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Traveling Vicariously

Last weekend, my husband Randy and I attended the Dallas Travel and Adventure Show at Dallas Market Hall. We’ve always loved to travel – by car, airplane or cruise ship – and the Travel and Adventure Show was the place to dream BIG!

After years of enjoying summers in our Colorado mountain home – though those first years, our efforts were entirely focused on restoring our 1898 historic home "Swan's Nest" and bringing it up to 21st-century standards – we started exploring destinations we could reach in a day or two on the road. These were places we’d always wanted to see – Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado’s Western Slope and eastern plains.

So, imagine my surprise last weekend in Dallas, with visions of faraway destinations in my eyes, one of the first booths we stopped at was the RAWAH Colorado Wilderness Ranch. Hosted by ranch managers Tim and Meg Dyer, we learned this historic guest ranch and fly-fishing lodge, established in 1948 and situated just south of the Wyoming border at an elevation of 8,400 feet, is named after the Ute word for abundance. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks and wilderness, this dude ranch offers guests an authentic Western experience in unspoiled natural surroundings. www.rawahranch.com.

As we continued to stroll the aisles, expansive photographs of rushing water caught my eye. It was the Rivers & Oceans booth hosted by owner Robby Pitagora and his team. This Arizona-based company matches guests with their perfect water adventure, whether that means white water rafting in Africa or the Grand Canyon, sea kayaking in Baja or Belize, or expedition cruising in Alaska, Galapagos, or Antarctica. www.riversandoceans.com

The Amadeus River Cruises booth, hosted by director of sales David Holmwood, offered water adventures of a more tranquil nature. River cruising is immensely popular along Europe’s waterways, and offers the advantage of docking just steps from historic cities and exciting points of interest. With a fleet of eleven luxurious ships, superior cuisine, and special interest cruises such as classical music on the Danube and Christmas market tours along the Rhine, Amadeus ensures guests a memorable experience infused with Austrian hospitality. www.Amadeus-RiverCruises.com

An interview with Narciso Moreno, Puerto Rico Tourism’s director of sales for North America brought back many fond memories. Randy and I have visited Puerto Rico on three occasions, and I fall in love with the island every time. It’s turquoise waters and white sand beaches always beckon me, but most of all, we love exploring historic Old San Juan – a designated World Heritage site founded in 1520 by Ponce de Leon. Narrow cobbled streets perfect for strolling, windows accented with black iron rails sometimes overflowing with flowers, impressive government buildings painted pale yellow with stark white trim for an air of Caribbean elegance, and fascinating shops and restaurants for every taste. For me, a trip to Puerto Rico isn’t complete until we’ve visited one of the old fortresses, where hundreds of years of history come alive. Puerto Rico’s flavors take center stage during the annual Saborea food and wine festival – a weekend of food, drink, music, culture, and fun that has made Puerto Rico the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean”. This festival features local culinary stars as well as international personalities. Speaking of food, Narciso introduced me to a sweet Puerto Rican tradition – Panetela de Guayaba – Guava Panetela Cake, tempting, tender layers of yellow cake with guava filling and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. And who can forget Puerto Rican rum! www.seepuertorico.com

Because I can never spend enough time in the Caribbean, I also visited with PJ Douglas Sands, senior manager of the Bahamas Tourist Office. The islands of the Bahamas are one of the ultimate escapes for fun, relaxation, and exploration, where they boast a full calendar of events such as Carnival, FIFA beach soccer world cup, and summer festivals. For families on a budget, PJ recommended Grand Bahama Island, where many vacation packages feature Kids Under 12 Eat Free, and kids can swim with the dolphins. For the golfer, PJ suggested the Greg Norman-designed courses in Nassau and championship-designed courses of the Exuma Islands. Popular with millennials and girls’ getaways, Bimini offers superb snorkeling and diving in sapphire waters during the day, and lively casinos for evening entertainment.

Throughout the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show, informative destination seminars were offered, so I took an opportunity to learn more about the U.S. Virgin Islands from department of tourism’s Heather Gibbs. St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix make up the U.S. Virgin Islands, and each features a distinctive experience. This year, St. John celebrates 100 years of being a U.S. territory. The island, which is two-thirds National Park, offers eco-tourism experiences, farm-to-table cuisine, the opportunity to explore the underwater trail of Trunk Bay, the most intact sugar plantation ruins in the Caribbean at the Annaberg Sugar Plantation, and gorgeous beaches. St. Thomas, which I’ve always referred to as “the shopping capital of the world”, offers everything from food trucks to Five-Star dining, a sophisticated downtown atmosphere, unlimited shopping, safari taxis to take guests everywhere around the island, and walking tours that explore food establishments and history. www.visitUSVI.com

African safari companies were well represented at the Dallas Travel and Adventure Show, and I was drawn to the Wild Rainbow African Safaris booth by the genuine, friendly smile of owner and guide, Jody Cole. Jody went on her first safari in 1998 and found “It moved me on a profound level”. Several safaris later, another guide asked her to assist with their safaris, which eventually led to the founding of her own company in 2004. Today, Jody is considered one of the most qualified female guides in the industry. When I asked why most of her clients decide to take a safari, she replied that it’s usually a life dream, which may explain the 18% increase in travelers from the U.S. in the past year. www.wildrainbowsafaris.com

The travel show also provided guests an opportunity to glean useful tips and travel inspiration from celebrities such as Rick Steves, Peter Greenberg, Angel Castellanos, and Jack Maxwell. I had the privilege of interviewing actor Jack Maxwell, host of Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel. In preparation for our interview, I visited Jack’s website, where I viewed a brief video in which he explained his passion for his South Boston hometown and connecting with people over a cocktail or beer. For him, it’s all about the stories that unfold, and the life experiences shared, no matter where in the world folks gather. I found that same genuine passion and connectedness during our interview, albeit there were no cocktails in sight. Our 15-minute interview became 25 minutes, and I could easily see what makes Jack’s travel show so popular. http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/booze-traveler/articles/meet-jack-maxwell

There are eight Travel and Adventure Shows annually in major cities across the U.S. To attend one near your home, please visit https://travelshows.com

Happy Travels!

-Christy