A cheer erupts as the crisp, white double doors open. The music that had been previously contained within the room suddenly spills out, bass pounding down the otherwise silent hallway. I walk forward and I’m greeted by enthusiastic women on both sides of me; some give high-fives, others give hugs, all of them wear beaming smiles. Am I at a concert? Some sort of pep rally? No, it’s just the opening day of the Book More Travel Workshop.
Every year, the Book More Travel Workshop (BMTW) in Ballantyne, North Carolina is my opportunity to press pause on the sometimes chaotic world of entrepreneurship and hit the reset button. Having the chance to be surrounded by so many other travel entrepreneurs who are going through some of the same challenges in expanding their business or keeping up with what they already have, learning from the amazing leadership team about business strategies, and simply being around so much positivity is one of the best ways to lean into the new year.
This annual convention is put together by the team at GIFTE, the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs. Over the course of two full days, attendees get to reunite with friends in the industry, make more connections, meet vendors, and reignite our passion for all things travel.
So, what exactly happens behind the closed doors of the Ballantyne Hotel’s ballroom? A little bit of networking, a healthy splash of coffee drinking, and a whole lot of inspiration. The BMTW is everything (and more!) that you want out of a travel marketing convention, but don’t always get elsewhere.
We have panels of travel advisors, some of whom were sitting in the audience just a year ago, speaking to their strengths and sharing their wisdom with everyone. We learn about things like branding, growing our business with social media and ezines, and finding our ideal clients. We network with vendors to learn about all the wonderful new experiences we can begin trying out and offering to our clients. We reconnect with old friends, and we welcome new faces into our ranks.
These things are all immensely helpful, but one of the best parts is hearing from the GIFTE leadership team. The overwhelming message is one of positivity; this is a community that shares knowledge and uplifts one another -- the theme this year was transformation.
Now, that might sound a little out there. But I’ve seen it happen at this very workshop. Not only this year, but every time I have attended. I’ve seen travel advisors have breakthroughs in feelings of self-worth; I’ve been there when someone suddenly realizes that they need to make a major shift in their business model. Not only have I seen these things, but I’ve felt and realized them myself. Every time I pack my bags and head to Ballantyne, I know I’m in for something good.
Because of events like these and positive people like GIFTE’s Meredith, Vanessa, and Jen, I return to my business revitalized and ready to take on the next challenge. They remind me what a privilege working in this industry is, and these events help me to show up each week with a renewed sense of purpose.
For you, my dear client or potential client-- this means that you get a travel advisor who is inspired by what she does and who she does it for, who’s excited about unlocking the best deals and important extras in every booking, and who looks forward to every chapter of this journey.
Most families have a legend or two about a distant relative who was an outlaw in the Wild West or the head of an Irish clan back in the 12th century, but few people ever venture to the stomping grounds of their kin. However, with the prevalence of DNA testing and the continuous digitization of family records, genealogy travel has become more accessible than ever. Have you ever thought about tracing your roots, but weren’t sure how to begin? Here are a few tips to get you on the right track.
1. Do as much research from home as possible
Sometimes, you can get started with as little as a last name and a vague idea of your roots. This might be enough to get you going on sites like Ancestry or Find My Past, and from there you can explore online archives.
2. Consider traveling Stateside before crossing an ocean
If you begin hitting walls, it may be time to branch out from the comfort of home and visit courthouses and other record-keeping facilities to find more recent ancestors. Because the trail is less cold in the more recent past, traveling to places in the United States could provide you with a wealth of information.
3. When you think it’s time to return to the motherland, pick the right one for you
Chances are, you have roots in several countries. While traveling to one of your family’s historical homes to uncover even more of your past can be thrilling, you might run into a dead end, especially if you’re looking for a particular ancestor. Just be aware of that and pick a destination you would like to explore outside of ancestry-related research.
4. Pick the right people to help guide you
Local knowledge can go a long way, particularly if you’re facing a language barrier. You can identify local historians or partner with an agency that specializes in genealogy travel to help further your search. These entities can scout the location ahead of time and begin making contact with archivists and other record-keepers, so that your search can progress more fluidly.
5. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey
Getting swept up in the researching process and driving towards an ultimate destination is all part of the fun, but don’t forget to enjoy the steps along the way.
If you would like some assistance in identifying reputable genealogy travel agencies or individuals, feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing about your ancestor search!
When you visit a new place, it’s easy to walk around admiring the beautiful and unique architecture without understanding the significance of what you’re seeing. However, architecture is an art form, and like any era of art, the buildings built at a particular time reflect the values and happenings of their day. This week, we’re headed to Budapest, Hungary, to examine three styles of architecture that you’ll find in the Queen of the Danube.
Ottoman (Turkish) Architecture
Budapest’s history tells a long tale of invasion, occupation, and rebellion. Beginning in the early 1500s, the Turks invaded Hungary and this nation became part of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires.
As a result of the Turkish occupation, Buda contains several mosques and baths with Byzantine-inspired and Islamic architecture. There are a wealth of geothermal springs flowing beneath Budapest, so the Turks took advantage of this natural feature by building traditional hammams with cupola domes and octagonal pools filled with fresh thermal water.
The presence of Baroque architecture in Budapest is less an indication of outside political influence than it is a testament to religious influence. Baroque originated in Rome in the late 16th century and it was popularized by the Catholic church. Its rise was connected with the Counter-Reformation, which was a response to the Protestant Reformation.
Baroque architecture was a way of displaying the wealth and power of the Catholic church, which can be seen in the enormous domes, staggering colonnades, and dramatic contrasts in color and light. Budapest’s Church of St. Anna and Széchenyi Baths are two notable examples of this style.
Socialist Classicism Architecture
After WWII and up until 1989, Hungary was within the Soviet sphere of influence. As a result, new buildings built during this time reflected the ideology. Those built for common people are very similar: bold, basic, and cubed structures made of concrete. The locals call them Panelház, which is Hungarian for “panel houses.”
Take a look at the buildings intended for display, though, and you’ll get a different picture. These may be decorated with communism-inspired art, such as depictions of workers happily doing their duties, but they often still possess that symmetric and ruthlessly linear appearance. They represented a distinct break from Modernism, which was popular in the Western world at the time.
All buildings tell a story. What forgotten memories will you uncover on your next stroll around town?
If you’re like many people, the thought of going a couple of days without checking your email or even a single day without your phone can trigger alarm bells. That tiny, useful, and time-warping device has been the culprit behind many missed conversation details and delayed trips to the land of dreams. While a little digital detox can be useful at any time, it is especially pertinent when traveling.
Start slow by eliminating phones during meal times.
One of the greatest parts about traveling is getting to experience and enjoy a new culture through its cuisine. Food is meant to be savored--whether you are eating alone or dining with company, you and everyone else deserve to appreciate the meal free from push notifications.
When you go to bed, keep your device in another room.
With the lights out, it can be difficult to gauge how much time you’re spending online. Update your friends and family on where you are or what you’ve been doing, post a photo or two, then leave the phone or laptop out of easy reach. This is one way of staying present; you’ve worked hard for your vacation time, so you owe it to yourself to be fully in the moment instead of dividing your mental space between home and vacation.
Cut back on your phone use for navigation.
No, I’m not saying you should wander blindly through a city’s streets at night, but do allow yourself to get reasonably lost during the day. If you’re staying in one location for a while, let your curiosity guide you. Stroll about, mapless, and find a bakery or breakfast nook. Walk around the place you’re staying, turning down streets whose buildings intrigue you. I love a good map app as much as the next person, but if you’re so focused on the destination or on fielding the emails you get while looking at your navigation, you might miss the wonderful things around you.
Technology is a fantastic thing, but it can also impede our ability to enjoy the present. Keep it in check and give yourself the ability to more thoroughly engage in your vacation.
Have you ever done a digital detox? Have you ever gone on vacation without your phone or laptop? I’d love to hear your stories of how it worked out!
The winter season brings with it many wonderful things: occasional dustings of snow (for those of us who live in the South and consider snow a novelty), the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the clothing we’ve had in storage for the last six months, and of course, time to travel to new places. In addition to the summer months when the kids or grandchildren are out of school, winter travel between Christmas and the new year is also prime time for leisure travel.
Now, we’re a little more than a week past that peak winter travel time, which means we’re in the off season for travel to Europe. For many major cities in the Old Continent, “off season” only means that there are fewer tourists, but not much less to do! If you’re thinking about taking a trip across the pond between December and March, give these winter packing tips a read before you go.
General Tips for Winter Travel Packing
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first: packing lighter can make your trip more manageable. For one thing, checking in multiple bags costs time and money, and for another, lugging them around can be a hassle. Chances are good that you’ll be navigating cobblestone streets at some point and those were clearly not designed for suitcases. In addition, most luxury hotels will have elevators to transport your items, but homestays may not.
With that one checked off, let’s get more specific.
You’ve probably heard that sticking to neutral colors and one or two accent ones can help streamline your travel wardrobe and provide you with maximum versatility. While this is true, it may feel a little restrictive when you’re accustomed to an entire closet’s worth of options. To help give your outfits a little more flare, you can use winter accessories as accents where you might usually use color. Hats, gloves, and scarves will keep you warm and expand your outfit choices.
Key Items to Pack
When it comes to winter travel, there are two main items that take priority over everything else: an excellent pair of shoes and a versatile coat. Notice that I did not say, “a good pair of shoes.” If you’re going to spend money on any item of clothing for your travels, let it be on a pair of shoes that will keep your feet dry, warm, and comfortable. You will realize the value of the money you spend on a quality pair of shoes time and time again; just be sure to break them in before you leave.
The coat is secondary, but still at the top of the list. It will likely be in all of your outdoor pictures, so be sure you get one that you like. It also needs to be roomy enough to have layers underneath.
Beyond those two items, the key to winter attire is layers. The majority of these layers should not be bulky; go with thinner layers that are buildable (and highly packable). Leggings and long-sleeve shirts can serve as additional warmth during the day under other clothing and possibly as pajamas at night.
The items in this category are things that you should either bring with you or pick up when you land.
If you have a high-quality moisturizer that you like, bring it along. Grab your trusty chapstick as well, as both air travel and the winter air in general will dry out your skin.
Depending on where you go, winter weather may mean rain instead of snow. I usually travel with an umbrella, which I’ve used to combat both rain and sleet on winter trips.
Putting Everything Together
Once you think you have everything you need, lay everything out and take stock. When you have everything out at once, you can identify items that are basically duplicates; put the unnecessary items back in the closet--nine times out of ten, you won’t need them.
After you’ve done all the eliminating that you can, pick out what you’re wearing on the first travel day. Wear the bulkiest items on the flight over--think boots, coats (and possibly layers underneath), and your largest sweater. This will take some of the weight and bulk out of your luggage.
Finally, do a test pack. Put everything in your suitcase(s), weigh your baggage, and check the limits imposed by your airlines. If your bags are overweight, you’ll need to revisit the contents of your bags or pay for the extra weight at the airport.
When you’re satisfied with your items, you’re ready to go. Happy travels! If you would like assistance in planning a future trip, booking transportation (to minimize the time you spend pulling your luggage around), or anything else travel-related, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.