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Staff Sound-Off: Unexpected Travel Treasures

We asked the staff at The Group Travel Leader: “What is a pleasant surprise you have encountered abroad?” Learn about some of their favorite moments below!

“The most pleasant surprise I ever had in a foreign country was seeing my son in the airport in Queenstown, New Zealand. Sam was studying in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, for a semester, and we had not seen him for nearly four months. We thought he was arriving in Queenstown after us, and we turned to go get our luggage and up he walked. When you are half a world away and your son appears unexpectedly after months apart, it’s the most pleasant surprise imaginable.”

— Mac Lacy, Publisher

“While I was traveling in Poland, a friend took several of us to a warehouse full of Boleslawiec Polish Pottery. Being a connoisseur of plates, I was in dish heaven. The heavy cobalt-blue patterned stoneware was so whimsical and fun. I picked out a teapot and teacups in different patterns. It was a risk trying to get it all safely home in my suitcase, but they made it without breaking, and I still enjoy thinking of Poland every time I use them.”

— Donia Simmons, Creative Director


“I knew nothing about the tradition of Dutch pancakes when I stepped off the plane in Amsterdam a few years ago. But a colleague who was joining me on that trip had studied up on the area’s food and insisted that we find a local pancake house right away. I’m so glad she did. Unlike their American cousins, Dutch pancakes are wide, thin and savory, and locals eat them at any time of day. We sampled pancakes in several places during that trip, and my favorite one was dotted with bacon, bananas and cayenne pepper. Drizzled with maple syrup, it made the perfect treat and a delicious cultural surprise.”

— Brian Jewell, Executive Editor


“Air conditioning — it is not overrated.”

— Stacey Bowman, Director, Advertising Sales


“While on our recent trip to the Dominican Republic, my husband and I were out exploring and asked our taxi driver to take us somewhere locals like to eat. He took us to an oceanfront restaurant across from the beach he visits with his family. At first I was wondering how good it would be after seeing the eclectic menu that featured spiny lobster and mahimahi along with spaghetti Bolognese, but it turned out to be one of our best experiences of the whole trip.”

— Ashley Ricks, Circulation Manager


“I knew almost nothing about the country of Jordan when I arrived there for a tour in 2011. That is why I was so blown away by the massive archaeological city of Petra. Photos can’t prepare you for the size and scope of those ancient ruins, which I could have spent days exploring. The entire country felt like a pleasant surprise with its warm people, archaeological wonders and gorgeous desert landscapes.”

— Eliza Myers, Online Editor