middle English word, travail. Nowhere is this idea of travel as labor more obvious than in the frustration of searching for and booking flights. In the travel office where I now work a few days a week, we probably get asked to book air more often than anything else. Although this was one of a travel agent’s jobs back in the days of paper tickets, airplane reservations are the one key piece of the vacation puzzle that agents make little or no commission on, and why my office charges $100 to book air unless it is part of a larger travel package. For example, if you book three hotel nights and/or a rental car with your flight, I won’t charge a service fee for finding and booking you on the best flight I can find. You’ll also get a hotel and rental car discount for booking what’s called a travel package.

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Thomas Cook Travel Poster, circa 1910

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Ghost Boat

Ghost Tourism:

Haunted Portland, Oregon

Be hole, be dust, be dream, be wind/Be night, be dark, be wish, be mind,/Now slip, now slide, now move unseen,/Above, beneath, betwixt, between.

Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book

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“Haunted” Room at Edgefield, Troutdale, Oregon. Credit: John Gottberg’s Blog, nwpassages.wordpress.com

As a skeptic who’s always loved mysterious, supposedly haunted places, I’m always trying to recapture the shivery feeling I had as a child at camp after a night of ghost stories around the fire. The ghost log where guests (and employees) write their accounts of brushes with the supernatural is one of many reasons I love staying at McMeniman’s Edgefield whenever I’m in the Portland,Oregon area. If stories were science, the hotel could charge a premium to stay in its haunted room (where hired bagpipers once performed a musical “exorcism”) and the chance to brush elbows with its ghostly legends (from former residents to a child, a nurse and even dogs and cats).

If you enjoy McMeniman’s-style entertainment: listening to live music and sipping selections from its extensive menu of microbrews, wine and distillations in bars and restaurants around the property, chances are you will have an alcohol-induced paranormal encounter to share in the ghost log yourself someday.

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Mural at Edgefield

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Giant Sails

Giants of Patagonia:

Dwarfed by Nature in Chile’s Torres del Paine

Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! “

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Named for Magellan’s mythical giants, Patagonia is one of those rare places where it’s typical for tourists to feel dwarfed by nature. In the online guest book for Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, many visitors share similar sentiments to the ones left by visitor Diego Araya, “I went to Patagonia on holiday and returned a changed person…overwhelmed by the forces of nature and its boundless beauty, amazed by the richness of its animal life….”  Wrote another visitor, Chris Krebs, “…the park became the absolute highlight of our trip! The reason for its enchantment probably is its sense of immensity, of still being untouched…of really being at the end of the world, that fills you upon entering.”
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Sale Boat

Travel Sale:

Early Booking Turns Bucket Lists to Travel Plans 

A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Quote by Poet W.B. Yeats on Wall of Bachelor Inn, Dublin

Like many consumers, I’ve become bah humbug about the purchasing side of holidays or any advertising opportunity that creates a false sense of urgency to buy. For “Hallmark holidays” like Mother’s Day, a homemade card is my favorite gift. For all the rest, I try to support local business and craftspeople, avoid malls, pull out the old decorations and celebrate with a party, picnic, a play, dinner out, or, best of all, a trip. Christmas decorations at Halloween make me as grumpy as most shoppers.

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Day of the Dead Decorations for Sale in Mexico, Alejandro Linares Garcia

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Unplugged Voyage

Patagonia Unplugged:

A Cruise through Chile’s Fjords

The usual run of children’s books left me cold, and at the age of six I decided to write a book of my own. I managed the first line, ‘I am a swallow.’ Then I looked up and asked, ‘How do you spell telephone wires?’”


Bruce ChatwinAnatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings, 1969-1989

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In a world bisected by cable lines and telephone wires and punctuated by cell phone towers, few unplugged places remain. Most require effort to reach: on foot, bike, horse, skis, sled, snowmobile, helicopter or boat. Shaped by glaciers over eons, lined with rocks and mountains striated by ice, Chile’s fjords offer a glimpse back through geologic time. It seems fitting that to see them travelers must unplug for 3-7 days aboard one of the 200-passenger cruise ships run by Stella Australis from Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, Chile, and Ushuaia, Argentina, or the 160-passenger Skorpios II cruises that depart from Puerto Montt, Chile. Continue reading