Travel Like I Have Never Experienced Before

A fairy tale village

One may never know the many people touched by a life well lived. The rippling effects can be far reaching into the future. In 1973, Hal Taussig gave his car to a hitchhiker and from that time on, he rode his bike to work. He was a giant of a man focused on living simply and forging connections across continents. He received a doctorate in education from the University of Penn. During the last phase of his teaching career, he traveled with his wife and youngest daughter to Europe for a sabbatical. He was able to stretch the family’s extremely tight budget by renting apartments in small villages in Switzerland, Germany, and France. At home in rural mountainside communities, he became an avid hiker, learned German, and made lifelong friendships that altered his worldview. By traveling close to the ground, taking local trains, shopping in the markets and getting to know a series of friendly hosts, he found what he considered a more meaningful and enlightening mode of travel. This cross-cultural connection prompted him to write his book “Shoestring Sabbatical” hoping to inspire others to travel this way. Before the “one click find it on the internet” and Air B&B, Hal being a true visionary, started “Untours” with his wife Norma in the 70″s. A company to offer a mode of travel that Hal pioneered: apartment stays in local communities in Europe that give travelers a more genuine experience and understanding of a place, its people, and its culture. This man from Media, Pa who died in 2016 and who I never have had the privilege to meet has opened new worlds for me.

I have been traveling since I was 18. Seems like only yesterday! I have traveled with groups and I have jaunted out into the world alone. There is very little thinking and leg work involved when with a group. All is set in place – times of arrival and return are given, sights to see or not see. When alone, it can be at times somewhat nerve wracking maneuvering through new worlds with much time spent researching and making reservations. Happily, now I have found the perfect blend of the two with Untours. This was my first time traveling with them and I am so excited to share my experience with those who may have that wanderlust spirit but like to be grounded securely.

Lunch with Vivianne

Alsace Dessert

My recent trip was to Alsace, France. Dodge Amaral, (dodge.amaral@untours.com ) was wonderful in setting the stage, sharing his vast experience and knowledge of the area, putting all the logistics in place and I went off with all tickets in hand. I received such a valuable guide book to the area covering everything from cultural etiquette, suggestions for things to do, how to handle tips etc. that we referred to many days. Untours provides that best of both worlds travel package. A representative in France is ready to meet the arriving traveler, “hold their hands” while obtaining the rental car and driving to the apartment “home away from home”. Rather than staying in a hotel, with hundreds of people, here in the beautiful town of Ribeauvillé, we had our own spacious apartment within a local villa all to ourselves. Marie Lauth and Dominique were our hosts. They greeted us with their own homemade apple cider, a bottle of wine and much kindness. There was so much attention to beautiful detail for us. Dominique was an architect and Marie Lauth is a talented artist with her work hanging on the walls. Beautiful drapes and table linens came from the very famous Beauville Linens (so much more on that to follow). Travel books were there for us to read each evening in our lovely living room. The kitchen had all the amenities we needed when we would return home each day with fresh baked bread, cheese, local wines and fresh fruit from the market. Towel warmers and huge down comforters easily took away the chill of the day and each morning we looked out to their lovely garden and vineyard awaiting the birthing of spring. They were there for us if we had any questions and we felt so comfortable coming and going at our own pace. We shared lives, countries, photographs in frames and photographs on the phone with this wonderful couple who fast became our friends. Vivianne Beller was the UnTours representative in France. We met with her over lunch and thank heaven the French take two hours for this meal because she was a fascinating companion. She was an American living in France after marrying her husband and she related and conversed so easily, guiding us along with suggestions to make the most out of our trip. She is there for all Untours travelers and will plan a lunch meet up to help everyone in that same way. I loved the freedom of planning where we would go each day and doing it our own time. If we got lost on a country road or took several hours to totally enjoy the French cuisine, no one was waiting on a bus for us. We set our itinerary. We meandered through the beautiful and quaint towns in the Alsace region in our own way and knew wonderful locals were just a phone call away if needed.

One of the oldest family run vineyards in Ribeauville, France

At the time of Hal’s death, he was an accomplished businessman, a fervent booster of Fair Trade, an activist for socially responsible business, and an early micro-enterprise investor before micro loans were really even thought of. His Untours Foundation, created with the profits of his successful tour company, has lent over 7 million dollars to small startups and businesses around the world to create jobs and economic opportunities for those most in need. In 1999, Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy Jr. awarded Untours with the title “Most Generous Company in America.” He was given the Spirit of Philadelphia Award in 2007 and at the following year’s Philadelphia Sustainability Awards, Hal was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his ongoing commitment to social justice. I never met Hal Taussig but this man’s vision, ideas and ideals have very much touched my life and now the way I travel. Thank you so much Hal!

Home in Colmar, France

The World in One Place: The New York Times Travel Show

Every year, there is a certain date that I try very hard to reserve and this year it was January 27th. Last Saturday, I found myself in the midst of over 550 exhibitors representing more than 170 destinations around the world. The New York Times Travel Show is such a vibrant showcase connecting over 30,000 travel enthusiasts with industry leaders. At a time when some people are so focused and vocal about differences, borders and insular country-centric thinking, it was an enlivening breath of fresh air. This show was truly a celebration of the beauty and wonder of the fascinating diversity of a global society. There were experts describing expeditions through the massive white, silent Antarctic Peninsula, trips to experience Malta’s underwater crystal clear grottoes, the Tsar’s Gold train ride beginning in Beijing and traveling through to Moscow. Attendees could avail themselves to virtual reality, Indonesian Massage techniques (this woman was probably the strongest woman I have ever met!), Olympic gaming and Bonsai tree trimming.

The New York Time’s Travel Show has over 100 cultural presentations and over 75 informative sessions such as: “Taste the Cultural Mosaic Of Israel”, “Savor the Mediterranean”, “Sustainable and Socially Conscious Travel”, “How Technology Can Enhance and Elevate Your Vacation”, “L.G.B.T.Q Travel, “The Best Travel Gadgets of 2018”, “Travel Writing and Photographing Tips”, and they all stroked my continuing passion to learn and travel our amazing earth with a camera. Some of the interesting websites mentioned were: wwwtoursbylocals.com, messynessychic.com, wirecutter.com, Atlasobscura.com,www.angelstravellounge.com.
I was able to catch up with friends from Sri Lanka Holidays.net and I met equally fascinating experts from countries I hope to explore in the year ahead. The beauty of this show is that in just one spot, I learned about hundreds of destinations around the world. It is a day/weekend not to be missed. It is tentatively scheduled to be held in January next year. Stay tuned to mark your calendars.

Turkish Airlines says it so well. “There are many experiences waiting to unfold, to hear, to smell, to see, to taste, to touch cultivating our curiosity and finding delight within. The New York Times Travel Show shares those amazing experiences waiting to unfold.

The New York Times Travel Show 2017

People started to line up a bit after 9. When the New York Times Travel Show opened to the public at 10am last Saturday, a very long, snaking line entered through the gates and the world opened up. Adventure, solo, family, LBGTQ, river or Caribbean cruises, seaplane adventures, learn a language and charge your devices with a solar panel…so many aisles to explore with insights galore. The New York Times Travel Show brings together those who are definitely in the know and those who want to know everything about travel. It is the largest consumer travel and trade show in North America with over 500 exhibitors representing 150 countries and over 23 focused conferences covering the latest products, services, destination information and trends from travel industry experts and I covet my press pass!

Taste of the World

Let me begin with one of the most experienced travel professionals I know, Pauline Frommer. According to Frommer, the best websites for airfares are: Momondo.com and SkyScanner.net. The cheapest days of the week to fly are Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In order to receive savings, timing can be everything! Pauline gave the following advice: book on a weekend, book 57 days before travel for domestic tickets, 176 days before going off to Europe, 77 days before traveling to the Caribbean, 160 days before travel to Asia/The Pacific, book 144 days before travel to the Middle East and Asia and 90 days before travel to Central and South America. All will provide varying savings. She urged the audience to rethink loyalty and look into other airlines which are now offering discount fares such as Norwegian, WOW, XL, Thomas Cook, Eurowings and AirAsia. If you are a solo traveler, connecting with “Women Welcome Women” and Global Greeters Network which are sites where one can connect to someone who loves their city so much they have volunteered to provide a free tour will provide a “safety net” for those alone. It is a wonderful way to connect with locals. As far as cruises go, excursion savings can be found at Cruising Excursions.com, Shore Trips.com and Viator. Frommer also suggested that if one wanted to view the Northern Lights, this would be the year to do it since the lights are caused by storms on the sun and they go in 10 year cycles and this is the last year in this go round. Book now, they are breathtaking!

Indonesian Art

See Europe Virtually

In Seminar Room 3, there was not one available seat or space. People stood on both sides of the room and sat on the floor all to hear Matt Kepnes, the author of “How to Travel the World on $50. a Day.” His talk was entitled, “Easy Ways to Save Big Money When You Travel” and I have to say he did not disappoint! He cautioned people about using random ATM’s and not exchanging money at the airport and to buy in the local currency since the US dollar is surging. The sites Matt uses to search for cheap flights are: Secret Flying,, The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, Momondo, Skyscanner . Hostels now offer private rooms and private baths and if he isn’t staying in one, Matt will often stop by one to ask for recommendations of cheap but delicious local restaurants. Travel Massive, Bla Bla Car, are all ways to connect with the locals and get insights and recommendations off the beaten path that may be just as fun but a bit less expensive.

Indonesian Coffee Tour

Iskra Ukranian Dance Ensemble

There was a “Get Fit Zone”, a “Wellness Travel Pavilion” and “The Best of Life Stage.” You could meditate, learn bodybuilding, and hear an introduction to Ayurveda: Ancient solutions for increased energy and vitality.

Henna Painting

Being out on the road photographing for hours on end, I was thrilled with my purchase of two solar charges by Dawan Global. The Element is water resistant, shockproof, and dustproof. It is designed to take a beating in any terrain or environment. With its lightweight design the Element can be taken anywhere with ease, clipped onto a backpack, belt, or purse, and is just 7 oz. It stores enough solar energy to completely charge a cell phone 2 times. Because one is good but two is better, I also bought the Solis which can completely power a cell phone 4x, an IPad 2x, or even a small laptop on a full charge. It can completely charge a phone in just 90 minutes using the high speed output… and as I was walking away from the booth with my new finds, Bob Marley’s lyrics came to mind, “No worries, be happy!” Mark your calendars for January 2018! I am off to make my vision board!!!

Travel List

International Beauty Show, NYC

IBS New York

IBS New York

IBS New York

IBS New York

IBS New York

IBS New York

Be it the intricate henna designs on hands of Indian women before a wedding, the brass rings worn around the necks of women in Burma or the scarring process of women in the Karo tribe of Eithopia…beauty is so subjective and dependent upon cultural norms. Exploring the question of “What is beauty?” is a fascinating one to be sure. Two weeks ago, the International Beauty Show was held in New York. I have been to the Jacob Javits Convention Center many times, but I have never experienced the huge crowds as with this event. This is the longest running, professionals-only beauty show in the nation. The show’s main objective is to educate and open new doors of networking and income opportunities. My press pass allowed me a unique opportunity to photograph some of the current western beauty trends. The top trends for 2013 in the hair category seemed to be braids, plaits,up-dos and bobs.(I am now sporting a very short bob thanks to celebrity stylist Mike Karg!) A variety of hues and shades seemed endless. Men seem to be paying much more attention to skin care and hair products while nails are becoming small artistic canvases with new colors and patterns. I was surrounded by state of the art cosmetics, oils, extensions – hair and lash, tools, haircare, nail care, tooth whitening, classes, hair cuts by the very famous stylists… but as Sam Levenson reminded us, “For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.” “For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.”
“For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.” “For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.” Beauty at its best!