Many of you are solo travelers, long-term adventurers, and dedicated travel researchers. As experienced travelers who are accustomed to planning your own itinerary and doing all of the research yourself, you may wonder what the benefits of working with a travel advisor, and specifically a Virtuoso travel advisor, are.
If this is a thought that has crossed your mind, you’re not alone! It’s only reasonable to question the value of your investments, and I am always willing to explain how working with a travel advisor can improve your overall experience.
Top Reasons to Use a Travel Advisor
You get the best value for your time and money
Travel advisors spend much of their time researching destinations, meeting with suppliers, and selecting the best travel experiences for their clients. This travel acumen is built up through years of being in the industry, and it all leads up to crafting your unique itinerary! You could spend your own time poring over online guidebooks, but your travel advisor has already been to those places and knows which restaurants, tours, and hotels will be the best for your individual taste.
You get access to perks you would not otherwise be able to get
Because travel advisors have a network of industry connections, they can leverage those to grant you access to experiences you would either have to pay a lot more for or would not be able to access on your own.
You have a support system
Think about the last few times you’ve planned a trip. Have any of those gone exactly according to your vision? No trip ever goes exactly as planned. With a travel advisor, you have someone in your corner at all times who can help you out when things go awry.
Why Work with a Virtuoso Travel Advisor
What is Virtuoso?
Virtuoso is a global network of travel advisors and experience providers that specialize in experiential travel. Virtuoso partners with more than 1,800 luxury travel companies; all providers are vetted to ensure that clients receive the best possible service.
Virtuoso Travel Advisors
Being part of this global community means Virtuoso travel advisors uphold the rigorous standards of the consortium and have an insider’s advantage with worldwide travel experience providers. We visit these hotels ourselves and go on the same tours that we recommend to our clients. We then use this firsthand experience to craft travel itineraries bespoke to you, and we leverage our global connections to provide you with complimentary perks and VIP access to the most exclusive experiences.
There is plenty more to be said about Virtuoso--its commitment to sustainability, its reputation for quality, its world-class vendors--but this is a solid overview. If you have any questions or if you’re ready to book your next trip, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Opera usually isn’t the first art form we associate with Italy, but it was Italy’s unique conditions in the late 16th century that made the origination and popularization of opera possible. Maybe you’ve never been to an opera (or had any desire to go!), but this art form is a big part of the reason why musicians today can amass the following that they do.
The Origins of Opera
If you know anything about my beloved Florence, it should come as no surprise that opera originated here. Florence was and is a haven for the arts, through and through, which was made possible in no small part by the actions of the Medici family that ruled Florence and the Tuscan region until the 18th century. Florence was primed for new art forms to emerge; the people were accustomed to innovative art and often welcomed it.
There were three main factors that contributed to the creation of opera in Florence: the established Florentine theatrical tradition, the support of humanism, and the Florentine belief in the relation of music to the cosmos.
Before opera came about, Florentines already had intermedi, or interludes, that roughly approximated opera. Between acts in their plays, actors would have large-scale performances that included song, dance, instrumental music, orchestra, staging effects, and costumes. Nobody called this opera, but it made opera’s reception that much warmer, since the people already had some familiarity with its stylistic elements.
Florence, and indeed, many parts of Italy, were also experiencing a desire to revive the humanism of the Greeks. Part of this ideology viewed the arts as a method of teaching people how they should behave, using art forms that went beyond reality to reach a deeper part of the viewer’s soul. No one thinks that opera or theatre exactly represents real life, but the thought was that the combination of different elements (like song, dance, acting) would create something that was hyper-realistic and feel more real than reality as we see it.
Finally, many people in Florence viewed music as being magical. A solo human voice could connect the earthly world to the divine, once again transmitting something that was truer than true and touching the audience’s soul.
Pretty heavy stuff for an art form most people just pass over, huh?
Opera and the Present
The first opera was composed by Jacopo Peri in 1597, but by the mid-1600s, it had spread throughout Italy and was making its way through Europe. Opera became wildly popular in some parts of Italy, including Venice, which opened several public opera houses and helped divorce the art form from the aristocracy alone. Opera became commercialized such that all but the very poorest of the poor Venetians could afford to go and see it.
With opera’s commercialization, the influence of the performers themselves began to rise. This was one of the first instances of artists who were accessible to the general public and it is in many ways the beginning of the modern-day celebrity.
The next time you attend a concert or watch one on TV, maybe you’ll think of Florence and the early days of opera! Perhaps not, but it was worth a shot ;)
If you would like to plan your own visit to Florence or Venice to see where this art form and so many others were developed, contact me. I’d love to help you in creating the art-centered itinerary of your dreams!
Try Googling “why don’t Americans use all of their PTO?” From a travel advisor’s perspective and probably from yours as well, the results are less than appealing.
A recent study from the US Travel Association, Oxford Economics, and Ipsos found that the majority of Americans are not using all of their allotted vacation days. This wasn’t counting the vacation days that are not paid; this was paid time off, and 55% of Americans are leaving this time on the table. The researchers found that this breaks down to 768 million days of PTO that went unused in 2018, 236 million of which were completely lost (no rollover or cash out options).
To be fair, there is a bit of a silver lining to this. Although the number of unused PTO days is increasing, so is the total number of PTO days. Thus, Americans are using a lower percentage of their available days. But still--more than a quarter of our PTO days being left untouched? That’s significant.
The reasons that workers cite for not using all of their PTO have not changed much over time. Some people feel that taking a vacation would actually lead to more stress, as they fear the work that would amass during their absence. Others, especially those with more seniority, believe that only they can do their particular job and they wouldn’t want to negatively affect the company’s bottom line with their absence. Still others worry about their job security; they think that they won’t look committed to their job if they take the PTO that they are contractually allowed to take. The fact is that many Americans do not view their vacation time as a right, and they may be onto something.
Despite the average of 15 PTO days per year for workers with at least five years of experience, the work culture may dictate that workers take a lot less than that. Stories abound of managers not-so-subtly telling employees that sales figures are lower than last year because of a worker’s vacation. It is unfortunate, but this is the culture that exists in many American workplaces.
It’s beyond time to change that. Not only can time away from work reduce the likelihood of burnouts and increase productivity at the individual worker’s level, but using those vacation days would also create economic opportunities on a broader scale. The same study from the US Travel Association states that using those previously wasted PTO days would amount to $151.5 billion in travel spending and 2 million new American jobs. Recharging your batteries through travel is good for more than just you.
Do you know people who aren’t using all of their PTO? Are you one of them? My advice: round up some of those friends and start planning your next getaway!
It’s 8 pm on a Friday evening and you find yourself in an apartment building just a few blocks from the Martim Moniz metro stop. You glance around the dimly lit white hallway with its low-hanging lights and you consider reversing your steps, but the low clatter of dishes on the floor above gives you the confidence to press on. You creep up the staircase, pausing from time to time to determine if those really were dishes and the faint sounds of voices that you heard, until you reach the top and are face-to-face with a hand-painted Chinese character on the door in front of you.
You’ve found one of Lisbon’s famed Chinês clandestinos.
Chinês clandestinos, or “clandestine Chinese,” are underground Chinese restaurants that crop up in the immigrant-heavy neighborhoods of Lisbon, such as Mouraria. Once hotspots for delicious eats (at reasonable prices) that only a select few Lisboetas knew about, these Chinese restaurants have become one of the main draws to Lisbon among bold eaters worldwide.
Around the turn of the century, Lisbon experienced a wave of Chinese immigration. Many of the people who made the journey were the entrepreneurial sort who started their own restaurants. Not all of these restaurants acquired a business license, though, which is where the “clandestine” part of the name comes in.
Instead, the restaurants were set up and exist today in people’s apartments--you can still find some that have a dining area right next to a sofa and family photos! Because the Chinês clandestinos of the early days were supposed to be undercover, many of them were known by their addresses or streets alone, and hungry adventurers had to search for clues like red lanterns or Chinese characters on the second floor of apartment buildings to find the exact locations.
Nowadays, a good portion of the former clandestinos have gone fully legal and you can find them on Google maps. They still provide massive portions of unique and tasty foods at unbeatable prices, but now they have business licenses and the health inspector’s approval, even if they are run out of an apartment.
Every now and again though, you might find a new clandestino if you poke around Mouraria or chat with some Lisboetas in the know.
Would you try one of the Chinês clandestinos during a trip to Lisbon?
Everyone loves a royal marriage--just look at the buzz that surrounded Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s affair last year or William and Kate’s back in 2011! One royal marriage that you may not have known about, but should definitely have on your radar this week, is that of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. It was their marriage on October 12, 1810, that kicked off what is today the world’s largest fair: Oktoberfest.
This year is Munich, Germany’s 186th edition of Oktoberfest. Since the fair’s inception, only war and a particularly nasty outbreak of cholera have kept the brewers at bay. Nothing else has come between Munich and its beer-drenched festivities.
But how did a royal marriage, which is often a subdued occasion, turn into the incredible multi-week event that it is today?
On that famed October day, all of the citizens of Munich were invited to partake in the marriage festivities that were held before the city gates. One of those events was horse racing; it was such a hit that everyone decided it had to be an annual thing. Horses, not malt and hops, started Oktoberfest.
The second year of Oktoberfest, an agricultural show was introduced to help promote Bavarian agriculture. Over time, more entertainment aspects were added, such as carousels and swings. A few small beer stands were set up, a few more were added the next year, a few more the next, until stands became tents backed by the local breweries
Nowadays, there are plenty of things to experience at Oktoberfest in addition to the beer halls. Traditional foods like pretzels, würstl, and sauerkraut are served, roller coasters are set up, there are processions with folks in costume, and there are even concerts throughout the event!
Oktoberfest traditionally begins in the third weekend of September and concludes on the first Sunday of October. It may be a little late to round up your beer-loving friends and jet off to Munich this year, but there is always next! If you’re ready to begin planning for this unforgettable event, contact me and we’ll work out all of the details!
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.