Corkie Van Zak
Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent
My first trip to Europe was full of lessons for me. I was a student and had planned to meet my sister and her friend in Paris at the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day and travel around Europe, staying at youth hostels. This was before the days of cell phones and needless to say, we did not find each other that day. Lesson 1: Have a basic itinerary with hotels and travel plans set in advance.
Our back-up plan was to meet two days later in Lausanne, Switzerland. I arrived a day earlier and met two sisters who were to meet their parents in Lucerne. When I pointed out that Lausanne is not Lucerne, they were shocked. They did not realize it was a different city, so they had to rush to the train station. I finally did meet up with my sister and friend the following day. Lesson 2: Pay attention to geography.
I did not mind being on my own, though. I found that I loved meeting people and dealing with different cultures. I was fascinated by how short the distances between countries are and enjoyed figuring out the logistics of getting the best exchange rates, getting from one place to another and learning to navigate each city. I also became an expert on reading train schedules. Lesson 3: Logistics are very important and not always intuitive.
Since that trip, I have traveled the world, and use my experiences to help my clients make the most of their travels. I find that one-on-one interactions with locals help bring a culture to life, so I often suggest private guides who share their interests so they can get a personal view of a place. For example, an art expert might guide them through the Louvre or take them to view private art collections.
One of my personal favorite activities is hot-air ballooning, and I often suggest it to clients. It is a fabulous feeling to be up above the ground but still be close enough to see everything. Gliding over Cappadocia, Turkey, I saw the rock formations and caves from a totally different perspective. In Africa, flying over the Serengeti, I saw huge herds of elephants and antelopes. And ballooning over the Arizona desert around dusk, with the colors changing on the landscape as the sun dropped on the horizon were gorgeous.
Wherever in the world that you want to go, I will look for special and unique experiences and activities that suit your interests, budget and travel style.