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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.


Summer Vacations

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Summers and vacations go hand-in-hand.  Growing up, most of us had the good fortune to be taken by our parents on a family vacation.  Whether we went to the beach, a resort, on a European tour, enjoyed a cottage in the mountains, or to visit relatives, these experiences have engrained themselves in our minds as some of the happiest of times in our lives.

Summer is the busiest time of year at Amazing Journeys because people equate summer with travel.  We have more travel opportunities packed into a few short months than at any other time of the year.  Folks always ask us, “Where do you go when you vacation?”  “When do you have time to get away?”  Well, the staff at Amazing Journeys, along with planning your summer vacations, is taking some time off to enjoy some of our favorite destinations.

Malori and Barry are back at Hershey, Pennsylvania for the 25th consecutive year.  Barry has a conference there each year, and Malori uses these three days to enjoy the surroundings of the landscape as well as the features of the resort.  With the exception of the past two years, it was always a family vacation, and all of the kids had been here to share in the experience. Barry sits in a conference room listening to a lecture, while the rest of the family gorged on chocolate and enjoyed Hershey Park, the amusement park across the street from our hotel.

Only a four-hour drive from Pittsburgh (only three from New York City and two from Washington DC), The Hotel Hershey is a gem.  An older hotel, it has the grace and style of a Mediterranean villa, with all of the modern features of a 21st century resort.  Some of the hotel features include Jazz on the Veranda on Friday nights, The Circular Dining Room which is a beautiful restaurant overlooking formal gardens and fountains, The Hershey Spa, complete with “chocolate massages, ” a pool with water slides alongside a quiet, adult section and my favorite, a BBQ picnic dinner on the lawn with s’mores for dessert!  There is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate here.  From the Hershey bar each guest is presented upon check in at the front desk, to lots of Hershey Kisses on the bed each night, to Dove candies for the taking in all of the restaurants and gift shops, chocolate soup, chocolate bread and chocolate butter served in the restaurant, chocolate martinis in the bar and to the smell of chocolate permeating the air from the nearby Hershey’s Chocolate factory.  This is truly the sweetest place on earth!

In addition to the hotel itself, we have visited the surrounding area and always taken one afternoon of our stay to enjoy nearby activities.   Historical Gettysburg is just down the road, 30 miles away.  We have taken the kids to Amish Country in nearby Lancaster and cute little towns along the way such as Intercourse, PA.  Philly is only an hour and a half from here and provided lots of history lessons.  We have been to a pretzel factory and Indian Cavern Caves.   This place offers so many eye-opening opportunities and is so close to home.

Further afield, Bill is spending his summer vacation on a cruise to Alaska, his little slice of heaven and his favorite spot on earth.  This, his 13th visit to this magical land, he is seeing it without a group in tow.  Although we love showing our groups “Our Alaska,” how fun is it to visit a place you love with no schedule?   He has no place to be at any given time, no planned activities to carry out.  Plus, he is able to experience some new and amazing excursions, hoping to discover something that will be a fun and fabulous experience we can share with our Amazing Journeys passengers on future trips to Alaska.

Michele will spend her summer vacation at the beach with her family and some friends.  Who doesn’t love a beach vacation?  A familiar surrounding, her family loves the beach for the relaxed atmosphere it provides.  Sitting in the warm sunshine, listening to the crashing waves on the sand, and playing in the water provides fun for the entire family.  Nights are spent laughing and talking with the people you care most about in your life, while catching up with good friends who you only get to see only once a year.

Sometimes, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a taste of summer.  A vacation can be anywhere you don’t have the day-to-day responsibilities of work, home or taking care of others.  Once you step out of your daily grind, and away from opening mail, emails and taking phone calls,  your vacation has begun.

We look forward to hearing about your summer vacation plans, and hope that whatever you do this summer, that it’s amazing!

The New York Times Top 10 Places To Go This Year

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Wanna get away?  Whether you’re a world adventurer or feel safer and more content staying closer to home, the world–or the United States–is your oyster.  The New York Times recently issued their Top places to see and you might be surprised that while several are exotic and requiring great traveling distance (as they say, ‘the greatest treasures are the one’s longest sought’), some are closer than you think.  I’ve added an eleventh – my personal favorite and always a Top Place to visit….even more than once.  (I’m actually headed there for the 14th time later this week…)

#1  Santiago, Chile:   Less than a year after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Chile, its capital, Santiago, has largely recovered, the economy continues to grow, and tourism is in an upswing.

#2   San Juan Islands, Washington State:  what brings tourists out are the landscapes. On islands from Shaw to Decatur, pastoral hills give way to broody forests and scrappy escarpments that overlook fjordlike inlets. Areas are protected from logging or unruly development, and in turn provide fresh terrain for the public to explore.

#3   Koh Samui, Thailand:  A toned-down version of Phuket, heavy on wellness and food Koh Samui is Thailand’s third-largest island. But the 95-square-mile tropical gem in the southern Gulf of Thailand, whose white sand beaches, abundant coral reefs and seas of palm trees were once a backpackers’ secret, has emerged as the stylish luxury alternative to crowded Phuket.

#4  Iceland:  Where a country’s hardships are a visitor’s gain, Iceland’s economic crash has had an upside, at least for tourists. After the devaluation of the krona that followed the country’s 2008 financial crisis, the breathtakingly beautiful island is a lot more affordable. While traditionally a must-see for nature tourists — who come for thermal springs, glaciers, volcanic landscapes and the Northern Lights — Iceland is now emerging as a cultural phenom.

#5  Milan, Italy: A reborn cathedral joins fashion-forward galleries and hotels. Compared with the Italian troika of tourism — Florence, Venice and Rome — Milan is often an afterthought. But with novel, eye-catching design emerging around the city, that should soon change as the city’s collection of 20th-century art is now showcased at the Museo del Novecento, which opened in December in the restored Palazzo dell’Arengario…plus, outside the historic center former factories have been transformed into design studios, old warehouses have been repurposed as unconventional art venues, and galleries are packed with avant-garde works.

#6 Republic of Georgia:  Ski buffs don’t usually think of Soviet Georgia when planning their next backcountry outing. But ambitious plans in the Caucasus are trying to change that fast. Tucked between the Black and Caspian seas and smattered with mountains, Georgia has the kind of terrain adventurous skiers yearn for: peaks reaching 16,000 feet, deep valleys and largely untouched slopes.

#7  London:  There is never a bad time to go to London, but this year may be better than most: the 2012 Summer Olympic Games has prompted the construction of 12,000 hotel rooms, and several hotels that have been around for a while are burnishing their appeal with notable new restaurants. (NOTE: Join Amazing Journeys in August for our Jewish Singles Cruise from London through the British Isles)

#8:  Loreto, Mexico:  Long known for sport fishing, Loreto, on Baja California Sur’s eastern coast, is poised to become one of Mexico’s next luxury destinations.  Recently, Villa Group Resorts, one of Mexico’s largest privately owned hotel groups, opened a $60 million Villa del Palmar resort with three restaurants, a 20,000-square-foot turtle-shaped pool and 150 suites from $250 to $1,500 a night. The resort is the first phase of an 1,800-acre development, Danzante Ba. It will add seven resort hotels, restaurants and a Rees Jones golf course.

#9  Park City, Utah:  Many film aficionados have been lured to Park City for the annual Sundance festival, missing the slopes entirely, which is a shame. This year, new hotels, expanded terrain and events at area ski resorts make on-mountain exploration imperative.

#10  Cali, Colombia: Cafe culture is on the rise while salsa fuels the night life; Cali has always felt like the grittier stepsister of Medellín, but tucked amid the colonial homes of the barrios of San Antonio or Granada are a number of new jewelry boutiques, low-key cafes and salsotecas teeming with crowds as sexy as any in South America.

#11: Alaska:  Few places on earth conjure up a better collection of natural beauty, peace on earth, adventure for any level, unpredictable arrays of wildlife, majestic mountains, uncharted territory, imposing glaciers and a culture that reigns more with the land it inhabits, than the people who govern. Its a place you have to see to believe…but where you have to experience again and again to quench your yearning for more.

Cruise Ships in Brooklyn Going Green – Plugs In on Shore

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


The mighty Queen Mary 2 will no longer be belching diesel fumes over Red Hook when it docks at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal next year. Instead, the cruise ship will shut its engines and plug into a giant electrical outlet built especially for the port.

After about two years of negotiations, the Bloomberg administration announced recently a multiagency agreement to supply cruise ships with “shore power,” The Brooklyn terminal will become the first on the East Coast to adopt the cleaner technology.


Advocates for the environment, who have staged protests and lobbied since 2006, hope the pending agreement will rid the waterfront community of a veil of haze and what they contend are associated health risks.


There has been little controversy about the merits of reducing pollution, mostly sulphuric gases, from cruise ships idling in port.  The debate raged, however, over who should foot the bill. Electricity for a 3,000-passenger cruise ship the size of four football fields was not exactly on the rate card for the NYC Power Authority, which provides power for the cruise terminal.  But ultimately, the city, state and private sector came to a tentative agreement. and the Economic Development Corp  agreed to subsidize some of the cost of the power, as did the power authority.


Under the five-year agreement, Carnival Cruise Lines, which owns the Queen Mary 2, will pay 12 cents per kilowatt hour, while the city economic agency and the power authority will divide the remaining 16 cents, according to one official with knowledge of the deal.  Carnival will also have to pay $4 million to retrofit its two ships that use the port the Queen Mary 2 and the Caribbean Princess. The two ships dock in Brooklyn a total of 40 times a year.


For the cruise line, the deal may cost about $1.7 million more than using the diesel generators that now operate at the port. But the company has already embraced the technology, introducing it 10 years ago in Juneau, Alaska.  Electrical power is now used at cruise terminals in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego and Los Angeles.


A large cruise ship burning diesel emits more than 1,600 tons of air pollutants annually, according to an environmental impact study conducted as part of the project to switch from diesel to electricity.  Plugging in to an alternative hydroelectric source would eliminate nearly 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of diesel particulate matter annually.  Just from the shore powering of these two ships, it will be the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars per year from the road.”



Amazing Journeys on KTUU-TV in Anchorage, AK

Monday, March 14th, 2011

During our recent Amazing Journeys Winter Alaska tour, we took part in a remarkable experience in the small remote town of Chena.  Two days and two nights were spent in the wilderness as we swam in the natural hot springs, snow mobiled, went dog sledding,  and gazed at the amazing Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) under spectacular startlit skies.  Sure it was cold (minus 35 to be exact), but that is what brought the experience to the highest level of uniqueness; once-in-a-lifetime to the truest form. 

Ask anyone of our 25 passengers and they will tell you, it was beyond words.  This kind of experience can only be enjoyed and experienced…not just explained.

As true testimony to the very special place of Chena and our memorable experiences, you are invited to watch this video clip, filmed by KTUU-TV from Anchorage as they feature this destination…and Amazing Journeys’ experience:

Memoirs of an Alaska Sled Dog – Winter 2011

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

It was Sunday, February 7th and I was perched on my doghouse in Chena, Alaska.  Among the dozens of other tail-wagging, tongue-panting, treat-seeking, barking mongrels hanging out in the bright sunlight of a frigid wintry afternoon….there I was, waiting my turn.  As I scanned the collection of wooden dog houses and all my furry friends hovering around, each and every set of K9 eyes looked at each and every set of homo sapiens, expressing to the extent by which dogs can express, “Pick me! Pick me!”

I was born the offspring of  lab/shepherd mix and a teenage mutant ninga hound.  Some kind of every dog species was somewhere in my DNA, making me a wonderful mix of strength, endurance, and appetite. Because I’ve been crissed and cross breeded and with the best of the best, I am a devoted and loving pup – eager to please my human friends by running fast, playing nice and looking so darned cute for all those tourists who come visit me every day.

Usually these visits are a collection of ooohs’ and awwww’s with a little rub here and a little pat there…here an ooooh, there an awwwww…everywhere a pat pat.  But today….something different happened.  I woke up along with my litter of friends, just a little happier and excited to start the day. Just a little more eager to please.  Just a little more full of anticipation. 

 I soon found out why.

 Amazing Journeys was coming!!

At precisely 11am the first group showed up and the “Pick me, Pick me” looks and barks started emitting from every dog house on the block.  I wasn’t picked…but that was ok because that meant that I could watch all the fun and host a visitor or two to my pen.  I had prepared my doghouse for visitors early that day by peeing on each and every corner of my dwelling.  I even laid a dump on the back wall just so everything would be perfect.  While that first group giddy-upped into the wilderness with Cecil, Hansel, Moonshine,  Stevie, Lucy, Buster and Chester….the next group of humans came to play.

Wobbling up the road like abominable snowmen, they marched.  I don’t mean to sound crass but as I lay around town in my winter fur—and just my winter fur—these city folk were bundled up more tightly than a set of tefillin on the arm of a chasidic rabbi. I overheard a couple of them “bragging” about how many layers they had on.  One lady had—get this—long underwear, short underwear, two t-shirts, thermal socks, a sweater, a vest, a fleece, a scarf, ear muffs, a hat, a hood…and something they kept calling a baklava.  Us four-legged creatures had a good howl later in the day with all the kinfolk. Hellooooo,…look at us; one layer and happy as a clam.

While my comrades ran I had the day off to play with the humans.  I got ear massages, tummy rubs, and back scratches for two straight hours…and then I got to have lunch and take a nap. All without ever leaving my home. 

My next door neighbor, Baily told me a great story about this Amazing Journeys group from the day before.  See, we have eyes and ears…and noses all around this great land of Alaska. While this group called Amazing Journeys was chugging around on snow mobiles we were howling at their adventures.  Poor Master Pete who had to lead the way for them was beside himself with worry and concern.  Pete, who could sing to the Aurora Borealis, couldn’t snow mobile bad enough with this group to make him look good.  One person gave up mid-ride and had to be snow lifted home….one girl steered her snow machine off the side of a trail into an 8 foot bank and had to hauled upright thankfully unharmed.

 THEN, there was the woman they call Annie.  I’ve never heard our commands used for humans, but suddenly it was “Come Hau Annie…Come Hau”.  We don’t know what really happened, but Rusty, who has his nose in everyone’s crotch seems to think she took a wrong turn somewhere in the wilderness and had to walk back when no one noticed she was missing.

Meanwhile, this group just loved our small town of Chena and all the activities they could play.  More ooohs’ and awww’s as they treated themselves to the hot springs, drank martini’s in our famous ice museum, rocked & rolled in the snow coaches for sunset views atop the mountain… and gazed endlessly at the night sky for the northern lights.

 When it was time for this group to go, it felt like loading up a carload of us pups to head to the vet.  No one wanted to go.  But, they were on a quest for the best day of the trip so far, so off they went. 

I heard from my cousins Big Boy and Sunny Girl that AJ stopped by to see their Master Mary Shields and her brood.  What a special place with a special lady; she’s the first woman ever to have finished the world renowned Iditarod Sled Dog Race. I’m told that Mary treats her family of dogs abundantly special and that her loved ones are some of the happiest healthiest dogs in Alaska.  I hear from Big Boy that she bakes her own dog treats for the family….along with a mean chowder and the sweetest brownies for the guests.   I’m told that Mary loves to tell her stories and that the humans love to hear them.  Some of my ancestors are mentioned in her stories and I’m proud to say that I am an Alaskan Sled Dog because of them. 

One of my great great uncles was honored this year at the World Ice Carving Competition.  The ice artists from Norway incorporated my Uncle Rico into one of their sculptures.  I understand that this ice festival is a sight to behold with dazzling sculptures, interactive designs and spectacular artistry.

My butt-sniffing friend Misty went to the festival last year with her owner Miss Melinda and gave the ice festival a perfect 5 wags of the tail.  Miss Melinda is a really cool Canadian lady who raises mushing dogs; some who are noted for continuing the lineage of Balto, the most famous sled dog of all time who lead the way in 1925 delivering diphtheria antitoxin to Nome.  Balto is accredited for paving the way for what is now the famous Iditarod Race and is honored with a statue at the starting line of the Iditarod on 4th Street.

Misty told me of some crazy antics that happen on Iditarod Day. There is a huge gathering of people on 4th Street to watch the start of the race each first Saturday in March.  All the teams line up, all the mushers kiss their dogs and wave to the crowd…and then off they go into the great white north.

After the dogs take off running, so do some crazy people…side by side with reindeer!  Hey, I love a good run, but there’s no biscuit in the world that would make me run besides a crazy caribou with pointed horns coming out their heads. Dogs will be dogs…and people will be people, I guess.

Soon spring will be here and much of the ice and snow will melt.   Those crazy tourists will keep coming to Chena and Fairbanks and the rest of Alaska, but they’ll eventually start looking less like the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man.  But they WILL keep coming…and rightly so-to see the glaciers…to hike the hills…to watch the whales…to fish the salmon… and to escape the crazy world from which they came. 

I’m a Sled Dog and proud to say, Alaskan.  This great land of ours is magical and mysterious.  Its laden with a sense of adventure and a lore that has to be experienced, not just explained.  I’ve been privileged to run through a few fields around the land, but the stories told by my ancestors tell a tale of unbelievable possibilities & realities that this land is famous for. We call her Mother Nature’s Showcase.  I call her home.

The Iditarod and a Winter Wonderland in Alaska

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Cameras flash and crowds cheer as the divas strut the runway clad in mini-jackets and hot-pink booties. Yet this is no walk on the red carpet. These are working sled dogs parading down Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska, for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

The jackets are for show, but the booties are functional, protecting the paws of dog teams in this grueling 1,049-mile race, which begins March 5 this year and continues for the next two weeks across the snowy Alaskan wilderness to Nome.

Though heading for a vacation in Alaska at this frosty time of year seems counterintuitive, the Iditarod is an awesome spectacle as a modern-day re-creation of the ancient alliance between human and dog against fierce elements.

Highlighting our Amazing Journeys Winter Wonderland tour of Alaska (a vacation for Jewish singles 30s-50s), we will be in Anchorage for the ceremonial start and a  lineup of festivities including The Musher’s Ball and the outdoor festival known as The Fur Rondy. Our days leading up to this true extravaganza will be chock full of outdoor adventure including snowmobiling, hiking, Aurora Borealis (AKA The Northern Lights) gazing, and dogsledding ourselves. We’ll be in Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs in the days leading up to the festivals in Anchorage (did I mention the hot springs?  Imagine…an oasis of natural hot mineral pools amongst the frozen tundra in the wilderness. Yup – that’ll be us!). Once in Anchorage beginning March 3rd, we’ll partake in all the glamour and pomp surrounding this remarkable event.  Its like Super Bowl week…only its in Alaska, and its to celebrate the sport of mushing, not football.

But I digress.

The official restart of the Iditarod is on March 6th in Willow; just a stone’s throw away from Sarah Palin’s house in Wasilla (AJ’s been there!).  Spectators can get close to the chute on frozen Willow Lake, or for those wanting an authentic checkpoint experience, one can hire an air taxi day flight or stay at a lodge along the race route.

For those with deep pockets and advance planners, the Idita-Rider program offers the best seat possible for the first 11 miles of Iditarod. Minimum bids start at $500, while $7,500 guarantees a ride in the basket in the sled of your choice.

Though it’s vital transportation for some, visitors will find the sled-dog experience sheer joy. Our Amazing Journeys tour includes several authentic mushing experiences including a visit with Mary Shields–the first woman ever to have finished the Iditarod—and her team of mushing dogs.  We’ll also hop aboard a sled and “Hike up!” the call for the dogs as we launched into the winter wonderland (using the word “mush” to a dogsled team is a misnomer. There are actual cadences used for each command of “go”, “stop”, “left” etc)

To those who think dog mushing is cruel, it is not.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  These dogs live to run. They are happiest and healthiest when they run.  They are run.  You just have to meet a mushing dog to see for yourself, but trust me because I have an affinity of love for dogs and I would be the first to share feelings otherwise.  These are special dogs, well cared for and some of the happiest breeds in all the planet.

Four time defending Iditarod champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks will be searching for his unprecedented fifth consecutive first place finish.

Not just the Iditarod: The Iditarod is the granddaddy, but you can catch a race just about any weekend through winter in Anchorage or Fairbanks.

It’s what Alaskans do.

Its what Amazing Journeys is about to do!

Hidden Secrets of the World

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The so-called “world traveler” that I am, I have been blessed to bear witness on many famous and coveted landmarks around the globe.  According to my map on facebook’s Where I’ve Been application, I have seen about 1/3 of the world. Some world traveler!  But as they say (or at least, what I’m told quite often) its not about quantity, its about quality.

Sure, I’ve seen The Great Wall of China, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Statue of David, The Egyptian Pyramids, Big Ben, Alaskan Glaciers, The Colesseum in Rome and even The Blarney Stone….but its the obscure landmarks and uncommon experiences that I have been blessed to view that I feel are true witness to being properly labeled as a world traveler:

The country of Ecuador is an aesthetic smorgasbord of sight and sound.  The mountains of the Andes not only surround this country, they emcompass it.  Imagine the rolling hills of Ireland, blended in with the jagged edges of the endless Alaskan mountain range. Villages sit on sloped mountainsides, grass and farmlands intersect with rock and cliffs….the climate is pure and the people live simple lives compared to America, yet traffic conjests the motorways like any other big city.  The equator, an imaginary symbol of what’s north and what’s south has a profound effect on Ecuador’s tourism, economy and climate.  Tourists flock to park-like settings to view a painted line and learn the effects of the gravitational pull on this side, and then on that side.  The weather, while changeable is relatively constant and comfortable given that this gravitational pull actually deflects aggrivated weather patterns.  The most amazing and well-preserved 400-year old Hacienda Pinsaqui provides historic and meaningful authentic Ecuadorian hospitality.  Of course, Ecuador is also the gateway to The Galapagos Islands.

Le Touquet, France is just a couple hours car and ferry ride from London and is a popular beach resort for French and English tourists alike.  Finding an American in Le Touquet (pronounced Leh Tookay), however would be as unlikely as a french fry being, well, made in France.  You’ve probably never heard of the town, but those Europeans who yearn for beach, sun and a resort-like lifestyle make Le Touquet a frequent summer destination or “snowbird” residence,  if not an outright year round home. Few of the locals speak english (the English who visit do speak French) so for me, it was a challenge ordering food in a restaurant or having a chat with anyone other than my traveling companions (two of whom were able to interpret).  The town is all about the beach and the ocean with almost every residence, restaurant, storefront and of course hotel having a view of the ocean if not being right on the water.


Cadaqués, Spain owes its beauty in part to its complex geology. Only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Barcelona, it is very accessible for tourists and locals who want a second home for weekends and summers. Cadaqués official population is less than 3,000 but that number skyrockets during the summer months. This small seaside town’s historic claim to fame belongs to Salvador Dalí who visited often during his childhood, and later kept a home on a bay next to the town.  Other notable artists, including Pablo Picasso also spent time here.   Cadaqués is one of the wildest winter weather spots on the Costa Brava in the winter (Costa Brava means “wild coast”),  as the coasts and cliffs are battered and eroded by the wind whipping  off the mountains.The geological history has been exposed by erosion from wind and sea, and many geologists have mapped the area for this reason.  While visiting Cadaqués I was mezmerized by the authentic Spanish feel of the past; narrow mazelike cobblestone alleys, ancient brick & mortar buildings so close to each other that you would be better off chatting with your neighbor out the window than with a telephone call…and fauna that grew from strange angles on cliffs and beachy alcoves borne from mist and relentless sea action.  Beauty and Spanish authenticity aside, my strongest memory is of visiting Salvador Dalí’s House-Museum.

Barrow, Alaska is a dull, unscenic, underdeveloped and weather-ravaged city. My day in Barrow, however, was one of the most memorable and amazement-filled days of my life. This is a place where the temperature soars above freezing less than 20 days a year; where for 120 days a year the sun rises and falls–somewhere else; where polar bears roam freely during the winter months; where a staple in the diet is whale meat; and where satellelite dishes point horizontally towards the horizon because they need to reach south as much as possible but pointing them anymore downward would have them reflecting off earth rather than space.  Barrow is the northernmost spot in all of the U.S.. and save for remote parts of Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia, it is literally ‘on top of the world’.  In the winter, average temperatures are so far below zero that you have to cover your coffee cup if you go outside because it will freeze instantly in the cup otherwise.  Our guide took us along the coast so that we could see where earth ended and the Arctic Ocean began.  Some touched the bitter cold – your’s truly joined the official and authentic Polar Bear Club with a dive into the freezing abyss. Whaling is an important part of Barrow-ian’s culture and the worship of whales is both ritualistic and essential.  Hunting is regulated and moderated to serve the purpose of feeding the community and providing oils, clothing and other elements of living in these elements.  Each whale is blessed and each whale serves every resident in some way.  Our guide took us to his home to see if his mother was there to give us a sample of their ration.  Fortunately, she was not there–only his sister–but as recompense, we got to meet the neighbor who was busy skinning his caribou for that night’s dinner.   An unusual treat was lunch at the most famous establishment in Barrow. No, it wasn’t McDonalds. It was Pepe’s Mexican fare. Interesting?  Yes  indeed.  A hidden secret?  Just one of many in this strange and wonderful world in which we live.

Which leads me to suggest this: While visiting such icons as the Opera House in Sydney, the Acropolis in Greece, or the Hermitage Museum in Russia are bucket list To-Do’s for most adventure seekers….the effort to take some time to go “beyond the borders”; to see what the masses usually don’t; and to follow the path less taken….is a fulfilling, enriching and specially memorable addition to anyone’s personal travel resume.  The true essence of meaningful travel is to see more than what the guidebooks tell us; to do more than our predessors have done.  To truly see the world beyond those borders, make it a point to go off the beaten path, to expect (no…hope for) the unexpected, and realize that traveling is more about a journey than it is about the destination.

For those who yearn for real snowy fun – Alaska’s Famed “Fur Rondy”

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the “Fur Rondy” by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 – Mar. 6. The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).

Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.

And yes, Amazing Journeys is headed there! With over 30 true adventure-seekers, we are headed to Alaska from February 26th through March 6th for a true winter experience. Festivals, dogsledding, snowmobiling, the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) and even a “reverse oasis” of sorts as we warm up at the incredbile Chena Hotsprings are all part of this awesome tour.  Even in this frozen tundra, the volcanic activity actually creates an awesome collection of steaming mineral hotsprings right in the middle of the blustery Alaskan winter.

The festival events range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).  Part of the experience will be to watch exhibitions of the Native American blanket toss, where people lifted into the air on a skin blanket–an ancient form of scouting an area for hunting. This event is actually held near the carnival—even though it will be sub zero at times, the festival includes a Ferris wheel and other outdoor rides.

Fur Rondy’s popular Reindeer Run is an Alaskan version of Pamplona, and draws crowds. Thousands will be out for the 6:45 p.m. night-time fireworks. Much of the action takes place on main downtown Anchorage streets, where there are a couple of 20-story skyscrapers and offerings like a Nordstrom’s and Starbucks. Some of those streets were purposely left unplowed in a half-foot snowfall, so, for instance, mushers could race through on their trek.

Try that in New York.

Random Fun Facts About the World

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Alaska – More than half the coastline of the entire US is in Alaska

The Amazon – The Amazon River pushes so much water into the Atlantic Ocean that hundreds of miles at sea off the mouth of the river, one can dip fresh water out of the ocean.  The volume of water in the Amazon River is greater than the next eight largest rivers in the world combined.

Antarctica – 90% of the world’s ice covers Antarctica, despite the fact that the continent is a desert receiving an average of just 2″ of precipitation a year.  Antarctica is the driest place on the planet, with absolute humidity lower than the Gobi Desert.

Brazil – The country of Brazil got its name from the nut, not the other way around

Canada – Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined.

Detroit – Woodward Avenue in Detroit, MI carries the designation M-1, so named because it was the first paved road anywhere.

Istanbul – Istanbul, Turkey is the only city in the world located on two continents.

Kansas City – The city of Kansas City is the only city in America to be divided by two states.  You could be a resident of Kansas City, Kansas and your neighbor across the street could have a different area code, different laws and a different speed limit driving up the other side of the road to their home, living in Kansas City, Missouri.

Pitcairn Island – The smallest island with country status is Pitcairn Island in Polynesia; just 1.75 sq. miles.

Sahara Desert – There is a town in the Sahara Desert named Tidikelt,  Algeria where nary a drop of rain fell for more than 10 years.

Pittsburgh, PA – Known as the “city of bridges”, Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world other than Venice, Italy.


Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

One of the greatest things about Amazing Journeys is, well..the journeys themselves.  Traveling to Alaska, Costa Rica, Australia, Europe or South America are destinations that fulfill lifelong dreams and help make us all more worldly and appreciative of other walks of life.

But a journey can be an incomplete experience  if you have no one with whom to share it.  Like a tree in the forest needs other trees to grow, prosper and evolve…so do we humans need others to share in such landmark experiences as seeing life & history in another land.  From here, friends are made.  A team of players share the thrills of competition, a couple share the birth of a child, a committee helps steer the future of a community center — these are all examples of the attachments we have to needing and desiring the company of others.  These are also examples of how friends are made.

Through Amazing Journeys, friends are made by sharing a common experience together; that of visiting another land.  Taking pictures, going on a hike, sitting with a new acqaintance on a bus ride, sharing a meal, sitting in the jacuzzi or just chatting with someone while strolling through the streets are some of the most meaningful shared life experiences, and friend-making opportunities while on a tour.  We know this premise very well as we instruct all our tour guides to not be offended if there’s chatter going on while a tour is in progress. Our groups love to chat!

But that’s the process…and the meaning behind traveling with a group.  Traveling with others brings a world of perspective, adventure and the unexpected.  It brings a potential for new friends that no other venue can offer.  The experiences that AJ-made friends share together are life changing and special.  And sometimes even matrimonial–over 100 individuals have found their soulmates on a previous Amazing Journey.

As Amazing Journeys embarks on our Reunion Weekend this Friday, we relish in the thousands of  friendships that have been made over the years along our travels.  We’ve made friends, yes, but the essense of our joy is witnessing the endless array of friendship and courtship that comes with being a travel member on an Amazing Journey.  As our new friend Arlene stated in an email to us upon returning home from our recent Alaska cruise/tour:  “Hopefully this will be only the beginning of our friendship. You said this trip would create wonderful new memories and friendships that would last a lifetime and already I see this coming to fruition.After I returned home, following my incredible two week trip, I felt “Alive”, busting with pure joy, exhilaration and happiness. Thank you for an incredible and outstanding trip and experience!!”

Whatever you garner while traveling, the memories will last a lifetime…but the friendships will change your life, over time.

There’s great meaning to the phrase “that’s what friends are for”