Avoid Contracting Diseases While Traveling

travel-health1Local Wallace Pierson Travel professionals not only send clients to all parts of  the world on a daily basis, but  between themselves they travel quite frequently to the outskirts of our planet. For example founder/co-owner Ange Wallace just returned from India and is leaving this week for Churchill, Manitoba and the Polar Bears;  Lynann Mullis just returned from Scotland,  Dawn Dixon just left for Ireland,  co-owner Angela Wallace Pierson leaves shortly for Italy and Tracy Lynch leaves for a cruise aboard Oceania when Angela returns.

With the worldwide Ebola scare, but also just the flu season starting here are some practical tips from Ange Wallace you may want to take to heart when traveling.

Staying tuned to all things regarding Ebola – by Ange Wallace

Much like the SARS situation a few years back, precautions have to be taken.  Each traveler will have to weigh the information available and measure that against their own comfort level and the strength of their desire or necessity to travel.  We believe our role as travel professionals today is first and foremost to educate and advise savvy travelers and this includes the challenges (there will always be some) as well as the joys of traveling.  I will list out some of the websites we have been watching.  While the news is covering this over every inch of information and misinformation available, facts are not always easy to isolate from the emotions that are in play.

Much like the aftermath of 911, it will take us a little time to assimilate this new risk into the list of risks we live with daily.  Ebola is much harder to contract than the flu and we have assimilated that risk pretty well.  We must learn and practice the reasonable precautions necessary to avoid being exposed wherever we are.  We must support the continued effort to find both cures and vaccines to effectively deal with this new health threat.

In our office, which is like family, we have always shared the tricks we learn on the road to stay healthy while traveling.  There is really nothing new but let me share a few:
1)      Before long flights and rigorous trips, we take either Airborne or Emergen-C (or alternate between the two)for a couple of days before and occasionally while traveling and, definitely, immediately if we feel “something coming on” just to strengthen our immune system.  There are other such products available, these are just the ones we tend to use.
2)       During the flight, we have a little bottle of Eucalyptus Oil we carry in a freezer Ziploc with a cotton ball.  We dampen the cotton ball in the bag and sniff several times during the flight, or on the cruise, to kill off virus/bacteria trying to enter the upper respiratory tract.  (The little Listerine wafers are also good for this but mostly just in the throat.)
3)      We use Clorox (or any brand) sanitizing wipes on all the surfaces we are likely to touch on the plane (arm rests, tray tables, seat belt buckles etc) and use hand sanitizer (We prefer the wipes to the gels but either will work.)   Don’t wait for the cruise line or resort to provide hand sanitizer opportunities, though many do.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves!
4)      Wipe down items like the remote control in your hotel room and the phone, door knobs etc.  Wipe down your luggage, pocketbook, etc frequently or spray with Lysol. Seems like overkill, but my daughter traveling with babies and toddlers taught me this and they never get sick traveling!
5)      Learn to refrain from touching, handshaking, hugging, etc new friends or helpful people along your route.  It is better for them too. A great smile and gentle explanation if necessary make good substitutes.
6)      Eyes, ears and nose wide open when entering public restrooms.  If you perceive anyone is having or has had physical problems back out and report it to the nearest airport worker or airline attendant etc.  It is like reporting unattended baggage now.
7)      When at meetings or industry events don’t leave your glass and assume you will find the right one on returning.  Avoid dips, nuts or loose items in bowls even with a spoon-someone else might not use it.
Overall, just be awake and aware, use common sense, and don’t wait for someone else to take care of you.  That is our own very important responsibility, each and every one of us!

These are just some of the things we are thinking and doing.  We would love to hear from you if you have some more great tips to share with fellow travelers because SARS, Ebola, Flu- there will always be something out there to raise our concern and require our attention!!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your travels or any other travel related issue, we would love to hear from you!

PS We all travel with Travelex trip insurance, at very least getting their “0” band option.  Angela and I also have a membership with Medjet Assist.  Both companies will be available to answer your questions at our Test Drive The World Luxury Travel Show, Sat., Nov 8, from 1:00 to 4:00pm.  RSVP by emailing ange@wallacepierson.com or call 904 261-5914.  There is a $15 per person admission, which in its entirety is a donation to The Boys and Girls Cluster of Nassau County Foundation, a 501c3 organization.


– Ebola & West Africa: The Facts

– Travel Notices & Additional Info Related to Travel from the CDC

Latest Ebola Report from the CDC

What You Need to Know about Ebola from the CDC

The White House Blog

The Travel Agency Heading to Las Vegas

This year the traditional Micato breakfast is replaced by a new initiative

One thing that always stands out when you ask someone what they would like to do the rest of their life, given time and money, nine out of ten times the answer is TRAVEL. Yet travel comes in many different disguises; for some it means exploring the best beaches or ski slopes in the world, for others it’s cruising the oceans or the cultures and ancients and yet others like to explore the path less traveled. In order to make the experience of traveling pleasurable AND memorable, Travel Advisors need to stay on top of the best and newest that is offered, something that goes far beyond one or two dimensional experiences online, but requires relationship building, often over many years.

So, just like a fashionista with any measure of self worth goes to Milan to see what’s new in fashion, the travel advisors at THE TRAVEL AGENCY head to Las Vegas every year, to the largest Luxury Travel show in the world, Virtuoso’s Travel Mart!   Once there they will be exposed to  what’s new in travel.  Thanks in large part to their affiliation with Virtuoso®, an organization of the top travel agencies, the finest travel providers, and premier destinations in the world, the ladies from THE TRAVEL AGENCY will meet with a world of resources to plan your future travel dreams.   Unlike traditional travel agents, these well traveled advisors reach far beyond the status quo, orchestrating imaginative vacations customized especially for you.  By taking the time to get to know your individual interests and preferences, they are able to match you with  with travel providers who design vacations that offer you the greatest Return on Life™. Wherever you want to go, whatever you want to do, they can arrange it — down to the tiniest details or leaving you room to make your own explorations.

The true value of Travel Mart, both for the advisors and their clients, are the relationships that are made in the face to face meetings, the meals taken together, the seminars and networking venues,.  These are relationships that are built on the trust and integrity of friendships and deepened through the years of doing business together.  These relationships allow the advisors of Virtuoso agencies to be able to say with confidence, ”It is not just what I know or even who I know, but rather who knows me that allows me to plan unique, personal travel experiences anywhere in the world.  These same relationships can be called on whenever I have a client traveling in any part of the world that needs some kind of help.  These are global relationships that make our world so interconnected.”

Another aspect of Travel Mart and our Virtuoso involvement is a true belief in Environmentally Sustainable Travel.  This is travel that supports the flora and fauna, the geography, the culture and the people of any region visited.  To this end, each year many suppliers come to Travel Mart with information on the amazing projects they are involved in around the world.  Our own Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is very involved in giving back to the community that delights their guests and keeps them coming back and bringing more.  Look at the great projects they have supported in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County!  One of the greatest programs shared each year at Travel Mart is Micato Safari’s America Share.
This program includes many projects now including a boarding school where for $1500 a year Safari guests, travel advisors, other travel company representatives “adopt” and sponsor a child through their school years, through high school and often on into University.  They also have Harambee Centers- community centers where the populace can come together to help each other and this year they began sending one student to government schools (paying for their books and clothes) for every safari they sell.  Now this year at Travel Mart, all of us connected with Virtuoso will embark on yet another project designed to raise the quality of life in Kenya.  Click on the link and you will see the launch of the new Virtuoso/Upchurch Endeavor for a truly uplifiting moment of what is “right with this world.”  And know that the ladies at THE TRAVEL AGENCY are drawing pictures and supporting this new “Endeavor”!  They also support a now 11 year old student in Kenya in her endeavors to better herself first and then her community in the slums of Mukuru.

You can learn more about the adventures of Travel Mart by following THE TRAVEL AGENCY Blog at www.the-travel-agents.com .  Also look forward to the “TEST DRIVE THE WORLD” Luxury Travel Show coming to the Talbot Ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Nov. 4th.  Here the Travel Agency will introduce 26 of the companies they are meeting with at the Bellagio to meet directly with YOU!!  The event is open to the public with a $10 per person donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County Foundation .

Mary Alice Monroe and the Butterfly’s Daughter

Mary Alice Monroe Signs her new novel The Butterfly's Daughter

We are so lucky to live in Fernandina!  So many amazing opportunities present themselves in this small, southern beach town! I first met Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times Best Seller List author, at a “Book Island Festival” event aboard a river cruise with the authors.  When I saw that she was having a book signing at Books Plus on Centre Street, I scheduled in time to go by and hear about her new book, “The Butterfly’s Daughter”.  Well, it just made my day!

I am halfway through the novel and have already planted one packet of milkweed seeds with plans to order a pound of the tiny Monarch producing seeds!!  Many of you have not heard of Mary Alice or her inspiring novels but I bet you have been under the spell of a beautiful Monarch butterfly somewhere in your childhood or along your life’s journey.  They need our help!

Mary Alice Monroe has taken the inspiration for her novels from nature and its many parallels with human nature.  In doing the research for this novel, Mary Alice had to step outside her beloved South Carolina low country and discover the “road trip” that is the unique mystery of the Monarch.  Like me, you may have heard references to the fact that the Monarch butterfly migrates from the northern areas of Canada and the US.  They are the only butterfly we know of that mimics the migrations of birds and whales.  Unlike these better known migration behaviors, the Monarch butterfly that migrates to the mountainous preserves in the Michoacan region of Mexico is not the same monarch that returns to it’s northern beginnings!  It is the fourth generation Monarch that makes the next long trek back to Mexico.  The first three generations live short lives purposed in mating and laying eggs on the milkweed plants they find along the trail back.

Each of these three generations make progress toward their northern homeland but it is the fourth generation, nicknamed the “Methuselah Generation”, that refuses to mate after morphing from its chrysalis.  Instead, this generation takes off for the sanctuary of Michoacan living as long as 6 months along the way!  They arrive there in the fall by the millions and millions.  Can you just imagine the feeling of joy generated by seeing that many Monarchs at one time in one place?  Look at this video to get a glimpse of the spectacle!

But, as with so many of our natural wonders, the Monarchs are being affected by our human projects both here and in Mexico.  Deforestation near the preserve in Michoacan is the greatest, most immediate danger to the brilliant Monarchs. That and a reduction in the milkweed growing in the US and Canada are a serious threat to this most mysterious and joyful of the butterfly population.

Because of this, part of the purpose of Mary Alice Monroe’s book and her calendar of book signings is to raise awareness of the plight of the Monarch and the simple act of joining in to save the Monarch- plant milkweed seeds!  This is the only plant the Monarch will lay eggs on and the only veggie the ravenous young catepillars eat.  Our own Reflections of Nature in Yulee has the proper type of milkweed for our area .

Or you can go to Mary Alice’s web page , click on “Conservation” and order her free milkweed seeds.  There is a wealth of information on how you can understand the Monarch and how you can get even more involved in the move to save them.

Whether you read the book or just do some research on the Monarch, you will be enriched by the time you take to re-aquaint with this beautiful mystery!

by Ange Wallace (the Travel Agency)

Towards a Decade of Citizen Diplomacy

People communicate much easier than politicians

The subject of  Citizen Diplomacy has been dear to my heart since we started The Travel Agency in 1974, so when a message came into my inbox that Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, was invited to speak at the summit to Expand Citizen Diplomacy, I felt a justified sense of pride

Since spending a year studying at the University of Madrid in 1968/69, I have nurtured the belief that it is travel that truly affects world peace through knowing and sharing one on one relationships between people to people.  When the Berlin wall came down, it further affirmed that belief.  We had clients that traveled to Russia in the 70’s when it was almost a clandestine adventure totally controlled (the Russians thought!) by the Russian government.

These clients carried with them stories and books that they shared with the people they met everywhere on their travels.  This was done at considerable risk back then, if caught and accused by the system.  During that same time frame and prior, Russian athletes, Chess Masters, a selected few musicians and the Moscow Ballet were among the few allowed outside Mother Russia. Some, if they had no family to endure the brunt of the proletariat, defected to the West.  It was usually part of this interface brought about by travel and later internet that eventually led to the Berlin Wall becoming outdated.  I am sure we could all go on recalling instances where the one on one relationships formed while traveling, have affected our lives and in return, the lives being lived around the world.  So, how can we capitalize on this force and make it even more powerful and effective?

Perhaps one answer is to empower travelers to view themselves as diplomats representing their home countries!

That was the focus before a Nov. 16 panel in Washington, DC discussing the role of travel and tourism in expanding citizen diplomacy. Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch was one of the panelists examining the role of international tourism as the biggest potential force assisting citizen diplomacy. Being a member of Virtuoso, The Travel Agency is proud to know that our organization is being closely affiliated with this effort to empower our travelers as true ambassadors of this amazing country wherever they might wander!

The panel was part of a four-day event – the first annual U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy. The summit was sponsored by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy ( http://uscenterforcitizendiplomacy.org/ ) in collaboration with the U.S. State Department. It addressed how U.S. citizens can play a larger role in tackling vital global issues including the environment, poverty, disease, human rights, and hunger.

The goal was to support the non partisan efforts of U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make global citizen diplomacy a national priority and use new technologies to deepen the reach and opportunities for engagement. The summit’s guest list included academics, non-government organization leaders, luxury travel executives, representatives from multinational companies such as Coca-Cola, and diplomats – totaling 600 people from 41 countries.

“I love the idea of a passport being accompanied by a letter from the U.S. president talking about the concept of citizen diplomacy,” Upchurch told USA TODAY. “We’re all ambassadors of our country, and concepts always grow when they’re given a name. Citizen diplomacy is a very powerful concept.”  This concept would target the approximately 14 million people who receive a U.S. passport each year.

The Summit’s goal is to launch for a “Decade of Citizen Diplomacy” with a goal to double the number of American citizen diplomats by 2020 – from an estimated 60 million today to 120 million in ten years.
To read the complete USA TODAY article on the Summit, please click here.

Faith has Aunties at the Travel Agency

Faith in Nairobi, Kenya

While being in Las Vegas for the annual Virtuoso Travel Mart in August I introduced the initiative of Kenyan Safari Operator Micato with a nonprofit arm in its organization called America Share (www.americashare.org). This organization matches sponsors with children in Kenya to provide these children with the opportunity to attend a boarding school and receive a good educational experience and potentially a real job and a chance in life. With the story of Justus, a 15 year old Kenyan boy, we at the Agency rooted the desire to adopt a child as well.

Today I would like to introduce our newest student  Faith, who was born Aug 18, 2000.  She is the youngest of 6 children and lives with her mother and two siblings.  Her father and 3 siblings are deceased. Faith’s mother sells vegetables on the side of one of the Mukuru village foot paths.  Her earnings are barely enough to support her family’s needs. Micato’s America Share has found Faith to be a disciplined student whose academic performance is above average, but her school attendance is irregular due to lack of money for school fees.

Faith is living in Mukuru, a large slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya where poverty is a tragic reality for its residents.  It is estimated that families of five members are living on $1.30 per day.  Mukuru is estimated to have a population of 500,000+ of which sixty percent or 300,000 are under the age of 18.  There is an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 15 percent, and approximately 30-40 percent of the children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Mukuru. With the help of Micato’s America Share program the Travel Agency has “adopted” Faith as its newest student.

The travel advisers at the Travel Agency can write as often as they wish knowing that Faith will write the Agency at least 3 times a year. America Share encourages sending family pictures and letters as often as possible to encourage Faith and build a relationship with her as her supporters.  Faith has now a support group called “Aunties at The Travel Agency”.

The “aunties” will help Faith to ultimately become someone who will make a difference in her homeland!

Impressions of an Arctic Expedition

A Lindblad Expeditions/Nat'l Geographic Trip is a learning experience, never to be forgotten.

In preparation for our annual travel show this Thursday October 14th  from 4-7pm at the Ritz Carlton, Search Amelia asked us to write some stories about the type of travel we love to arrange for our friends and clients. The following is a personal reflection on a Lindblad Expeditions trip I did with National Geographic two years ago.
For me this trip was a defining moment in life.

When I booked my trip to Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions, I was so excited!  Then as I shared this excitement I learned that not everyone dreamed of going to the White Continent, including my husband!!  A balanced 50/50 were the responses to my excited announcement that I was going to Antarctica. The reactions were either: “Oh you lucky person you!!” or just an incredulous, “WHY?”
So, off I went without hubby, for the adventure of a lifetime!  I will tell you my why’s but you should explore your own, before committing to this 14-21 day exploration that will awaken parts of your soul you hadn’t even found yet!

First of all, having sent friends and clients on similar trips, I had heard of the dreaded Drake Passage! Watch this video on youTube for a true reflection. The experience did not disappoint!   The trip started off with pitching and rolling far better than any Disney ride, a condition that made moving around a challenge at first.  Meals were fairly exciting and understandably not well attended as the dining area was in the bow!  Luckily all the lectures could be heard in the cabins or much great information would have been missed!

The next day dawned to calmer seas as we approached the Southern Shetland Islands. The morning was spent educating us to the process of loading and landing the zodiacs and the protocol to follow on land as determined by IAATO, International Antarctic Treaty Organization .  Understanding the fragility of this wonderland and the efforts being made to preserve it going forward becomes one of the real reasons for making the trip.

So, off we went to Half Moon Island!  This was a beautiful little crescent beach with a fresh snowfall and hundreds of chinstrap penguins in the early stages of nest building, mate calling, mating (right under our watchful eyes and cameras!) and just generally moving back and forth to the beach.  There were a very few gentoo penguins in the area also.   As we “post holed” through about 2 feet of snow, it brought chill bumps to realize we were the first to land here this season. We all giggled a bit as we got used to our awkwardness, swarthed in long underwear, heavy wool socks stuffed into arctic muck boots, fleece pants covered by waterproof pants, layered tops, ending in our soon to be beloved parkas, gloves, hats, sunglasses, binoculars, life jackets, cameras and backpacks!  Talk about the Pillsbury Doughboy!!   We learned quickly that there is no bad weather, only improper gear!

A geographic impression of where in the world is....?

Our evening ended anchored off the beach for the Captain’s reception and dinner. By now we are beginning to discover our fellow travelers!  Aged from 6 to 88, coming from the US, Ireland, Iran, South America there was a common bond-the excitement of realizing our dream of Antarctica.  It was interesting to learn how many of us had left spouses at home!  The people attracted to this harsh land make wonderfully interesting travel companions!

Our expedition leader was Tim Soper.  Tim was raised on the Devon coast of southwest England.  Qualified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and the Royal Yachting Association, he worked above and below the sea surface teaching scuba, sailing, and power boating.  Tim also earned an Honors Degree in Ocean Sciences at the University of Wales, where his work ranged from tropical ecology to management of the Polar Regions.  Tim has worked in the world of expedition travel since 1994, as expedition staff, leader, and dive master.  He has explored every continent and crossed every ocean, including high latitude exploration of both the Arctic and Antarctic. Nothing but the best for us!

I mention this only to give you an idea of the quality of the staff entrusted with our education and safety.  Antarctica is an untamed part of the world.  It can be visited safely but it requires experience, careful planning, flexibility, trust, education, communication, and reliable equipment.  When you are ready to visit, choose your expedition company carefully!  Lindblad has been bringing expeditions to Antarctica since 1966.  The National Geographic Explorer was built specifically to standards necessary to ensure maximum safety, comfort, and enjoyment of this environment!

The rest of our days were filled with landings where we experienced penguins (gentoos, chinstraps, and adelies, sea birds, sea lions, leopard seals, remnants of whaling stations, Palmer Station – the US scientific station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and Port Lockroy Station.  Interspersed with the landings were great zodiac explorations among the immense and beautiful icebergs and kayak adventures where possible!  We hiked up peaks for amazing vistas and watched glaciers calving nearby.

While we explored, our underwater photographer was diving in frigid waters bringing amazing footage of the wealth of undersea life to us at our cozy evening debriefings.  One dive produced an amazing, hair-raising encounter with a young leopard seal- a most dangerous predator but graceful and curious in front of the camera!

All too soon our enchanted encounter came to an end and we returned via the even more raucous Drake Passage with gorgeous views of this powerful body of water from the 24 hour open bridge.  Then back in the Beagle Channel we wake up to the view of quaint Ushuaia.   Our heads spinning with all we have learned of flora, fauna, ice, climactic change, stewardship, history, and ourselves, and we are truly overwhelmed as we disembark.  We will forever view the world with different eyes, as we try, often to no avail however, to share the stories we have lived in those short two weeks!