I’ve often said that travel is all about the people you meet along the way, but it’s more than that. In addition to the random folks in bars or on the street, none of my travel experiences would have been possible without the aid and support of thousands of individuals whose jobs it is to make not just my trips amazing, but everyone’s travel experiences spectacular. These are the Journeymakers – individuals who work in travel and tourism and who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty in order to make all of our travel dreams come true. That’s why I’m thrilled to be partnering with American Express to recognize just a few of these remarkable individuals, people who don’t just do a job but who live and breathe their professions and in the process, have helped me in any number of ways whenever I leave home and travel the world.
There have been seemingly countless individuals who have helped me along the way, but today I want to highlight these three remarkable Journeymakers who turned simple trips into unforgettable travel experiences.
Warm hospitality in chilly Iceland
I had never stayed at a “farm hotel” before and honestly didn’t even know what that meant. But it’s exactly where I found myself a few months ago while visiting stunning West Iceland. The Hraunsnef Country Hotel is a family run hotel with just 9 rooms, set amongst some of the most stunning scenery Iceland has to offer, which is saying a lot. But it’s not the location or even the playful farm animals that make the experience special, it’s the owners.
Committing themselves to embracing the best of Iceland, they bring the hospitality and kindness for which the country is so very well known to every one of their guests. Located literally in the middle of nowhere, I was anxious one evening when I went to the restaurant for dinner. We were the only ones there and I was sure that the kitchen would be closed. Upon seeing us though, the owner broke into a wide smile and showed us to our table. Even though we were all alone, we were treated like royalty with a hostess and waitress each seeing to our needs while serving up delicious, locally inspired Icelandic cuisine. It was a simple touch – they could easily have closed the restaurant that night, but they didn’t. Instead they wanted to make sure that we were well taken care of, a level of hospitality that can sometimes be lacking even at the best hotels in the world.
That’s ultimately what a Journeymaker is, someone whose job it may be to enhance our travel experience, but also a professional who goes above and beyond to ensure the best trip possible.
Floating along in Thailand
For centuries in Thailand, the only way to transport goods and ultimately sell them was by using the rivers, which is how the country’s now iconic floating markets like the one at Damnoen Saduak originally started. While roads have long since replaced the need for the markets, they exist still today not just as a tribute to the past, but as an opportunity for visitors to the country to get a better idea of what life was once like in Thailand.
I learned all of this and more thanks to my tour guide that day, one of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve ever met; not too unusual in the Land of 1000 Smiles. She sat next to me as the speed boat raced across the water to reach the market, laughing and smiling all the way as if it was her first visit, although surely she’d been there hundreds of times. Over the years I’ve realized the importance of a great tour guide and have come to depend on them for brief 2-3 hour explorations of cities and even entire regions around the world. From remote areas to well-traveled cities, they have made many of my travel experiences better than they would have been otherwise and for all them I am incredibly grateful.
Mushing through Alberta
When visiting Banff, Canada I never expected to meet someone so impressive that I’d still be thinking of her years later. As the owner of Siberian Huskies, I was excited for my dogsled experience through the woods around Lake Louise, a trip made exceptional by the owner of Kingmik Dogsled tours, Megan, who took us on a ride we’d never forget.
Megan is a seasoned vet of some of Canada’s most inhospitable areas. She’s explored spots on the map that will probably never have a name, but she doesn’t need to know their names – they’re ingrained in her memory forever. Her main business though has slowed, making it harder for her to live her life’s passion. That morning she taught me a very important lesson, the lesson of supporting local businesses when traveling.
By supporting a local business, we aided in her commitment to do what she loves most. She doesn’t do it for the money though; she’s a strong believer in the importance of the tours in sharing Canadian history and traditions, which is what she did with me that morning. As she told me, “If people don’t come, Canadian, Americans, or whoever, how can they learn about this important heritage?” And that’s exactly right.
Thank Your Own Journeymakers
In celebration of American Express Travel’s 100th birthday, they’ve launched a new Journeymakers website. Here, travelers type out short notes of recognition to the people who make vacations memorable. American Express Travel will send these notes to your Journeymakers in the form of a social postcard.
Now, go thank the people who make your vacations amazing.
Who are your Journeymakers?