Saturday, April 6, 2013

Next? Vancouver and Alaska

When people find out what I do, the first question they ask, once they've got the sudden flush of envy out of the way, is How do I arrange my trips? The answer's not straightforward, and their eyes are usually glazing over before I'm finished, so I really need to work on a snappier reply. I suppose it really just boils down to "I ask, or I'm offered".

The latter is the more exciting, just because it's usually unexpected - and that's why I'm addicted to checking my emails, trained like Pavlov's dog by every so often opening one that asks out of the blue if I'd like to go to Easter Island, or Portugal, or on a cruise.Who wouldn't find that thrilling? And well worth trawling through the oceans of spam. Mostly it's an invitation from a PR person or tourism rep to take part in a group famil - usually small, 2 to 6 others along on the trip - but sometimes it's just for me, which in its way is equally rewarding. While it's fun (usually) to be part of a group, it can be more productive sometimes to be on my own, because I interact more with the people I meet. The third variation is when I'm allowed to take a  companion, often when there's a self-drive element, or when it's the kind of experience (like a cruise) that sharing would enhance - not that I haven't rattled round alone in more than one honeymoon suite in my time.

The downside of that kind of trip is that there's little, if any, room to choose where or what - which makes the self-arranged junkets more personally satisfying. They are, though, a whole lot more work - and usually more expensive. Airlines aren't always accommodating, though hotels are, in both senses; and local tourism people are generally pretty helpful with suggestions, contacts and authorisation. It all takes a lot of research, though, emails back and forth, fitting things together, reading timetables, reviews, getting visas perhaps... So I'm very glad to have my own personal in-house travel agent, who likes nothing better than doing all that stuff, writing up the itinerary and building up a file of paperwork. Which leaves it to me - right now, as it happens - to tempt and nag and inveigle my editors to say they'll take the stories that are the basic currency of the whole set of transactions.

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