“Every once in awhile,” the old Flintstones’ character Hot Lips Hannigan once memorably observed, “a moment of truth!” And while the perspicacity of the “old goat face,” as Wilma had called him, might date to a bygone time for those of us of a certain age, it’s an indelible piece of pop culture wisdom that still resonates in everyday life today – like the timeless Jack Nicholson admonition, “You can’t handle the truth”; Monty Python’s plea to “Pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space ‘cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”; and even Homer Simpson’s epiphany: “Ah, beer! The cause of, and the solution to, all of life’s problems!”
In a recent online column, I recalled how I was inspired to my current profession by the late travel writer Percy Rowe while on my inaugural fam trip. But I didn’t mention how on that same excursion I also experienced my first travel “moment of truth,” a mere flicker of a larger truth that travel was what I simply had to do, not merely wanted to. I had been walking on a Florida beach under an exquisite blue sky, temperature ideal, soft breeze – a picture perfect moment that we’ve all experienced at some point. But the moment seemed more than that. Some might call it a calling.
Over the years, this exhilarating sense of purpose has popped up just enough times to balance out all the crazy days at the office, the deadlines, the deficit of intelligent life here on Earth…
Certainly, a life travelling the world offers a backdrop more likely to produce such moments than a life in, say, accounting, but the moment is not always about the destination. Sometimes it’s simply the anticipation of travelling, or merely the possibility afforded by somewhere far away that is different from here. (I won’t go so far as to say that getting there is half the fun anymore).
As a youngster, I recall not being able to comprehend the existence of Ireland: a silly notion, perhaps, because intellectually I understood that the country existed – I could see it on TV; but I knew that I had to go there to truly recognize its reality for myself.
Recently, older and apparently little wiser, I had a similar sensation over Ethiopia as I watched an eye-opening video at a tourist board trade presentation in Toronto. Like most in the audience, I had never given too much thought to the African nation; indeed, when asked for a first impression of the country, most in the crowd mumbled “famine.” But after the short presentation, I was hooked and mentally scribbling a new entry on my bucket list: Cradle of civilization, home of our ancestor, Lucy; nine UNESCO world heritage sites; the fascinating rock-hewn churches of Lalibela; epic landscapes and unexpected wildlife; birthplace of coffee; world class cuisine… Who knew Ethiopia was so amazing? I wanted, nay needed, to go there -- like Ireland -- to grasp it on a cellular level. Even if I never do, I had the moment, and in the basement of the Drake Hotel no less; this is why I’m in travel -- that exotic Ethiopia exists and I might experience it.
And then there are the people – the travel industry truly spawns a special breed. Earlier that same week, I attended a retirement event for Frank LaFleche, face of the Jordan Tourism Board in Canada for almost 15 years and a long-time industry good guy. Friends and colleagues from the trade turned out to share memories, stories, tears and, especially, smiles, such as when Malia Asfour, director of the JTB in North America, presented the guest of honour with a customized “Where’s Frank?” T-shirt. She explained that in her many years working with him, she had come to learn that “You can never find Frank! Frank is never where he’s supposed to be...” Indeed, she laughed, “Frank is usually at a bar somewhere!” Another moment. It was good to be alive, and living a travel industry life.
In trying to explain the rather abstract essence of this column and the underlying meaning of the Where’s Frank? T-shirt to my teenage son, how it underpins the intangible nature of the amazing travel industry we are all devoted to, Brendan pondered for a moment and eventually offered a simple but thoughtful reply: “Isn’t that where you usually are when you travel… in a bar?”
Every once in awhile, a moment of truth!
(Note: this column appears in this month’s edition of CT/Canadian Traveller magazine; be sure to check it out for features on How to choose and develop a specialization, Understanding the LGBTQ traveller, Dominica, The Azores, and much more…)
This and That
- Japan is an amazing destination, but the biggest challenge is negotiating the language. Visitors to must-see Kyoto will be pleased to learn that the first-ever foreigner-first taxi stands have been established at the city’s main railway station, offering 24-hour service in marked vehicles from certified drivers. Elsewhere, taxis can be hailed via the Japan Taxi app, available through the App Store or Google Play.
- Goway is acutely aware that “everyone loves to eat out… on vacation,” and, as such, goes out of its way to ensure that its Holiday of Lifetime tours are filled with unique epicurean adventures designed to add a little “spice” to any itinerary. Sometimes the experience is based on the venue, like dining in the Sydney Opera House with a view of the spectacular harbour; or the destination, such as sampling wines in Australia’s famed Barossa Valley or dinner under the stars at Uluru (Ayers Rock)…
- Kudos to Cheapflights.ca, which has put in the legwork for us to determine this summer’s bargain destinations (based on the cost of getting there). Based on travel in June, July and August, the global flight comparison and deals publishing platform offers the following list of “10 Places to Go Where the Airfare is Low”: Faro, Portugal; Beijing, China; Singapore; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Montreal; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; San Jose, Costa Rica; Phuket, Thailand; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Manchester, England.
- Two new luxury properties in Barbados are hoping to make a mark in Canada with the appointment of Canlink Travel as representatives. Port Ferdinand and Saint Peter’s Bay, both located on the quiet west coast, can be booked through Sunquest Vacations, Experiences by Sunquest, Air Canada Vacations and Classic Vacations. Or contact (905) 235-9091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Canadian travellers to Europe can save on their river cruise with Avalon Waterways and get bargain airfares to boot courtesy of a special sale that continues through July 11. Part of the Globus family of brands, Avalon is offering $3,000 per couple discounts plus airfares from Canada to Europe for $299 on select departures. Call 800-268-3636 for details.
- Tickets for Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights 2017 are now available for booking. The acclaimed spookfest runs Sept. 15-Nov. 4. Go to www.UniversalTravelAgents.com .
Words of the week!
“We really feel the obligation to the past. We are not responsible for the past, but we feel an obligation to it…”
- Wolfram Zik of the Nuremberg Convention and Tourist Office on the German city’s modern mission to be a “City of Peace and Human Rights” in the face of its past role as a centre of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party before World World II.