A few weeks ago, the super-awesome folk at World Nomads declared me the winner of a competition for the best ‘positive’ customer service story in travel.
I wrote about Precision Airways waiting 45 minutes for us on a runway in Nairobi, because we had wound our watches back too far. Yes, they actually waited there (and no, it had nothing to do with “Africa time”).
The prize was 2 nights, for 3 separate rooms, at the Omni Hotel in downtown Montreal. We offered the other two rooms to the vast travel blogosphere, hoping we’d find someone to enjoy it with. The lucky recipients were Marcello, from Wandering Trader, and Deb and Dave, from The Planet D (also known as Canada’s Adventure Couple).
I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m going to say “what makes travel great is free hotel rooms”. But no, that’s not it (though it doesn’t hurt either).
Let’s rewind a little further. Lauren and I created Globetrooper because we genuinely want to travel the world with other people. We had problems finding partners to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, but finally found a Danish guy, Martin, whom we had a ball with. When we got home, we made it our quest to help others do the same.
A lot of people told us the concept was flawed because “the best travel is solo travel”. But deep down, we didn’t really see a difference. These supposed solo travellers still meet people along the way, and Globetrooper is just as much about those interactions.
Now real solo travel, like Jessica Watson sailing around the world by herself, well, that’s another story altogether (Go Jess!).
Back to the original story though. So, we just spent a few days with Marcello, Deb and Dave, albeit in a luxury hotel, but still largely in the budget traveller’s mindset. Now, I’ll be straight with you, we had an absolute ball. I loved talking shop, I loved exploring the sights, and I loved hearing stories about impossible adventures around the world (Deb and Dave, who are certifiably nuts, cycled from Cairo to Cape Town!). This wasn’t the first time we met travel bloggers, but it reaffirmed an experience in Toronto.
Back in Toronto, we met Alicia, from Life Behind the Lens, and Jeannie, from Nomadic Chick. Again, we didn’t expect to have an etched-in-memory, because naturally we weren’t on top of a mountain or in a desert or under the sea or falling from the sky. But we did. It was just a whole bundle of fun, and that’s the only way I can explain it.
So what’s the “Ah Ha!” moment? Well, great travel is all about the experience (I think we all agree on that much). And much of that experience is driven by interactions with people. However, while there’s a lot to take from immersing yourself in different cultures and trying to converse in other languages, very little matches the pure enjoyment of sharing stories, having a laugh, and most importantly, exploring foreign locales, with like-minded and similarly-inspired people.