TRIAL BY FIRE – 200 DAYS ON THE ROAD!

My first year as a Trip Director I spent just over 200 days on the road! I traveled to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Palm Springs, Denver, Japan, San Juan, Miami, Caribbean, New Jersey, San Antonio, Puerto Vallarta, Dallas, Spain, Maui, San Francisco and Atlanta. Some destinations twice and the longest program was in the Caribbean for two months with a week off for Christmas. I would be lying if I said I remember all of these trips but there are a few places or events from every year that are definitely imbedded in my memory.

Japan was my first trip overseas and it was a bit overwhelming. It is one of those places that definitely made me feel a long way from home. I couldn’t read any of the signs, menus, instructions or train information. I couldn’t speak the language, wasn’t familiar with the transit system and didn’t know the protocol for going through customs. It was all new, a bit unsettling and exciting at the same time. That was all just within 30 minutes of landing at Narita Airport and trying to find my luggage! The Japanese people were very polite, the hotel rooms and beds themselves were smaller than I was used to in the United States and most of the food was foreign to me. Good thing I brought a supply of crackers and Cup of Soup with me! Shibuya, Shinjuki, Akihabara and Ginza were a few of the districts I wandered through. The Skinkansen bullet train is something to behold. They have a top speed of 199mph, are punctual, comfortable and a great way to explore the country.

The Caribbean was the longest trip of the year with me island hopping from Miami to St. Maarten to St. Kitts twelve times in 10 weeks. I spent the weeks repeating a four day cruise and this was the first time my life was threatened by a local, but it wouldn’t be the last. We had set up a private scavenger hunt on one of the local beaches for our corporate group and the locals were not happy with part of the beach being set aside for exclusive use. For some reason I was the target of their verbal disapproval and it was made clear the locals could make me disappear. Needless to say, I remained respectful to the locals and did not wander far from our group. Besides my disconcerting experience at the beach, the islands were delightful. The island breeze, open air restaurants and steel drums were enchanting. Throw in a Pina Colada and I was content to kick back for the evening in the slightly used wicker chairs on the patio.

San Antonio was my favorite destination in the contiguous states. Our group stayed at a hotel right on the Riverwalk, which was brimming with local restaurants, vendors selling their wares, musicians and tour operators offering ride on the river. The Alamo was within walking distance, so a tour of the mission was on my agenda, along with a River Walk Cruise. 

Spain and Japan in the same year was unbelievable for me. Marbella, Spain sits on the beach and was absolutely breathtaking. I actually did get lost wondering through the narrow, colorful streets of Old Town as I was distracted by all boutiques and eateries.  I should have kept better notes of my travels as too many details have escaped my memory. I do remember the bus ride from Marbella to Ronda where we visited the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, one of Spain’s oldest bullfighting rings. I also snapped a few pictures of the Puente Nuevo bridge which spans the gorge of El Tajo.

Hawaii was a place I traveled to over a dozen times during my years of travel and was a destination I always looked forward to going to every time. The immediate fragrance of the plumeria when stepping off the plane, was a favorite moment for me, indicating I had arrived somewhere in Hawaii! Maui was the island I enjoyed the most. Luau’s, snorkeling, shopping in Lahaina, whale watching, the road to Hana and Haleakala were always part of the schedule when groups chose Maui as their destination. My favorite area to stay was in Ka’anapali or Napili as it consistently seemed less hectic than other parts of the island. It doesn’t get any better than sitting on the beach, watching the sunset in Maui at the end of a workday.

Two hundred days and nineteen destinations behind me and I was ready to do it again the next year!

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