Hello, travel my old friend

An ode to travel from the industry

By: Ann Ruppenstein

Travel has the power to transform us, to move us, to change our point of view and expand our understanding of other cultures and ways of life. Travel allows us to grow and gain a deeper sense of appreciation for life back home. Some of the best moments in travel are unscripted and raw.

While it’s true that people around the world miss travelling, for those in the industry, that void may feel even bigger after a year of being grounded. After all, connecting with locals, the excitement of exploration and experiencing the wonders of a destination were integral to being in this field.

Travel Courier caught up with members of the travel industry to recount favourite memories and some of the moments that impacted their lives.

A roadmap to travel

It’s safe to say Rose Cosentino‘s plan to get into the travel industry was mapped out.

“As a young girl, I was fascinated with books of maps and studying the world map. I would study a specific country and look to see how their roads would lead from one city to another and the landscape of these exotic countries. And remember, we didn’t have the internet back then and used the good old fashioned books and magazines,” Cosentino, the Vice President, Sales, for Playa Hotels and Resorts tells Travel Courier. “From early on I would say, I can’t wait to go visit all these incredible places and take those roads to see where they would lead me. When my friends would keep a diary, I would keep my very own wish list of places I researched — and little did I realize it was a bucket list — of all the places I would visit ‘when I grow up.’”

It was a natural progression then that in addition to setting out to travel to amazing places, she would also turn it into a career.

“I am so fortunate that I get to travel (when there aren’t travel restrictions). It is truly a gift and privilege that I do not take for granted. Personally, travel for me has become a way of continuing my education and affords me the opportunity to create beautiful memories,” she says. “It’s taught me about different customs and cultures, foods, the people. I always come back with more knowledge and apperception of what the world have to offer. When I travel, it’s like I’m spellbound, I truly appreciate what the town or country has in store for me to explore.”

A cherished travel memory for Cosentino is a family trip with her sister Anna who turned 50 on Aug 1, 2011.

“She was battling cancer, leiomyosarcoma, and was told by her doctors that there was not much they could do for her and was given the go ahead to travel. She wanted to celebrate somewhere on a beach with the family and with the little time we had to pull this together, we settled on South Beach Miami only because it was close enough to fly back should her condition worsen,” she says. “I planned the most amazing birthday weekend for her from a penthouse suite, to a private yacht tour to a surprise photo shoot on the beach. I still have the note she sent me thanking me for giving her and the family the best birthday ever and how she felt like she lived and partied like a rockstar. Only four months later on Dec. 24, 2011, she passed and in her last days she asked me have some of the photos from that trip to be put in her casket. Although, this makes me sad to talk about, it showed us all that time is guaranteed to no one and to cherish and make all the memories with the ones you love.”

If there’s anything this pandemic has taught her, it’s the importance of making memories with loved ones — especially after not being able to create new ones with friends and family this past year.

“Our last family trip before the pandemic was Dec. 2019 to our newest Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana property where we spent our time with my stepdaughter, her husband and our grandson and [I often] look upon that time at how we connected as a family, enjoying all the perks of a family beach holiday together filled with so much laughter and memories. It was the best and I can’t wait for us to go on our next trip together.”

The thrill of adventure

Brad Ford can still recall the day he decided to join the travel industry in 1998.

“What a happy day when I switched from my media management job to take on an opportunity at Global Matrix, the Cadillac back-office system for the travel industry at the time,” Ford says. “My travel partners quickly adopted me as one of their own, and I’ve since connected to, worked with and been so graciously supported by some of the industry’s legends.”

Ford, the president of Insight Vacations & Luxury Gold, views travel as a privilege and is grateful for every experience he’s had on the road. 

“I love the thrill of adventure, discovery of the unknown and letting my curiosity take the lead,” he says. “The travel experiences I have had are all inextricably intertwined to my personal and professional maturity in some way or another. Travel has opened my eyes and mind to the world’s wonderful cultures and people, and it lends perspective and appreciation when I need it most. I am never more awake and alive than when I am on a journey, and never more inspired.”

Although there have been some really big moments, he says it’s some of the smaller moments that stand out in his memory like taking a group of journalists and travel advisors to The Galapagos Islands in 2013. At the time Ford was the president of Contiki Canada and was accompanied by their ‘Planet’ Ambassador Céline Cousteau to support a conservation project with The TreadRight Foundation. Shannon Guihan, who would later join TreadRight as its chief sustainability officer, was also part of the adventure.

“We were snorkelling and diving around the Islands, and one afternoon a herd of young sea lions decided they wanted to play,” Ford recalls. “We spent hours darting around in the beautiful warm blue water and contorting to imitate the graceful spins and dives of the sea lions, as they brushed up against us and seemed to laugh at our efforts. We all came away incredibly excited and moved by the extraordinary experience, and more determined than ever to understand human impacts and how we can work to protect the marine life in this special place.”

If there’s one thing he’s learned over the past year, Ford says the global pandemic has given us the space to appreciate the human need for connection.

“In my experience, this connection brings the most meaningful and memorable moments,” he adds. “There are incredible opportunities to travel with purpose while enjoying a holiday, and my hope is that we will return to travel not only to have the time of our lives, but with the honest intention to appreciate and protect our people, planet and wildlife when we do get back out there.”

Take the trip!

While working in the entertainment department at Grand Lido Negril, Omar Josephs caught the travel bug.

“It was just a few years ago – okay, so maybe it was more than a few,” Josephs jokes. “Every five or six weeks, I’d always see the sales team leave Jamaica to go overseas to promote and sell the resort. This fascinated me and I knew right away this was something I wanted to do, so I set it as a goal for myself… and the rest is history.”

Today, Josephs is well known in the industry as the Senior National Manager – Groups & Events for Unique Vacations Canada Inc, an affiliate of Unique Travel Corp, worldwide representatives of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts.

“I love meeting people! I love experiencing new and different cultures, which makes me more appreciative and respectful of others,” he says. “It also makes me realize more and more that while we are all different, we really are all the same. I’m also a foodie so travelling definitely helps me with that, the chance to explore new restaurants and try new cuisines. Travel is an escape – in every sense of the word – a chance to reset, to recharge the mind, body and soul. Travelling is honestly one of the best experiences that I think anyone can have.”

One memorable travel experience that stands out for Josephs was visiting the House of the Virgin Mary while vacationing in Europe.

“This turned out to be quite the experience, just being inside the little stone house on the side of a hill on Mt. Koressos in Turkey,” he recalls. “I’ve seen a lot of cool places all over the world but this one did it for me — even gave me goosebumps.”

Throughout the pandemic, he says people have realized how much they were taking for granted before and not to postpone dream trips.

“I think the pandemic has really reminded a lot of people how much we take for granted, how short and precious life is, how we don’t truly miss or need someone until they’re gone — so plan and take that trip!” he says. “Stop delaying and stop saying ‘next year or next time.’ Now more than ever, the need to reconnect with friends and extended family is going to be so important.  Small social group getaways are a great way for travel advisors to jump on this trend and it just so happens that I know some amazing all-inclusive resorts for both couples and families, where a group starts at only five rooms for a minimum of three nights.”

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