Friday, February 25, 2011

General Observations

Allow me to step away from the descriptions of the places we
are visiting to talk about the nature of the trip.
We had some concerns about visiting so many places in such a
short time.  Obviously, you are not going to do an exhaustive
visit anywhere.

But the trip as formatted had a special appeal to me.  Before
this trip, I had never been away from the office for more than
two weeks.  I saw it as an opportunity to see the maximum amount
in the shortest period possible.  That is important when you
have clients who expect you to push their cases.  The second
aspect of the trip was the lack of hassle.  I go on vacation
to enjoy myself.  I do not want to fret over travel arrangements,
language barriers, and local customs which I did not anticipate.
On this trip, I did not have to worry about any of these.  You
show up when your schedule says to show up and you put your bags
outside your room when you are told to do so.  Otherwise, you
are guided through the wonders of the world.  There is no way that
I could have ever done the research to know where to visit, the best
hotels, and the best local guides.  Of course, there is a price for
such convenience but it has been worth every cent.

The trip can be compared to standing in the water at the ocean.
Each day a new wave hits you.  One morning, you are observing big
game in Tanzania and the next morning, you are standing in front of
the Treasury in Petra, Jordan. You never know what to expect because
these are new places for us.

It has been physically demanding as we have not always slept as much
as might be desired.  But the excitement of a new stimulating
environment every day compensates for any sleep deprivation.
The trip is sponsored by National Geographic which publicizes the
trip and provides some lecturers.  But it is really run by TCS/
Starquest out of Seatle.  They contract with Thomson Airways, a large
charter plane outfit out of the UK to provide the 757 and flight crew.
But the expedition staff of three persons on the plane and ground
is paid by TCS/Starquest.  These people have done many of these trips
and know exactly what to expect.  They also have advance people at each
location a day or two in advance to make sure the accomodations, customs,
and local guides are ready for us.  We talked last night to the
advance man in Jordan.  He flew in from London for this assignment.  He
candidly admitted "gratuities" are sometimes expected by local officals
for the preferential treatment that we received on this trip. I expressed
some amazement that TCS/Starquest was able to make the change from Egypt
to Jordan on such quick notice.  For example, seventy eight people plus
staff added to a busy hotel two weeks before a arrival could present
some problems.  The advance man explained that TCS/Starquest is such a
presence in the travel industry that a hotel will go out of its way to
accomodate a request.

In sum, the trip has more than met our expectations and has whetted our
appetite for more international travel.  It has also taught us what we
should do if we decide to venture out on our own.

A specific comment about Jordan.  One of our readers pointed out that the
Treasury appeared prominently in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,  Thanks.

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