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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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We Show You the World and You Mean the World to Us

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

by Michele

Vacations That Change Your Life, originally, a tagline when created, was with the thought that the travel experience alone would be what changed your life.  What we have come to understand and have witnessed for decades, is that in addition to that, our journeys are changing your personal life here at home as well.


As we are now spending time at home and riding this wave together, we have felt the strength of our Amazing Journeys family.  Since we first received the “shelter in place” orders, one of our top priorities was to continue to share the power of positivity and what better way than to continue our time together even if for now it is virtually. Trivia, Lunch and Learn, Ice Cream Social, Happy Hour, Art Gallery Crawl, Shabbat and the list goes on.  We have even seen new faces online who we can virtually welcome into our AJ family until we can welcome them in person somewhere in the world.

I know from hundreds of calls I have had over the years, no one ever truly expects how their life will change when traveling with a group of AJers. Oftentimes, I find myself telling the first-time caller that I am personally still in touch and friends with several from our very first trip in 1993. We form special bonds and they have changed my life and I know have impacted many others.

After speaking with one of our newer AJ friends recently, he said something very poignant as before he traveled with us, he really didn’t know what to expect.  His personal observation was there have been some wonderful “unintended consequences”!  He thought he was just signing up for a tour but what he came back with was new friends that enhanced his world.  Looking back on many conversations from the last 20+ years, we hear all of the time:
…I met my best friend on my trip.
…All of my fellow Broadway goers I met through AJ.
…So many that celebrated my milestone birthday were my friends from AJ
…Going through a challenging time, when I looked around, I realized most
were my travel friends from AJ.


As we navigate these uncharted waters, I have learned now more than ever, there is so much to be thankful for.  Although we show you the world, we want you to know that you mean the world to us and also to each other.


Please feel free to share with us one moment or friendship that has changed your life as we would love to hear from you and be thankful together!

The Wandering Jew

Friday, August 28th, 2020

by Malori

Traveling around the world, I’m so fortunate that I get to see a plethora of amazing sights. And the experience that I hold close to my heart is sharing our Jewish heritage with our travelers in faraway lands throughout the world. Whether joining a local community for Shabbat services, creating our own community for holiday observances or bringing back prayer to a synagogue that hasn’t seen Jewish life for years, or sharing the Hora with those who may not have ever experienced it, these are the moments treasured by myself and our groups alike.

We have had the good fortune to see many of Europe’s Synagogues. The largest and most magnificent I’ve experienced is Budapest’s Dohany Street Synagogue. Built in the mid-19th century, the architectural style is Moorish Revival and is truly remarkable.  With seating for 3,000 participants in its main sanctuary, it also houses a museum, a graveyard, and sits on the site of Theodore Herzl’s home. But in addition to the glorious interior, it’s the experiences one has that is the most memorable,  Being brought up to the bima and away from the crowds of visitors, we pre-arranged the opportunity of having their world famous Cantor lead us in prayers, together as an Amazing Journeys community.  Our voices rang to the top rafters of this massive interior structure.  Just outside the doors to the most beautiful synagogue in the world, we were taken to the site where thousands of Jews were murdered during the 1930’s and 40’s.  Anyone who has been to Budapest will have vivid memories of the stories of the atrocities that happened along the river dividing Buda and Pest and elsewhere in the city.

While most of our Jewish experiences are pre-planned by our Amazing Journeys team, some are bashert or, just happens because they are meant to be. When headed to the Azores, a remote group of islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 930 miles off the coast of Portugal and 2400 miles off the US coast, I received a call from a would-be traveler.  She said her dad was on a business trip a few years prior, along with a business associate, a Catholic woman who was born in the Azores. They asked about a run-down building they saw while walking down the street and were told it was a hidden synagogue from the 1800’s.  For over 30 years, the two had decided to raise money to restore the synagogue, and took trips to Ponta Delagada on the island of San Miguel until they had restored the Sahar Hassamain Synagogue into its original look.  They also created a museum and included details of Jewish life in Ponte Delgada. Upon hearing the story, we wanted to take our group to visit as well as have Shabbat services there.  In advance of our Amazing Journeys visit, we asked employees at the museum, those running the fundraising organizations and were told it was a museum and was not used as a synagogue for nearly 60 years. We asked different times and in different ways, and still the answer was no.  We arrived in the Azores, visited the museum as part of our tour and later, at the end of our day of touring, I mentioned to the guide we had been hoping to have our Shabbat services inside the synagogue.  She said, “why not?”  I told her we had already had a long line of “no’s” from everyone we spoke to and she said, “I work for the Mayor… I can make it happen.  Give me until tomorrow (Friday)… I am certain I can get this approved.”  Sure enough, she did and we kept our secret from the group.  Later that evening, I asked everyone to meet in the hotel lobby so we could have Shabbat services together, followed by dinner.  We walked the 4 blocks to the synagogue and had a private service in this 130 year old space.  We all realized the specialness of this experience, and that we were bringing voices of prayer to these walls that had not heard songs for decades.  Many of us cried.

Sometimes synagogues appear in the most random of places, nevertheless, they are houses of prayer.  Cochin, India was once known as ‘Jew Town’ because they were located along the Spice Route and had many Jewish families who settled there.  Cochin is filled with many synagogues, some being currently brought to their original beauty as houses of worship by congregations in the US and other countries who want our Jewish history not to be lost forever. We visited several synagogues in the once bustling area.  My favorite was one synagogue visit where we had to pass alongside of several aquariums filled with fish to reach the entrance of the synagogue.  Not very fitting for a house of worship, it reminded me that having a defined prayer space is a gift.  People in different parts of the world will make sacrifices so that they can pray as Jews.  While in Cochin, we met Sarah Cohen, the last Jew in Jew Town.  We spoke to Sarah, then in her 90’s, who still produced handmade challah covers.  Sarah recently passed away at the age of 95, leaving the former Jew Town devoid of Jews.

We have celebrated Shabbat in synagogues in Cuba where in Havana there are still two shuls, and as always, there is the one you “don’t go to.”   We have prayed with 400 visitors and Jewish business people living in the area in Shanghai, China and said prayers in a tiny underground hidden shul at Auschwitz in Poland.

 

One of the most sobering was in Linz, Austria where we had Shabbat services at The Linz Synagogue.  This meaningful symbol of our Jewish religion and our heritage sits just one block away from the balcony where Hitler gave one of his earlier hate speeches.  On the tiny balcony in front of the Rathaus in the main square in Linz, Hitler proclaimed the Greater German Reich on May 12, 1938.  He called Linz “my home.”  It was so important that here, we came together to pray as one.  This reconstructed Synagogue was both architecturally meaningful and hauntingly spiritual. Our voices during services were loud and proud as we aimed them to reach the heavens.

Whether one is Jewish or not, most likely a Jewish wedding is associated with dancing the Hora to Hava Negela.  On our travels, we have created the fun and fervor of the hora in many spaces and places on earth, including the most remote spots imaginable. We taught a local dance troupe in Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal in an archipelago comprising four islands off the northwest coast of Africa, to dance the hora.  Even more remote, our Amazing Journeys travelers to Antarctica did an impromptu singing of Hava Negila around an Israeli flag, after doing the Shehecheyanu blessing, a common Jewish prayer to celebrate special occasions. On a recent trip to Tanzania, we met the Hadzabe people, an isolated tribe who still hunt for their meals with poison arrows and spears. They live under bushes and move about Tanzania, following the game. Here, after this tribe taught us their dance, we showed them ours!  Although we couldn’t communicate through verbal language as they still use the “click language,” the language of dance was our connection. Although we weren’t 100% sure our movements would translate favorably, we’re still here to talk about it!

In India, just outside of Varanasi, the holiest city in all of India, we celebrated Tu’ BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees.  I asked our guide to provide me with a space under a tree, so that we could say some prayers and experience this holiday. He was proud to bring us to the Bodhi tree where Buddha was enlightened. Nearby, we found a tree we could sit under as a group and celebrate Tu’ BiShvat.

Sometimes it’s the remoteness and serenity of nature that connects us most to God. In my favorite spot on the planet, our heli-hiking lodge in the Bugaboo Mountains in eastern British Columbia, Canada, our group celebrated Shabbat with a setting filled with glaciers, mountains and granite spires. It’s the most majestic backdrop to a memorable Shabbat.  Equally so, perhaps my favorite Shabbat ever was facing Uluru, formally known as Ayers Rock, in the Outback of Australia.  Here, we perched ourselves on a large, red rock, indicative of the landscape of this desert area, complete with challah, wine and candles as I led the group through Shabbat services. As the sun set and the colors of Uluru changed with the changing sunlight, surrounded by our Amazing Journeys community in song and prayer, it brought us to tears.

Of all the exploration we do on our Amazing Journeys, it’s our visits to explore our Jewish heritage, see synagogues and visiting Jewish communities throughout the world, and  it’s the Jewish celebrations in which we participate that are always the most memorable part of the trip and our travelers remember for years to come.

What Happens When Tourism Stops

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

by Malori


Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and is included on any list of the Top 10 Employers globally.  It’s hard to fathom just how large this industry is until you begin to break down the numbers.  In 2019, travel and tourism directly contributed nearly 3 trillion dollars to the GDP.  And in the US, it was the largest contributor to the GDP with a total of over 580 billion US dollars last year. Tourism employs 330 million worldwide.  Sometimes these numbers can be difficult to understand until we break it down further.

Tourism is on the brink of disaster.  Tour guides we have been working with for years in India, Africa, China and Vietnam and have developed friendships with are looking outside of tourism for other work.  Imagine, when we visit Tanzania and hire a Masai Mara guide, the ones we love to jump with and who takes us into their dung huts to show us life on the Mara– this one-day guided experience will feed 10 others in his community with this one encounter.  We recently visited Thailand.  The absence of visitors can change the life of vendors who are on the streets with their food carts, t-shirt sellers, elephant sanctuary workers and tuk-tuk drivers who cannot see their way to bringing home payment so their family can survive another day.  The Moroccan carpet sellers, the mustache-festooned doormen at our hotels in India, our Jewish tour guides in Rome, the jovial bartenders on your last cruise, the ferry captain in the fjords of New Zealand, hiking guides, olive oil tastings in Greece… it all shuts down.  Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the Vice President of a major worldwide hotel chain who told me 50% of his hotels will shut down in Europe next month… and they currently have occupancy rates in the single digits. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of people will be out of work in that scenario? Only a handful of cruise ships are sailing.  That’s another 1.1 million out of work employees from around the world. Add to that, it is expected that 50% of the more than 60,000 travel agencies just in the US will be out of business by September.  When tourism stops in its tracks, the ability of millions of people to put food in their mouths stops, too.

As the Chief Amazement Officer at Amazing Journeys, I take my job very seriously.  Because I know that not only am I crafting tours that include highlights within each destination we visit, I am also taking care of the locals… small business owners who can provide experiential memories, sure to make your trip that much more enjoyable, while feeding their local community at the same time.  Whether it’s a surprise tuk-tuk ride to see the sun set over the Taj Mahal, a food tasting tour, shopping at the local market before attending our cooking school in Vietnam, wine tasting in Israel, tasting whiskey in Ireland and scotch in Scotland… it’s all part of putting money into the local economies and more specifically, the individuals who are feeding several members of their community.

At Amazing Journeys, not only do we take great pride in creating a tour that you will remember for the rest of your life, we also take seriously our responsibility to take care of those who take care of us.  And we do this by generating opportunities for local populations.  We know that tourism is a force for good. Those of us working in tourism and those who travel… we are all in this together – we are one community.

Travel and Animal Welfare

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

English as a Second Language

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

by Erin

As I stand here in the Fumicino (Rome) airport, awaiting my transfer to the ship, I am spending my time by observing the Information Desk.  People are coming and going from all over the world and no matter what language they speak at home, 95% are coming to the desk with questions in English. It may be broken, not perfectly grammatical or involve a lot of directionary hand gestures, but everyone knows to try to start the conversation with the Italian Information Desk man in English.

We sometimes take for granted how lucky we are that our native tongue is spoken so freely throughout the world. In many countries, English is thought from a young age so no matter who you talk to, you can at least have the semblance of a conversation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking down the street in a foreign country and kids hear us speaking English so they come out to say “hi” and are excited to practice their English with us.

We are often ignorant to others languages and customs, assuming instead, that others should bend to meet us where we are, but the beauty of international travel is that you get to learn new customs, meet people who are different from you and push your comfort zone.

So while my go-to language is English, I try to learn a few key words or phrases of whatever country I am traveling to, so at least the locals will know that I am trying – which is often met with a smile and a response back to me in English. 

Malori’s Top 10 List for Scenic Beauty

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

by Malori 

Everyone’s got a top 10 list: TripAdvisor, 1,000 Things to See Before You Die, Conde Nast Traveler, The New York Times, Viator…  I’ve decided to create my own. Having escorted groups to 7 continents, traveled to 130 countries, sailed on 126 cruises, and visited 38 US states, I consider myself to be well qualified for this task.

Today I want to share: Malori’s Top 10 List for Scenic Beauty (OK, I had to go with 12)

There are so many amazing places on this earth that are so beautiful, being in any one of them actually takes my breath away.  I have been so fortunate to have had several such experiences.  And let’s face it, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we may all have different places that excite and inspire us.  For me, it’s where the snow covered mountains meet a body of water, be it a sea, a lake an ocean or a river. 

With many places, an entire region or even most of the country is so spectacular, it would win a top spot on my list, but I went with the more specific destination, just in case you should decide to visit… I promise, it’ll be so worth it!

  1. Canadian Rockies (Banff, Lake Louise), Alberta, Canada

  2. Queenstown, New Zealand

  3. Jokulsarlon Beach and Lagoon (also known as Diamond Beach), Iceland

  4. Inside Passage, Alaska

  5. Lake Tahoe, CA

  6. Vail, Colorado

  7. Jungfrau, Switzerland

  8. Flam, Norway

  9. Antarctica

  10. Glacier Alley, Chilean Fjords, Chile

  11. El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

  12. Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

 

If you can get to any one of these magical spots on earth, consider yourself lucky.  More than one, consider yourself blessed.  I’ll be back with a new list in the coming weeks!  

Strike a pose

Thursday, May 9th, 2019
by Erin


If you’re looking for your next amazing social media picture, look no further than South America! Imagine the reactions from your friends and family when they see a picture of you waddling with penguins or hiking through a bog.


The pictures we share on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are indicative of the persona that you choose to portray.  Whether you surround yourself with gorgeous scenery, hop in with a group of locals, strike a silly pose or showcase your meal, everyone takes different pictures.


South America offers such a wide variety of landscapes, animals, architecture and culture that you will be posting your experience and met with awe and jealousy.    

We are so excited to be going back to South America and absolutely love the itinerary that showcases Argentina, Uruguay and Chile as well as destinations like the Chilean Fjords and Strait of Magellan. Celebrating New Year’s at sea is one of our favorite activities and going back to Easter Island to visit the Moai statues is amazing!

So if you’re ready to snap a few selfies, share with your social network and show off your amazing journey, come join us in South America!

South America trip details can be found by clicking here.

 

Our Bucket List

Monday, March 11th, 2019

We are lucky to have the opportunity to go to amazing destinations as part of our job, but get asked all the time, “where do you want to go next”?  Just like you, we each have our own personal bucket list that we keep adding to.  So what is at the top of each of our lists?

Malori: Antelope Canyon, Arizona. Those who know me know I love to be outdoors and I love to hike.  I get inspired by nature and the visual beauty of Antelope Canyon makes me want to jump right in and explore!

Courtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism

Erin:  There are so many places I want to go, but I really want to go to Peru.  I would love to push myself to do the Inca Trail, ending the 4 day hike with the incredible views of Machu Picchu!


Michele:
I can’t wait to go to the Canadian Rockies.  I love the majestic beauty and being able to be surrounded by nature. The colors are just amazing and you get different scenery at every turn.

Stacey: I’d love to spend more time in Thailand. I can’t get over all of the gorgeous wats (temples)!  Combine that with green countryside, a plethora of beautiful Buddhas and delicious food, I’d love to immerse myself into the culture and country of Thailand.

We want to know what’s at the top of your bucket list, too!  We may already be planning a trip there for you to get excited about and we are always open to your suggestions to plan upcoming adventures!

Find Your Balance

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

by Malori


If travel provides a respite from daily responsibilities, then nature re-balances the soul. Spending time in the outdoors is uplifting and provides an energy seldom found in day-to-day life. Having just returned from a trekking adventure in Argentina, the goal I set was to create a special opportunity where we could explore the beauty of the land as well as some self discovery along the way.

After gathering the group in Buenos Aries and learning a bit about several of the neighborhoods that make up this energetic city, the next morning we got on a plane and headed south – three and a half hours south – to the bottom of the globe. We landed in El Calafate where the sun was bright in the sky for long hours each day and didn’t set until 11:00 pm. After all, it’s summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow covered mountains, glaciers and lakes filled with flamingos were but a few of the many surprises awaiting us.


We spent our time in this amazing region visiting the Estancia Christina, reachable only by a 3 hour boat ride, passing icebergs and glaciers and highlighted by a pristine turquoise blue (we call it “amazing” blue) moraine lake. It truly took our breath away. The next day we were treated to the Pertido Moraino Glacier where we stood under absolute perfectly blue skies (a rarity here) and watched as this spectacular glacier calved, losing large chunks, the size of buildings. I call this “natures fireworks” and as we stood silently waiting, we’d hear a thunderous roar and then gaze giddily as we heard the cracking as we experienced parts of the glacier crashing into the water. We all clapped as if seeing a live theater performance. Although this glacier is neither shrinking nor expanding, this is the normal growth cycle of a glacier. We were happy to know that it was not a shrinking glacier as so many of the earths glaciers are. We hiked the trails from below and above with a picnic lunch along the way, and happily enjoyed the views from each angle.

With a three hour drive across the beautiful and stark Patagonian landscape, seeing little else but guanacos along the way (a cousin of the llama), we arrived in the trekkers town of El Chalten. It was here we experienced the heart and soul of our adventure and our most challenging trekking of our entire journey. Over the next three days, we embarked three different hikes within Los Glaciares National Park. On our arrival day, we set out into a beautiful landscape enveloped by meandering rivers, snow capped mountains and several different rock types including red rocks, granite, sandstone and basalt, a combination generally not found together. The windswept valleys were covered with clouds that have formations unlike those we had ever seen anywhere. Most were long flowing cloud formations in the shape of ribbons across the big sky. Others were wispy yet round taking on the shape of a spaceship. Under these skies, our journey began. We walked six miles through and beside the mountain valley to a waterfall. It was really lovely.


The next day was our most demanding. We set out early in the morning for our 11-13 mile trek. Backpacks filled with water, layers of clothing and snacks, our walking sticks in hand and hiking boots laced, we began our walk on the Fitz Roy Footbath to the Glacier of the Three, one of the most breathtaking hikes in the world.  Those who wanted the longer hike were challenged not only with an additional two miles of trekking, but going nearly straight up the side of the mountain, climbing 1,200 feet in only half of mile.  That means on the way down, heading nearly straight down.  The view from the top was amazing and described by one of our passengers upon reaching the summit, “it was as if a curtain opened and the most incredible scenery on earth stood before us.”


The following day we were supposed to climb another 10 – 12 miles, but the unpredictable Patagonian winds and rain were starting to form so on this day, some of the group walked six miles while others did about eight.

It wouldn’t have been an adventure in Argentina without a visit to the wine growing region of Mendoza where Malbec wines are produced. Winding our way through the vineyards at the base of the Andes Mountain which form the border between Chile and Argentina, we visited three different wineries, tasting 12 different wines.  By the end of the day, we couldn’t tell which wine was which, but then again, it didn’t matter much.  Our wine pairing lunch was an amazing combination of gourmet food, freshly baked breads and desserts that were as tasty as they were spectacular to look at.  This was paired with a late-harvest dessert wine.


Finally, our last stop brought us back to nature where we visited one of my favorite spots on earth, Iguaçu Falls.  Imagine you’re at the center of an IMAX movie, and you are surrounded by water on all sides – and above you, and below you, and you hear the sound of the rushing water all around you – that’s the feeling you get in Iguaçu Falls. Visiting both the Brazilian and the Argentinean side of the falls, you get the full scope of just how massive these 275 waterfalls are, and how in touch with nature you are at that moment in time.  The feeling stays with you for a lifetime and the memories never fade.  Iguaçu Falls touches you in a way few places can.

I recommend treating yourself to a getaway in nature.  Reset your mind. Invigorate your body. Balance your soul.  And then be thankful for all the treasures we have on this earth.

Getting Excited to Hike the Inca Trail

Monday, March 31st, 2014

-by Stacey

peru inca trail tents

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest here. I’ve never been camping. Well that’s not entirely true – one time I camped out in a tent in our living room, and one time I camped in the woods behind my friend’s house in Maine. Do those count? Maybe. Okay, probably not.

So why not make my first time really camping absolutely stellar? That’s right, I will be camping for 3 nights on the Inca Trail in Peru during our 4-day trek to the top of Machu Picchu. This is a Bucket List trip. It’s one that not many people get to do in their lifetime, and I have the opportunity to escort our group of Young Adventurers on what’s sure to be a trip of a lifetime for them as well as for myself.

inca trail peru group

What am I most looking forward to for this group? This is a tricky trip to plan – obtaining Inca Trail permits, getting intra-Peruvian flights, coordinating porters and cooks to climb with us, making sure we have all of the right equipment – I love the fact that when we’ve coordinated all of the details, those on our trip can just sit back, relax, hike a lot, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Since this is a small group with a maximum group size of 15, everyone is going to have this amazingly unique shared experience. From a bike tour around Lima to enjoying Pisco sours in Cuzco and camping on the Inca Trail, this is going to be an experience to remember forever.

peru main 5As if that wasn’t enough. I’m doing it again! But this time we’re going to take it a little easier. The day after I finish with the active group, I begin again! This time, we will be staying in hotels every night (phew!). This trip is going to have the same highlights but with a totally different feel. We will be staying at local hotel properties throughout Peru, filled with activities each day and enjoying the nightlife, and the highlight of the journey, seeing that amazing view when we hike to the top of the Inca Trail and set our eyes on Maccu Picchu for the first time.

I can’t wait to meet the local people, see their amazing textiles, taste the food (and drinks), get our hike on, and breath the fresh – albeit much thinner – air.

Peru, here we come!