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Start Early, Seek Out the Unique

Westport based travel writer Susan Farewell entertained Westport Sunrise Rotary on January 25 with stories about her travels and recommended itineraries beyond Disney World and the big bus tour of Paris.

Farewell is a lifelong traveler, former Condé Nast travel editor and author of many travel books, including How to Make a Living as a Travel Writer.

She has become a “travel concierge” who tells clients travel is “increasingly accessible and popular.” She believes we should look at travel planning as “strategic choices.”

While “many baby boomers grew up with parents who were saving to travel after retirement.” Today social media are “increasingly connecting us and making the world smaller.” Young children should be exposed to travel, high school students increasingly want to study abroad, and college students want more than one semester away from campus.

Because an individual trip is not, to Farewell, “where will we go this year,” but part of a larger, longer plan, once you’re ready to go where your neighbor hasn’t, she has recommendations.

And before you go, do your research. Avoid the big bus. Find the smaller tour, eight to 10 people. If your budget allows, find “the guide Madonna hired for her daughter.” If not, go for the most you can afford.

Start when your children are young, ease them into the adventure of traveling. “The U.S. is more than Disney.” A weekend in New York is a great first trip. Stay in Battery Park, walk around downtown, go to the statue of Liberty…

As they get older “show them Colonial Williamsburg, the Grand Canyon, the national parks.” She suggested visiting the Pacific Northwest to see the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, just across Puget Sound from Seattle (When you’re there, tour Pike Place Market in Seattle, dine on the city’s magnificent salmon. And every second store in the city sells great coffee. If you don’t leave over caffeinated, it’s your own fault!).

When you look outside the U.S., yes, you want to do London and Paris. But don’t pile onto that big bus. And there’s a whole lot elsewhere.

“Now is a fabulous time to go to Eastern Europe… it’s 20 years since the Iron Curtain came down, Eastern Europe can accommodate tourists.” Farewell talked about her trip from Gdansk, along the Baltic Sea and south to Berlin. Most cities are “tourist ready. They don’t have McDonald’s, but there are people who understand English and they can accommodate tourists.”

Two of her favorites are Iceland and the Galapagos Islands. Iceland “should be mandatory… I’ve been there countless times.” Farewell said she has “fallen in love with the country… it’s the most alive country on earth,” with its geothermals and volcanoes.

The Galapagos were “an educational experience… you’ll see more animals and plants there that you won’t see anywhere else.” She and her daughter took an “expedition trip” that brought travelers ashore among the animals – in contrast to most trips that only let travelers view them from small boats going near the shore.

“I’ve been on several safaris and wilderness trips, but never have I had the opportunity to see wildlife at such close range.”

Moving on, Farewell called Africa “unlike any other continent,” and recommended going on safari. “Do it while you’re young… don’t underestimate the toll one takes” – long flights with multiple connections, then enhancing the “game drive” by walking around in the bush, visiting villages, even adding mountain biking and similar activities to your itinerary.

She mentioned other favorites. Istanbul “gives a whole new meaning to melting pot.” In Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia drew her praise, and Stockholm in Western Europe. Even a driving trip to Cape Cod or elsewhere in New England can be superb getaways.

Those interested in learning more about this travel concierge should visit her website:

Photo by Hal Levy

Roy Fuchs