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Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Malori

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

by Malori

From the time I was a little kid, maybe 10 years old, I had a fascination with everything travel. I used to ask my parents to take me to our local airport (LAX in Los Angeles) which thrilled me to no end.  The hustle bustle, the sights, sounds and smells.  Hearing announcements in languages I couldn’t understand. The luggage stacked up on the runway, waiting to be loaded into the belly of the planes. The board announcing arrivals and departures for sites unknown. People gathering from all different places on earth, traveling to countries far and wide.

 In the international terminal, as I walked from gate to gate, I was virtually transported around the world, hearing different languages as people headed to what I had imagined to be all places wonderful. I used to imagine why they were going to wherever it was they were headed.  I’d make up probable scenarios in my mind.  Some were most likely off to explore an exotic destination that one day I’d like to visit myself!  I’d see lots of travelers, perhaps returning home after a visit to our country, or maybe meeting up with family they hadn’t seen for a long time. I would listen closely for different languages being spoken, an occurrence  that still fascinates me.  To this day, when hearing someone speaking a different language or with an accent, I enjoy engaging them in conversation and eventually asking where they’re from and most likely, I’ve been there.  The fact that I have seen their country which they miss and are certainly proud of, breaks down many barriers and we enjoy knowing that much more about one another.

I remember being at the airport with my parents, picking up my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Marv who had just landed after a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to Hawaii.  As passengers started arriving with their individual boxes of souvenir coconuts and pineapples in hand, each passenger was adorned with flower leis made of orchids picked and strung just prior to their five hour flight from Honolulu to LAX. The airport gate was laden with orchids and everything smelled so sweet! I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to travel to Hawaii.

I am in love with the design, art and architecture of airports. Each one is truly unique and each were considered modern at the time in which they were built.  I love how the logistics work both inside airports and coordinating all of the flights internationally.  I love the individual airlines logo, colors, uniform design and everything about them as I scurry through airports worldwide. When I graduated college, earning my degree with a focus on Commercial Interior Design, I wanted to design airports or hotels.  But living in Mobile, Alabama at the time of my first job post-graduation, there were no architectural or design firms in the city building airports…or hotels.

My favorite airport?  I love all the features designed into the Singapore Changi Airport. Having won the Best Airport Award seven years in a row, you quickly learn why.  With relaxing forested areas and the world’s largest indoor waterfall, a butterfly garden, a movie theater, swimming pool and world class restaurants and shopping, this airport earns the top spot.  My favorite domestic airport is Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Built in 1980, I was one of the first passengers coming through this modern airport and they have kept it growing and modern ever since.  My favorite feature is the art galleries placed all over the airport, each with different themes and always changing. My favorite artwork is between Concourses A and B. Besides interesting sculptures in the center of the underground walkway, and murals lining the sides of this 450 foot passage, most people don’t look up to see the most interesting ceiling covered in art, an installation called Flight Paths. This walkway has sounds of rain, simulated lightning and thunder and is missed by most travelers. The worst airport?  In my opinion, it’s Charles de Gaulle in Paris.  It’s so spread out, it’s larger than most cities in Alaska.  Maybe all of them!  You have to allow hours to navigate between flights and it always seems to be under construction. Terminals and gates are labeled nonsensically and you’ll find gates and terminals labeled with F12H and KA12T and the like.  I’ve been through CDG a plethora of times and I still don’t get it. You have to leave and reenter security at least once per plane change and typically, your terminal isn’t on the train system and they shuttle you from terminal to terminal, using back entrances, stairways and alleys.  What a mess!

While I realize most travelers look at airports as an inconvenience, and the length  of time spent mid-air as a “boring part of travel which must be endured” to get to the destination which is the real excitement, just know that for some of us, “it’s the journey and not the destination.”

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Stacey

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

by Stacey

What do I miss about travel?  The food!  Churros con chocolate in Spain, empanadas in Argentina, tagine in Morocco, pho in Vietnam, samosas in India – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  There’s nothing better than sitting down to a meal and enjoying the local food, the surrounding, and the company.

Actually, the only thing better is popping by a street vendor to grab something on the go so I can keep exploring.  One of my favorites was a simit that we grabbed from a cart in Kusadasi, Turkey – imagine a huge, puffy, flatish bagel, covered in sesame seeds.  Yum!  Or there was that time in Mykonos, Greece that we got crepes with nutella and ice cream!  Okay, that sounds like a great idea until you really think of eating a hot crepe, on the go, in hot Greece.  I think we left a trail of melted ice cream behind us as we walked and tried to eat it as quickly as possible.  Sitting on a bench in Budapest enjoying a huge, doughy pastry, curled into a coil and covered in cinnamon sugar.  Using my rusty French to order a baguette and munching on it while walking down the street of a small town.  Grabbing a pint at a pub’s outdoor seating in Dublin.

These are moments that pass so quickly; decisions that are made in a split second – “I must eat that” –  but they just stick in my mind and make me smile.  I can’t wait to pick up where I left off.

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Michele

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

by Michele

EVERYTHING!  Having been in the travel business my entire life, I can honestly say there isn’t anything about travel that I don’t miss.  I started dreaming about flying and sailing all over the globe at a very young age.  I vividly recall playing “pretend airplane” and “pretend ship” with my cousins when I was a very young kid.  The moment I had an opportunity to pack, you didn’t have to ask me twice, I was ready!

One aspect of travel that I can say I miss the most is the people.  Whether it is the locals I have the opportunity to meet and learn about; their country, culture, and cuisine or if it is the special group of individuals I travel with, it is the people that make every destination… amazing!

There isn’t anything that brings a place to life or can ingrain the experience more than the people that love it and take pride in it the most.   The locals have a unique way of sharing their knowledge with you that opens your heart and mind in a way that can’t be matched.  Tell me about your community and family, tell me how you came to do what you do and why, tell me about the beautiful architecture and the history behind it.  I love hearing it all while on tour or over a coffee at a neighborhood cafe as we people watch together.  Nothing can bring a place to life like a local.

And YOU – our group of amazing travelers.  Sharing the experiences with you is what makes travel special.  You may consider yourself a client when you first call, but you become part of the family rather quickly.  Everyone has their initial call and their first trip sometimes calling with questions and maybe a splash of hesitance?  What I always share with everyone is that within minutes, you will feel part of something special.  This isn’t just a feeling our passengers get, it is what we feel right along with you!  We certainly form bonds and those have truly enhanced my life.

Moving Forward – One Step at a Time

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

by Malori

I’ve been working in the travel industry since I was in college.  I took a few side jobs while studying, in order to be around the world I love. While performing the tasks at hand, I would daydream, seeing myself in all of those exotic locales and enjoying people from other cultures. So it should be no surprise that during my first full-time travel job after graduating college, I earned the nickname, “I’ll Go Anywhere Asman” because I truly would go anywhere!  If there was a learning opportunity in Houston, I’d be the first to volunteer.  Visit Nashville?  Yes, please! Lead a group of country western fans from a radio station to Las Vegas? Sign me up! That was actually my first group, leading me to a career in escorting over 10,000 people around the world! I’ve dedicated my career to travel, as have our amazing team of Erin, Stacey and Michele.  Each one of us never imagined ourselves doing much of anything else and each of us started on our “dream job” path during our teens.

How is Amazing Journeys and our devoted team coping during this crisis?  I’ve seen crises in the past.  9/11.  The Gulf War.  The Financial Crisis of 2008-09.  Each one had a huge impact on travel, and as an industry, steps were taken in order to re-start travel and help those with trepidations, to travel once again. But this time is different.  What we thought would be a few weeks turned into a few months. Through it all, we are reevaluating next steps, all while taking care of our business, customers, employees and families.  While some areas of the world are beginning to open to tourism once again, there are still challenges to overcome before we are ready to take those first steps to board a plane.

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’ve been keeping busy.  Since the very beginning, we’ve been able to entertain and keep our travelers connected with engaging online programs such as Travel Trivia, Lunch and Learn, Happy Hours, Shabbat and more.  We’ve hosted hundreds and hundreds of cheerful participants and have enjoyed the engagement we have been missing so much.  While it hasn’t replaced our need to be with our travelers in person, it has fulfilled a need for our community to all be together, laughing, talking and interacting about that which we love…travel.

This pause in travel has given us an opportunity to reset our priorities, thinking about what’s really important including health, safety and our collective well-being. We are of the opinion that we would rather cancel a trip than cause undue concern for anyone’s health and safety and so we have done just that.  We’ve focused on what we can do moving forward in how to best serve your travel needs.  Changes have been made to the number of travelers we will host on any given trip for the comfort and safety of our travelers through 2021. In addition, we have been working with suppliers who can offer us more lenient cancellation terms, or insurance programs which allow cancellation with little to no penalty, closer to the date of travel.

For nearly 25 years, I have traveled over 100 days a year for work, and adding to that, traveling to visit family.  But I’m really enjoying being home much more than I thought I would!  When I’m not planning new trips, proofing contracts and reading industry journals, I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to have time to relax. I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to have down time in some of my favorite nooks and crannies of my house and yard, and time to sit in my favorite spot on a side patio with a book or catching up with friends and family. I set a goal to do at least three active activities each day and so I go for long walks, hikes, bike rides and have several fitness routines I can do at home.

We spend time in nature and on the three rivers in Pittsburgh, visiting with family and recently, adding visits with friends, socially distanced of course. This pause in travel has taught me I’m certainly not ready for retirement any time soon and I am ready to hit the road as soon as we are comfortable doing so.  And it’s definitely taught me while I am comfortable alone with myself, I love being around people and that includes all of you!  I really miss our time spent exploring and discovering our world together, and having a great time while doing it!

Amazing Journeys Update

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Dear Amazing Journeyers,

I hope this message finds you and your family members well. We have enjoyed seeing and hearing about all that our travelers have been doing while staying home to keep themselves busy. Whether you’re baking, exercising, cleaning out closets, finding entertaining things to binge watch or creating things to make others smile, we hope you’re all healthy and finding comfort during this unique time in our lives. If you’re like us here at Amazing Journeys, you can’t wait to hit the road and get back out there, seeing the world. We hope you’ve been enjoying our multitude of online opportunities to gather together, whether it be our Lunch & Learn, Trivia, Happy Hours or Kabbalat Shabbat programs.

While the world is repairing, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your thoughts and concerns for us, our families and our business. I am confident that travel will one day resume… when it’s safe to do so, and when it does, Amazing Journeys will be right there to offer you the amazing travel programs you have come to expect from us. Those of you who had signed up for trips that were postponed or cancelled know that Amazing Journeys was there for you, and offered to refund all of your money… no questions asked. At a time when there was so much worry over potential loss of income, loss of value in the markets and threat of illness, we wanted to lessen that stress as much as possible. When the time is right, we want our travelers to be excited about their upcoming vacation plans, rather than being apprehensive in any way.

Never before in history has the entire world been closed off to tourism. There will be many changes in the world as a result of COVID-19 including travel, with regard to social distancing practices, protective gear and procedures followed by airlines, hotels, tour groups, cruises and more. We recently outlined some of these things during an online zoom presentation we offered last week. If you were not able to join us, we invite you to click here to watch the recording (password is AJ2020/2021 and it is set in two recordings that will play one right after another).

We have also recently offered a survey so that you can tell us what’s important to you when traveling. We’ve had a great response with over 200 participants. We’d love to hear from you and know your thoughts.  If you have not yet filled out the survey, please click here.

At this time, we will plan to resume our trips, starting with those scheduled for the Fall of 2020. In addition, we have recently announced our 2021 line-up. With social distancing in mind, Amazing Journeys will be offering travel opportunities to take you to off-the-beaten-path destinations, where you can learn about the countries and their people, their culture and take in the beautiful landscapes. We have lots of experiential components built into the itineraries as well. We’ll offer smaller group experiences, allowing for a more intimate experience on the road, with our guides and with other Amazing Journeyers on your tour. We will be partnering with companies who allow us greater flexibility in our terms and conditions, whereby we are able to lessen our penalties as much as possible, should the need to cancel arise. Finally, we are working with global suppliers who offer a “cancel for any reason travel waiver” which allows you to cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before the start of your trip and get all of your money back. Very few tour operators offer this, but we are partnering with these companies so that at least 50% of our upcoming trips will offer this option. Because of all of this and more, we believe our upcoming line-up will offer travel in a way you, our clients, want to experience travel at this moment in time.

We would like to share our 2020/2021 line-up with you below. If you have interest in a specific destination, click on the link below the trip for more details or to be placed on an Interest List. Once on that list, you will be the first to know about any of these upcoming trips before the general public.

We miss traveling but most importantly, we miss you. Our team is looking forward to the day when we can all leave our nests and fly. And when we do, we hope it will be on an Amazing Journey with you.

Stay healthy and wishing you all the best,

Malori

Malori Asman, CTC, MCC
Chief Amazement Officer, Amazing Journeys
412.571.0220 (phone) | 412.344.3937 (fax)
733 Valleyview Road | Pittsburgh, PA 15243 (address)
www.amazingjourneys.net (web)

 

Upcoming Amazing Journeys

National Parks of the Southwest (Arizona, Utah, Nevada)
October 2-9, 2020
Click here for trip details

Australia & New Zealand
October 29 – November 14, 2020
Click here for trip details

New Year’s Cruise to Cozumel & Key West
December 28, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List 

Adventures in Croatia
April 28 – May 8, 2021
Click here for trip details

Morocco
May 14 – 23, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Israel
June 6 – 15, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

France River Cruise
June 30 – July 6, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Norwegian Fjords Cruise
July 11 – 18, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Ireland
July 24 – August 1, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Scotland
August 1 – 11, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List 

Greece by Land
September 27 – October 10, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Polar Bears in Churchill
October 15 – 19, 2021
Click here for trip details

Giving Back

Monday, April 13th, 2020

by Michele

TRAVEL:  A gift we often give to ourselves that keeps on giving.  We get so much good from our journeys; amazing experiences, friendships, photographs, souvenirs and the list goes on!

Thousands of people come to us with an appetite for travel; looking for adventures, new places to visit and memories to create.  Time away from the ordinary, travel gives people the chance to have unique experiences with different cultures where you walk away not only grateful for what you have but also with an understanding of other cultures.  Travel gives people the chance to learn and enrich your life as well as those of others.  You gain a beautiful understanding of what makes this world… amazing.   Immersing  yourself in a new culture and meeting locals allows personal growth with so much to absorb.  As a result, we also find opportunities to open our hearts even more and extend a helping hand.  There is always time for giving back!

For two decades now, one truly special opportunity is when our groups make a difference in the lives of others.  Not only do we get so much out of traveling, we can give so much as well.

For our first decade, Amazing Journeys pledged to grant a travel wish to a child through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Upon returning home from an Amazing Journey trip, our passengers might contribute to this fund and Amazing Journeys would match it.  Not only were our passengers able to fulfill their life-long dream exploring a destination, they were eager to make that happen for a child that may not have a lifetime to dream such dreams.

In Africa and Asia, we have taken clothing and school supplies.  In Africa our groups visited a school and took time to celebrate in song. In Cuba we took supplies, medicines, vitamins, hygiene products and the like to distribute them along the way to those in need.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, we have packed up clothing and dropped them off in very small and distant villages. In India, we visited an orphanage where they had a need for books, vitamins and school supplies. In Namibia and Tanzania, our group distributed school supplies to children a long the way.

As happy as these little gifts made the locals, it doesn’t compare to the feeling one gets seeing the difference that we can make in another’s life and the power of a smile put on someone’s face. ”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Under Construction

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

by Erin

The Seven Wonders of the World… UNESCO World Heritage Sites… 1,000 Places to See Before You Die – there are plenty of lists out there of destinations that you should put on your bucket list, but what happens when you finally get to that place and it is under construction?

Millions of people travel each year to these top rated destinations, but in order to keep them upright, clean and open for viewing, there is required maintenance to keep the buildings intact.  Or sometimes, the original building is still taking place years and years later.  Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, for example, began construction on March 19, 1882 and is still taking part in its original build.  The Taj Mahal in Agra, by comparison, was built between 1631 and 1648 and has been completed since then, but needs regular maintenance to keep the building clean and to prevent the four free-standing minarets from collapsing.

So if you get to one of these famous places and it is surrounded by cranes and tarps and construction materials, don’t get upset.  Just realize that this is happening out of necessity to preserve the buildings for years to come and either help to document the construction or get creative with your picture taking!

Dressing the Part

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

by Erin

Have you ever been to a party and found out too late that you were not dressed appropriately?  You are either dressed up too much or are not fancy enough… it’s enough to throw you off your game for the entire night.  Sometimes, just dressing the part makes you feel more comfortable and makes you feel like you fit in.

We have found that one of the most fun parts of travel is donning the garb of the locals!   And not just grabbing a hat for a picture, but really dressing the part!  Like each of the four times we have brought a group to India, one evening is spent dining at a local home wearing sarees, bangles and henna.  We are dressed by experts so we are sure to wrap them the right way, and it is just such a fun experience to look truly local.  Also, you get an instant souvenir (but have to figure out when you get home just how to wrap it correctly on your own).

If the opportunity doesn’t always present itself on land, you make your own party on a ship and dress local.  Each time we are in Greece, we strip the bed, wrap ourselves up in sheets and host a toga party!  The cabin stewards may not appreciate the party as much as we do, but we sure know how to make an entrance into the dining room with a crowd clothed in sheets!

And if all else fails and you don’t have the time to match your outfit to the locals, just figure out what it is that makes them unique and copy them in any way that you can!

Standing out in a crowd

Monday, March 16th, 2020

by Erin

One of the reasons we travel is to see different cultures, meet different people, eat different food and experience different customs.  If you are not willing to do any of those things, you might as well stay home.  

In some destinations, the only thing giving up the fact that we are tourists is that we are traveling everywhere in a group, following a sign, wearing tennis shoes and walking with our cameras up and taking pictures of everything – besides that, we look like everyone that surrounds us.  In other places, we stick out even more, standing out in a crowd, clearly announcing that we are not from here and not quite fitting in.  But in the latter instance, I have always felt welcomed with friendly locals greeting us, showing us something that is unique to their culture or practicing their English with us.

I find that one of the most rewarding parts of travel is people watching and interacting with those that we are visiting.  I encourage others to say hello, not shying away from the fact that we are different or do not speak the same language, but rather trying to find our similarities with creative communication.

I’ve also found that the less we look like the locals, the more they want to take pictures of us and with us.  Walking around China and India, a group of white Americans stood out and we were virtual celebrities in certain places where the locals are not use to seeing foreigners.

So when you are traveling, don’t be shy and hide behind your camera – jump in the picture, make a new friend, interact with the locals and make a memory in a new country!

Weathering the Storm

Friday, March 13th, 2020

by Malori

You have no doubt been inundated with information regarding the coronavirus. This is not the first time since our founding two decades ago that a global event has led to uncertainty around travel, and it won’t be the last.

I want to assure you that your well-being now and in the future is of the utmost importance to us. Those who are traveling with Amazing Journeys on upcoming trips have received personal emails throughout this crisis. We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation via the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the State Department. We trust their information as well as the on-the-ground advice from our travel partners and our in-country partners and staff to make educated decisions about our trips, while not overreacting and keeping it in perspective among the other potential risks we may encounter in everyday life, whether traveling or at home.

For those who have reached out to us with concern over our well-being as a company and as individuals during these trying times in the travel industry, we thank you for your concern.  I have weathered many storms during my tenure in travel and I know from experience it’s all about having the right raingear.  We are well-positioned to ride this out.  Fortunately, I am the sole owner of Amazing Journeys and can make quick and well-informed decisions. I run a debt-free operation and have since day one.  What does all of this mean?  Amazing Journeys is here for the long-run.

I strive to be a responsible citizen and so I have asked my staff to work from their homes for the coming days and possibly weeks. As always, please feel free to contact any of our team at any time.

Email: info@amazingjourneys.net
Phone: 412.571.0220
Please be sure to leave a message so that we can return your call

As your Amazing Journeys family, please remember that we are here for you now and in the future. It was travel that brought us together in the first place and not only will we get through this together, but we look forward to traveling together for many years to come.

We thank you for your complete trust in Amazing Journeys and hope we see a day in the very near future when our adventurous travelers are back on cruise ships, tour busses and planes, heading once again to the destinations of their dreams.  And when you do, we hope that you will allow Amazing Journeys once again to help you indulge in your wanderlust.

Wishing you good health and comfort in the coming weeks,

Malori and the Team at Amazing Journeys