The World Tour - Travel Adventure Club
By a first-timer woman traveling on her own.
September, Tour of Ireland
I had little knowledge about this group in advance, did virtually no "due diligence" and held few expectations. I had never traveled with a tour before. And I was travelling alone, with no partner. I did notice that this was a "club" not a travel company, whatever that meant. There was a website aimed at information, not marketing. The total cost of the trip was surprisingly low. Given all of that, I would have understood if the administration of the trip was casual, even sloppy. I could have been embarking on a very lonely and frustrating week. Looking back, it occurs to me that all those things qualified me to be an "adventurer".
I have no idea how Daniel (Donal) and Annette do it, but none of the dire possibilities were realized. I had a hint of that in the month before the trip. The travel information and tips on the website were terrific. If you did your homework, you were fully prepared for every detail of the trip. Already I stopped expecting casual or sloppy management. This was a well-oiled machine!
At a pre-trip lunch gathering at O’Connor’s Restaurant, I also dropped any concerns about being lonely or marginalized. The group was diverse in terms of age and in terms of personality except for two key characteristics: everyone there was extremely 1) friendly and 2) excited! The feeling was that WE were all going to Ireland together! To prove it, we were given our bright green trip sweatshirts.
That spirit of "WE" continued throughout our time together. When I stepped into the airport van on the day of the trip, 4 female voices called out, "Hi, Lisa!" At the airport, the well-oiled machine was in high gear as Donal and Annette handed out luggage tags and repeated instructions and travel tips. They were as shepherding when we arrived in Dublin when we went through customs, and paraded out to our coach. Throughout the week, their care in announcing the details of time, place and plan allowed the rest of us to just enjoy our time.
No week involving 48 people, 4 different hotels and planned activities can go off without a hitch. But those that the group as a whole experienced were small and innocuous, a few departures minimally delayed, without consequence, for example. Behind the scenes Donal, Annette and Jerry, our fabulous tour guide, dealt with the inevitable headaches privately and without complaint.
We had the best of both worlds: the efficiency and hard work you would expect of a travel tour company, but also the true participation in the trip by our organizers and leaders. Donal and Annette seemed to have the drive and energy to also be a part of the fun, infusing our experience with their love of travel. Amazing.
Also amazing is that they assembled a unanimously wonderful group of people. Some had traveled with them before, some were referrals and probably none came so much out-of-the-woodwork as I. So it wasn’t a random gathering, but neither was it carefully constructed. I ascribe it to magic. Typically in any assemblage of people you find yourself grumbling, "There’s always one in every group," but the grumps, the idiots, the selfish you-know-what’s and the bigots that inevitably creep into any group just weren’t there.
Everyone was considerate of and interested in the others. It’s not always easy being a single in a crowd of pairs. You have to find an empty seat at every meal, figuring out how many seats those people need (you learn, for example, that this guy is actually the brother-in-law of that guy so they need 6 seats not 2...) and you have to invite yourself to sit down. That’s a bit daunting but I always received a friendly welcome.
People were interested in fellow travelers. At meals, on the bus, or ambling down a Waterford street, people shared thoughts and experiences with each other. Funny how if you listen, everyone is fascinating.
I saw many acts of kindness as we tried to make things easier for an older traveler. I witnessed the pleasure we all took when Sonny, a musically talented teenager in the group, had a glorious evening accruing an Irish fan base. That same evening, Sonny grabbed my hand to conduct me safely, and on the run, by a rowdy bunch of teenagers celebrating their first night back in college en route to a Killarney pub. Pierce had appointed himself my own personal shopper that afternoon. The very best gifts I purchased on the trip were found under his skillful oversight. When I left a pub earlier than the pack in Galway, Pat gallantly escorted me back to the hotel. All of this was normal behavior in a group that looked out for each other.
I really don’t know how they do it. However, I fully believe that this was not a fluke, but what I will encounter on any "The World Tour" trips I experience in the future.
- Lisa, Northborough, MA
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