• Glacier in Alaska

    Immersive Travel

    <p>Travel has always been one of my greatest pleasures, and together with my love of photography and writing, it is part of a perfect trifecta. There are so many wonders awaiting discovery, as well as personal and spiritual connections waiting to be made.</p> <p>How one travels, however, can make the difference between experiencing a life-changing journey and just-an-OK-visit. I learned early that I am not the type who enjoys large-group travel, whether by land or sea. I like the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">closeness of a small group</a>; you get to bond with your fellow travelers as well as your guide(s), increasing the fun of the experience. There are no long lines, no squishing to get close to the guide to hear what he/she is saying, no scramble to see a particular viewpoint.<br><br><br><img alt="Group in Alaska" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qcw" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>But which small group fits best? There are some well-respected tour companies that offer small-group travel, and I have joined a few on some memorable experiences. However, even with special access to sites, fine accommodations and food, I have come away feeling I am missing something.</p> <p>That something is the “intrinsic wholeness” that brings me back to Classic Journeys. As their headlines say: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">“You’re a traveler. Not a tourist.”</a> What does this mean?</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">When I travel with Classic Journeys,</a> I just don’t go to a destination; I take an adventure that is fully immersive. All of my senses are activated – I see, feel, taste, smell and hear. Wherever possible, the mode of travel is hiking/walking rather than viewing the world through the windows of a vehicle.<br><br><img alt="Machu Picchu" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qd1" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>There are physical and emotional challenges that take me beyond my comfort zone, but these are personally set. There are always options so that each traveler can decide their immersion level, and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys manages to satisfy all</a>, which I think is no easy feat! </p> <p>I have also had some unique experiences that have touched my soul and changed me forever. One of my favorites occurred during my Peruvian adventure, when I got an opportunity to interact with some beautiful Quechua children in a remote mountain village.<br><br>Our guide, Edgard, provided the translation, and I learned later that he jokingly told them to behave because I had been a tough teacher in the States (I had told him earlier about being an early childhood educator teacher before switching to advertising). I frankly had tears after this moving experience.<br><br><img alt="Quechua children" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qd6" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It’s also important for me to have a balance between explorations and time to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">relax, reflect and recharge, which Classic Journeys</a> seamlessly provides. There is a no-rush feel to the itineraries, which act more as guidelines than written-in-stone rules to follow. This last point is important because many fabulous things that happen on a journey ARE NOT PLANNED. Like this:</p> <p>Pictured here is our delightful guide, Giampiero, whose joie de vivre so overtook him that he chose this lovely lady sitting with a companion – not part of our group – for a dance.<br><br><img alt="Dancing with a stranger" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qdB" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It turns out that the woman and her companion each represented one-half of two married couples, and had been fast friends over the years. The somber origin of their friendship was that the husband of this woman and the wife of her companion both had passed away. Through common sorrow and healing they turned to each other and are now blissfully together; not married, but having a wonderful time. Viva amore!Dancing with a stranger, Northern Lakes, Italy</p> <p>So many moments like this are possible on a Classic Journeys trip. While other companies offer a bit here and there, Classic Journeys provides a means NOT to feel like a tourist doing an “if this is Thursday it must be Belgium” tour. Instead, we explore and are a part of the places we visit. These destinations, people and experiences become a part of us forever.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">I AM SO LOOKING FORWARD TO</a></p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">MY NEXT CLASSIC JOURNEYS ADVENTURE!</a></h3>

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  • Red eyed frog, Costa Rica

    The Fine Art of Frog Kissing

    <h3>ON OUR SCOUTING TRIPS, IT CAN BE A REAL ADVENTURE<br>TO SEPARATE THE DUDS FROM THE DELIGHTS.</h3> <p>When our Fiat bottomed out on the sharp boulder embedded in the middle of the so-called road, the day’s excursion officially became the Frog of All Frogs. No amount of kissing would turn this foray into a prince. The straight-shot drive from the Italian villa/inn (wonderful!) to the village with the small private museum in a hilltop castle (<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">sounded like a perfect Classic Journeys place!</a>) went up over a mountain…and downhill fast. At least the rumble of our ruptured muffler shooed the sheep out of the way. Cross another bright idea off the scouting list.<br><br><img alt="Italian car" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qr3" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>You’ve been there and done that, right? Circled a roundabout endlessly looking for the exit that just isn’t there? Knocked on the door of the inn/restaurant/church that appears to have been abandoned since ‘62? Heck, those are sometimes the stories you have the most fun telling – but only afterward. In the moment, the lost time and the frustration are just too much.</p> <p>That’s why we scout. Obsessively. If you only have eight or nine days of vacation, you don’t want to spend any of it scrambling to Plan B (or C). So we bite the bullet and do the work for you. Admittedly, it’s not all lumpy mattresses and street food with suspicious tentacles. Scouting trips have landed us in some of the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/hotels/" target="_blank">best hotels on earth</a> (who will forget Hotel Sahrai in Morocco?). Along the way, we’ve met a colorful cast of llama-herding, ruins-digging, butterfly-mad, clay-bedaubed, pasta-rolling people who have changed our lives in countless happy ways. <br><br><img alt="Hotel Sahrai" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qr8" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>But did I tell you about that walk on the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence-tours/" target="_blank">Grand Luberon in Provence</a>? The one where the forestry service had altered the trail—so that our hot two-hour walk lasted for five…and we ended up at the ruined castle of the Marquis de Sade? Call it poetic injustice. We laugh still about the local guide who showed up for an “audition stroll” dressed head-to-toe in Chanel that spoke well of her personal flair but said not much about her agility on cobblestone streets.</p> <p>All in fun, we call scouting frog-kissing, but we encourage you to think of it as “intensive curatorial reconnaissance.” You won’t pity us, we know, for the weeks we get to spend with our local guides, handcrafting our itineraries in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/indochina-tours/" target="_blank">Vietnam</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/iceland/" target="_blank">Iceland</a> or the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos.</a> But we like to believe that you’ll thank us when your trip goes off without a hitch, and the only frogs are of the Red-Eyed Leaf variety that we know just where to find in a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costa-rica-tours/" target="_blank">Costa Rican</a> cloud forest.</p> <p>GREATEST SCOUTING HITS</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><b>Cienfuegos, Cuba</b></a></p> <p>Bummed by Soviet-era beach hotels, we stop for lunch with friends of friends Tony and Mailin. Before it’s over, they invite us to bring our groups to their private finca on a custom-cut trail that overlooks waterfalls and coffee plantations.<br><br><img alt="Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qrD" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>Split, Croatia</b></a></p> <p>We remember the day we lucked onto Lela. She snagged us a speedboat to Hvar when the ferries weren’t running and cured a migraine with a massage. No wonder the President of Croatia and our guests say that she’s their favorite guide.<br><br><img alt="Split, Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qrI" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">The Galápagos</a></b></p> <p>Everyone since Darwin visited the islands by ship, but when we went scouting the constant Zodiac trips bored us to tears. Hearing our frustration, the locals introduced to the owners of a new boutique hotel—and our island-based trip was born.<br><br><img alt="Galapagos Hotel" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qrN" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p>

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  • Woman with arms out on cliff, Greece

    How to get 97.15 out of 100 points in the Travel + Leisure World's Best Survey

    <h3><b><i>WHAT DO YOU DO FIRST WHEN TRAVEL + LEISURE CALLS TO TELL YOU THAT YOU’VE BEEN VOTED A WORLD’S BEST TOUR OPERATOR FOR THE 10TH YEAR?</i></b></h3> <p>You’d be right if you say there are high-fives, big smiles and some instant social media action. But right on the heels of that, I went immediately to the scoring results to see how many points the voters awarded us.</p> <p>For 2016, we scored 97.15 out of 100 – our highest numbers to date. The thing is, the Travel + Leisure rankings aren’t just a popularity contest where they count votes. If you’ve ever participated in the process, you may remember that they asked you to rank companies you’ve traveled with on six parameters: value, destinations, guides, 5-star lodgings, cuisine and activities. <br><br><img alt="Whitewater rafting" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qsQ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>I believe we score so well because we handcraft every Classic Journey with the goal to provide every guest a trip of a lifetime. I know – “handcrafted” is a word you’re more accustomed to associating with Etsy.com or the pale ale at your local brewpub. But it’s exactly the right word to explain our hands-on approach to travel, and it’s why our trips always feel personal and never cookie-cutter.</p> <p>The easy intimacy that our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/guides/" target="_blank">fulltime local guides</a> have with our small groups is awesome to see. There’s an openness and cordiality that’s not at all typical of group travel. No question is off limits and friendships are formed. The big difference is that all of our guides live where they work. Many of them have been part of the Classic Journeys family for 20 years.<br><br><img alt="Classic Journeys guide" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qsV" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Even in well-traveled <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/latin-america-tours/" target="_blank">destinations</a> like the Galápagos, Cuba or Tuscany, we start by asking, “How can we give this our own spin?” We build around the cultural experiences so that they are the focus. And we can’t keep our hands off: we constantly tweak to add a just-discovered walk or a new restaurant that’s a hit with the locals.</p> <p>Everywhere we go, we pull up to the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/hotels/" target="_blank">lodgings</a> that other travelers only wish they were staying in. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best – and ONLY – way to go! Cookie-cutter doesn’t cut it for me. Give me a farmhouse/monastery/Palazzo-turned hotel any day. If it boasts a string of five stars, I’m there. From Asia to South America to Europe and plenty of spots in between, we stay in a lot of World’s Best hotels. <br><br><img alt="Hotel Monasterio, Peru" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qsf" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>We love to eat—and to eat very well. We can be just as happy grazing in street food stalls as putting on our best manners at a Michelin-starred temple of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuisines/" target="_blank">cuisine</a>. For us, food is never an afterthought. We intend for every meal on a Classic Journey to be a culinary AND cultural treat that connects you to local life in the most fundamental way there is.</p> <p>As travelers, we’re not very good spectators. We’re a lot happier being “in the game”. That means we learn to roll spring rolls instead of just eating them. We sway through a salsa lesson in Havana. We hunt truffles in Italy. The ultimate expression of our “dive in” approach is our multi-sport Family Journeys. And all of the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/dates/" target="_blank">activities</a> you read about in our itineraries are included at no additional cost—a big advantage over other companies that hit you with up-charges.<br><br><img alt="Zip lining in Costa Rica" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qsp" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>In the end, it’s all about <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/awards/" target="_blank">value.</a> Your vacation time is really precious, and we want you to feel like your trip was the best investment you ever made. That means that we have to exceed our promises…and do it at a price that makes sense. I’m really proud of how well we do that. A lot of other companies charge a premium of 20% to 40% over Classic Journeys for trips that you would logically compare to ours.</p> <p>So, yes – I’m thrilled that we scored 97.15 this year. I’m even happier that it’s our highest score ever. It proves to me that we’re upping our game and that our guests can really feel and appreciate all of the personal effort we put into every Classic Journey. Now to figure out how to get those last 2.85 points…</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/catalog/" target="_blank">IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW WE’RE GOING TO TOP THAT, WELL – SCOUT OUR 82 REGIONS AROUND THE WORLD FOR YOUR NEXT DESTINATION OR REQUEST A CATALOG.</a></h3>

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