#HolbrookTravelStories - Tales from the Field

#HolbrookTravelStories - Tales from the Field

Apr 2, 2020|Where we travel| by Christa Markley

As we pass through a time of global pandemic when we're unable to travel, we find ourselves seeking to share favorite travel memories among our community, to keep us connected with happy memories and the anticipation for a joyful return to traveling again. Here, we compile just a few of our staff's favorite stories, from their own travels with Holbrook. This collection is a reminder of the impact travel can have - it shifts people's understandings of the world around them, brings people together, and transforms through new experiences. 

For more travel stories, check back with Holbrook's Facebook page and look out for #HolbrookTravelStories. If you'd like to share your own stories traveling with Holbrook, please tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or email marketing@holbrooktravel.com.


Broadening perspectives in Madagascar

by Stephanie Kowacz, Chief Operating Officer

I will always remember Madagascar, a unique blend of people, plants and animals like nowhere else on earth. Each day was like an awakening, to see not only new things, but to ponder all that I saw. To acknowledge what I take for granted each day: a grocery store, an electric stove, medical care, clean water. These things that most of the people here did not have.

I thought of their hardships; yet I kept seeing their smiling faces, witnessing their ingenuity and their struggles. I saw them happily washing their clothes in local streams and letting the sun dry them. I saw them making bricks by hand in that deep red dirt that gives Madagascar its nickname, “the Red Island.”

I passed the days taking in lemurs big and small, with their wide, piercing eyes, staring at me as if to say, this land is mine. I saw plants like no other, some triangular in shape, even with tropical palm fringe spouting from them, even desert forests teeming with life adapted to the thorns. Jumping from cactus to cactus without hesitation, they moved on, much like the people of this magical place.

The people, oh the people, they struck me the most, massaging my brain, loosening it up, stretching my boundaries of thought. Bringing me words from a colleague whom I will always miss dearly, “We sat quietly as we left the village, they were so poor we thought… wait, no, they were rich.”


"Wow" moments in the Galápagos

by Chris Bensley, VP of Partnerships and Marketing

This was one of those instances in travel when a sudden change in landscape takes your breath away and tells a story in geology you couldn’t get from any book. It happened on a trip to the Galápagos not long ago with a small group of travel planners. We were doing a combo land & sea "inspection" of eco-lodges, yachts and excursions. This morning we awoke to heavy mist at Scalesia Tented Lodge and drove to a trail head up the road to hike to Sierra Negra. We set out on 90-minute walk through light drizzle.

I am fortunate to have traveled extensively in my lifetime, so it takes a lot to surprise me. I’ve been lucky to see the Serengeti plains, the Morocco Sahara, and the ice in Antarctica. Our group walked and talked, shared stories, and listened to our dynamic guide, Sandra, as she pointed out unique plant species and bird life. I had read our materials on the history of the Galápagos, its diverse ecosystems and species evolution. I’ve seen documentaries that tell how the earth is constantly changing with volcanic activity and tectonic shifts. But I was not prepared for the scene ahead of us.

As we neared our destination, the rim of Sierra Negra, the clouds were giving way to the sun’s rays. We walked up the last few steps. I was behind the group and my first indication that we had arrived was that the conservation had stopped. Silence. Wow. Out in front was a huge expanse of black. The caldera stood in sharp contrast to the landscape we’d left and we stood in awe of what a volcanic eruption can do. Then the thought that the islands were shaped in this way, and that all the species of flora and fauna that live today came after. In time. A long long time. It was a "wow" moment.

We read and write about how travel teaches us and brings education to life and this was a testimony to this truth. Nothing can replace being there and I hope travel will remain an important part of our personal lives.


Group unity and whale watching in Panama

by Christa Markley, Interactive Designer

Representing Holbrook on a “familiarization trip,” I had gone to Panama with nine total strangers, something that seemed like it could either go amazingly well or incredibly poorly. On Day 2, I wondered if perhaps it was doomed for “poorly,” when my nine compatriots forgot about me at the hotel that morning. But on Day 3, my worries would be overturned, as we all boarded a boat in the sunshine and set out for whale watching in the Pacific.

Before Day 3, we had been high in the mountains, among the rolling clouds and moist forests, a bit bone-chilled and damp. We hadn’t been sure if we would be able to go whale watching the next day, because of schedule changes. But a strange sort of group camaraderie emerged in the quest to organize the excursion, and my new tenacious bunch made it happen.

Once we were aboard the boat, the group started passing around shared resources, completely unprompted – sunscreen, motion sickness medication, hand sanitizer, mints, bottled water. I realized how wonderful it was to be in a group of people who open their pack and immediately offer you its contents, before you can even ask. My perspective shifted, and suddenly my nine total strangers were a blessing. Here we were, literally all in the same boat, and taking care of one another.

The whale watching was amazing. We were lucky to see a mother whale and her calf swimming along, coming up for air every once in a while, a burst of mist erupting from their blowholes. She seemed to be teaching her calf how to swim, and we just watched in awe. All told, it was a shared experience that brought us together, a moment that defined the trip, and an experience to remind me about the power of being in a group.


Watching a butterfly emerge in Costa Rica

by Fran Whitlock, Specialty Travel Consultant and Air Specialist

I was Costa Rica bound in June 2018 with my 10 year old granddaughter Jaylee Purdy, John Gregory and myself, traveling to Selva Verde Lodge. It was Jaylee’s first trip to Costa Rica, so I was excited to share this place I’ve always loved with my granddaughter… the beautiful rainforests, nature at its best!

For Jaylee, it was a lot of firsts – first passport, first plane trip, first time out of the country. Jaylee is a shy one until she gets to know you. But to see her face for some of those 'firsts' was amazing – like seeing things anew, or as they say, “seeing it from the eyes of a child.”

From nature hikes in the forest to making chocolate and the school visit, it was amazing to watch her as the trip went on, interacting with so many different cultures, people, and nature. Our very first night hike we came across a rarely seen caecilian and from that moment she loved all the creatures she saw – yes, even the few snakes. During the school visit, the kids loved playing tag, duck-duck-goose, and hide-and-go-seek together. Though Jaylee could not speak Spanish and the children no English, we soon discovered that no matter where children live, they all speak the same language with laughter!

For me, the best part of the trip was witnessing the change in Jaylee. In just a week’s time she came alive. It was like watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from a cocoon.


Standing amid an ancient citadel in Peru

by Deb Savarese, Destination Consultant

I traveled to Peru with a group of Road Scholar participants back in September of 2008 to get a real working knowledge of our Peru Majesty and Mystery program. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to see and experience the sites of Peru, but most of all I was really looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu in person. I had been describing the site for several years based on photos and listening to coworkers’ experiences… but when I got there it was completely beyond my expectations.

When the day finally arrived, I just remember rounding the bend to Machu Picchu and thinking, “Wow!” Here I was at Machu Picchu for the first time and it was breathtaking.  You could almost picture how it looked when it was built so many years ago, and what it must have been like with all people that lived there. I could hardly believe I was standing there looking at the ancient Inca citadel.

There was so much to experience and I was so excited to see everything. From the llamas casually walking amongst the visitors to the large stone staircases scattered throughout the site to the towering presence of Huayna Picchu in the background, to the guard shack at the top of the site and the many terraces that covered the grounds. There were all kinds of stone structures that were still standing, with the exception of the thatched roofs that had disappeared long ago. I can’t even imagine the amount of back breaking labor it took to build this ancient site as each stone was hewn by hand and carried to its final place. 

I can still remember it clearly in my mind which is what makes it such a special memory. I hope that everyone gets to experience it one day.