No one knows how much time we have left to live, which is probably a good thing. As time passes, though, we are so busy learning, doing, working, struggling, planning, and making endless decisions that we often don’t take time to reflect on the broad canvas of our lives. The truth is, each of us has our own unique life canvas, and it is up to us to decide which mages and details will represent the fabric of our life.
Does your canvas have images of working endless hours to get ahead, missed opportunities to be with loved ones, failed endeavors, broken promises, delayed plans or time lost? Or is your personal canvas painted with achievements, passions, positive endeavors, love, and dreams realized?
With the knowledge that our years are finite, it is important to have goals so the years don’t come and go without direction or intent. A bucket list is a great way to keep track of these goals, and the sooner we populate the list the better so we have more time to check items off that list.
I have a bucket list just for travel. The beautiful thing about seeing the world is that it exposes us to experiences, knowledge, relationships, spirituality, perspective and communing with nature – all things that add vibrancy to our lives. My travel canvas is filled with wildlife, cultural immersion, adventure, history, incredible learning and an appreciation for our beautiful planet and its inhabitants. What is on my travel bucket list? Uganda, Madagascar, Bhutan, the Azores, and Sri Lanka. I do have miles to go before I sleep, but time is ticking.
AN EPIDEMIC is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.
A PANDEMIC is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents.
The first thing I think about when looking at this Maasai warrior keeping watch over his cattle near the Ngorongoro Crater in Africa is that he doesn’t have to worry about social distancing. His job is protecting his herd so that his family can use their milk, hide, and blood to sustain themselves. The symbiotic relationship between the warrior and his herd is akin to the one between ourselves and the rest of the world. This has never been more apparent than right now.
Our planet is ailing. Whether we roam the plains of Africa, float on the canals of Venice, live in the jungles of Brazil, or walk the streets of New York, COVID-19 has found its way to our neck of the woods. Race, religion, age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, social class – the usual categories that describe and often divide us – have all been affected by the pandemic. Just as one place sees a flattening of the curve, another area suffers an outbreak. One continent can be healing while another is in the throes of the disease. Borders and fences haven’t protected us. Uncertainty is, well, certain.
A CONNECTION is a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else. It is the key that unlocks the humanity we share throughout the world. To help deal with the epidemic uncertainty of this pandemic, look for the good in the world. Honor the heroes. Thank the front line workers. Give of yourself in ways that can help others. Appreciate the blessings in your life. Look for beautiful commonalities, and blur the lines that divide us.
Our planet needs to heal, and so do we. The health of our symbiotic relationship with each other will determine our future. If we each do our part to care for each other, our planet will be nourished and we will be certain to overcome this pandemic, together.
6:15 am. The stillness in the mausoleum is barely disturbed by the methodical swishing sound of a worker swinging a broom. The lone light bulb, hanging from an iron chain strung from the ceiling 240 feet above, barely illuminates the 400-year-old chamber. Flashlights aid us in examining the semi-precious gemstones that are inlaid throughout the vast white marble walls – small flowers taking up to three weeks to carve and assemble by master artisans, and inlaid Arabic lettering running from floor to ceiling set with perfect perspective, making it appear the same size despite its varying distance from the viewer.
Air vents incorporated into the brilliant architecture of the gleaming white structure allow the wind to move throughout the room. Our private guide, Aakash Jaine, hums the “Ohm” word; its sound lingers in the air for several seconds before being carried away by the wind. Then silence. The spiritual essence of this experience is palpable and is immediately etched into my memory.
History. Over the course of twenty years, 20,000 workers from throughout India, Persia and Europe, along with 1,000 elephants, painstakingly and meticulously built the architectural masterpiece known throughout the world as the Taj Mahal. Today, over 40,000 people visit the Taj each day. A continuous line of tourists snakes through the grounds of the complex, taking in the beautiful gardens, pools, red sandstone mosque, decorative minarets, and famous bench that Princess Diana sat upon during her visit. The culmination of a visit to the Taj is a visit through the mausoleum itself, where the remains lie of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who died after giving birth to their 14th child. The emperor built the Taj Mahal to honor her.
6:23 am. Several other tourists finally enter the Taj Mahal after spending time visiting the famous bench and strolling through the gardens. Thus begins the trickle that will become a stream, and then a river, of tourists who will visit this famous Wonder of the World that day.
Time. Eight minutes isn’t a long time in and of itself. However, eight minutes spent with your family in one of the most famous places in the world, without anyone else around but your crafty private guide and a lonely sweeper, feels like a stolen treasure. None of the 40,000 other tourists who visited the Taj that day had the singular experience that we did. They couldn’t hear the wind blowing through the chamber or stop while winding through the line to study the intricate gem-laden mosaics – not with hundreds of other people beside them. They couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to have the place to ourselves – alone with history.
These eight minutes are what being with a wonderful private guide is all about. Access. Preparedness. Unlocking a world of unforgettable memories. Our guide, Aakash, made all the difference in how we experienced our visit to a place that millions of people around the world have visited. Our bond with him was instant; in fact, we still keep in touch with him, several months later. Aakash took the pictures on this blog. My goal as a travel advisor is to connect you with the people and places that can provide you with memories you will cherish for years to come, just like Aakash did for us. Call or email me. I’d love to help. I can even connect you to Aakash on your next visit to the Taj!
As I sit looking out my window on this lazy afternoon, you may be surprised by what I am thinking.
As a luxury travel advisor, my normal day is spent chatting with clients about their upcoming trips, reaching out to suppliers, planning interesting experiences, and keeping organized. Every day brings new clients, unique itineraries, and fresh possibilities. What an incredible pleasure it is to bring clients’ bucket lists to life. That’s why this profession is so gratifying. Who knew, in the midst of all this wonderful busyness, that our world was about to change?
It turns out that people weren’t the only things traveling from one side of the world to the other. The virus that reached our shores brought haunting disease and terrible upheaval to our lives. In addition to the significant health and economic impact we suddenly faced, our days of relatively carefree travel were over. Everything ground to a halt. Securing refunds, cancelling reservations, answering travel insurance questions, and postponing trips consumed my life. The reality of living in this “new normal” was breathtaking.
Newly armed with TIME to spare, my wheels started turning. I assembled a project list – everything from organizing drawers, matching lids to containers, cleaning the garage (yuck), to doing yard work, washing the dogs, and cleaning my chicken coop. Once these items were crossed off the list, I watched travel webinars, read books – one after the other – and redesigned my website (www.travelistaalli.com). My favorite project was organizing tons of family photos in boxes into separate stacks for each of my children. Slowly sifting through pictures of our vacations, family celebrations, school plays, baseball games, and all the pets we have owned was such a treat.
It’s amazing … with the time to really ponder life, count blessings, truly reconnect with family and friends and enjoy the little things that make life so special, this global “time out” has actually been a bit of a gift.
While my profession was profoundly impacted by the crisis and the world is a different place than it was three months ago, as I sit here looking out my window, I am filled with appreciation and optimism. We can look forward to a “better normal.” We WILL travel again … and when we do, it will be with a renewed sense of awe and wonder. The freedom to explore the world will deepen our connection to the planet and to each other.
In the meantime, my dog Marley is keeping watch over our flock of hens in our backyard, and I have the luxury of time to dream.
My heart raced as I followed the female leopard and her two cubs searching for a lost third cub. Waving in and out through the brush on the edge of the open grassland, they walked near a stand of trees, unaware that they were inching closer and closer to a male and female lion resting together. This scene from Big Cat Tales on Animal Planet excited and unsettled me – not only because I worried for the leopard and her cubs, but because I have traveled to this exact spot in Kenya in the Masai Mara and spent several days observing a leopard and these famous lions of the Marsh Pride.
The Masai Mara is one of the most special places in the world. Life and death animal interactions play out right in front of your eyes. Safari trucks often go off road to catch the action: following hunting animals, tracking hard-to-find leopards, watching baby hyenas play. Guides spot impossible-to-see wildlife that you would swear aren’t really there. Elephants and their adorable babies are plentiful, and there’s nothing quite like seeing huge hippos romping in muddy waters.
Of all the majesty and magnificence found in the Masai Mara, the most astounding experience to behold is watching the Great Migration. There’s nothing like it on earth. Your heart will both pound in excitement and cry in heart-wrenching despair as you see zebras and wildebeest hesitate, then rush to swim across the Mara River, trying their best not to get killed by waiting crocodiles. Many of them don’t make it across. Watching from the banks above the river, it is easy to spot crocodiles as they inch closer and closer to slow-moving wildebeest or baby zebras that are doomed. Bloated bodies of dead animals mix with the commotion of splashing water, busy hooves, and panicked mooing during the crossing, and it is relentless. It is Mother Nature in action.
Travel is the remedy for boredom and the elixir for routine. It captures the imagination like little else. It widens horizons and broadens perspectives. Investing in travel experiences is money well-spent that creates memories connecting people together. I became a travel advisor because my inherent love of seeing the world is a springboard for helping others by curating travel experiences that capture your imagination, spark passion, and bring you joy.