These aren’t sights and spots you can find in a guide book. Instead, here is the possibility of sincere immersion in local culture and community, a chance for real conversations.
“I need a vacation from this vacation.” If you haven’t said these words yourself, you’ve probably thought them.
I should know. I’ve had to plan trips for family and friends and co-workers, and it’s exhausting. Travel, after all, is such an involved affair. The checklist is miles long, and you always forget something. Passports. Tickets. Visas. Itineraries. Hotel bookings. Travel reservations. Meals. Shopping. Vacations, from planning and booking to actually traveling, can be stressful.
What if someone could take all that stress away from you, so you can actually enjoy yourself?
That’s really the idea behind guided journeys, and nobody does that quite like Insight Vacations. Thanks to Rajah Travel, I sat down with CEO Ulla Bohler, who was recently in Manila.
Insight Vacations has been in the business of guided vacations for over 40 years. All the things you normally have to worry about when you travel, Insight Vacations will take care of: from the hotel bookings to the dinner reservations, from the travel bookings and the transportation details. All you really need to decide is when you want to leave, and as early as now you can book your vacations all the way to 2021.
Ulla shares, “We believe in showing you all the must-see sights as well as revealing the insights within a destination. Our journeys allow you to get up close and personal with the people and places you encounter along your journey.”
What’s exciting about Insight Vacations isn’t just the fact that all the planning, scheduling and booking are taken care of; instead, it’s the experiences you’re going to have. Beyond any tourist trap of a tour, Insight plans exciting encounters, allowing you to have authentic interactions not just with places but with people.
“Imagine,” Ulla illustrates, “having high tea in a real English castle. Or a real, home-cooked meal with a family in Greece. Many people visit the pyramids each year, but we can take you to the areas that are off-limits to tourists. Can you imagine gazing at the stars as the pharaohs did, while an Egyptologist tells you about life there, thousands of years ago?”
My little Egyptophile heart jumped at this possibility. I was thrilled at the thought of real English tea, just like in Downton Abbey. But perhaps what really attracted me was the idea that these experiences weren’t fabricated performances and exaggerated shows that were swarmed by noisy tourists waving their cameras and smartphones in the air, blocking my view. These aren’t sights and spots you can find in a guide book. Instead, here is the possibility of sincere immersion in local culture and community, a chance for real conversations with people I have never met and might never meet again. And the prospect of real, honest-to-goodness home-cooked Greek food is just tempting beyond belief.
For those looking for something fancy, Ulla suggests Luxury Gold, where exceptional dining is guaranteed. Each trip promises at least one meal at a Michelin Star restaurant, and if there is no such place in your destination, Insight will find some other critically-acclaimed restaurant for you to enjoy.
I can’t say how many executives truly partake of their own company’s services and products, but Ulla does. She told me, “From time to time, I like to hop on a trip, sometimes joining a tour group here or there, and not just to observe how the travel directors are doing, but also to see the travelers relishing these experiences, to see what else we can do better. It’s always so lovely to hear the stories from our travelers, telling me what they enjoyed, how unique the experiences are. And so many of them come back for more.”
With limited slots per trip, such engaging experiences, and repeat customers, I wondered, has anybody fallen in love on these trips? Ulla was happy to tell me the story of Paul and Susan. “They were traveling on a trip to Europe from the U.S., and they were the only solo travelers on that trip, so they sort of started hanging out, forming a friendship. So they decided to take a trip together. And that led to another, and another. It was on an Insight trip where they met, and through Insight Vacations that they fell in love. And it was on an Insight trip that he proposed!”
It should be no surprise that their honeymoon was an Insight trip too. “They recently emailed to say they’re celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, with a trip to Spain and Portugal,” Ulla shared enthusiastically.
I thanked Ulla for the delightful conversation, and as we shook hands, she smiled and said, “I am sure we will see you on one of our trips soon.” Travel the world, dine well, fall in love? Sounds like a good deal for anybody.
Writer, editor, geek, Regina Layug Rosero has always been a storyteller. These days, she hopes to tells stories that will make the world a better place.