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Smart Guy, Huh? 30 Years Of Travel Writing Doesn’t Make Me A Skilled Traveller



After 30+ years, I think I’m a decent travel journalist. But I may not be a very skilled traveller.

I generally travel by invitation, and everything is arranged for me. In my early days, that often meant business or first-class flights. That’s a rarity today, but my hands are generally held by public relations people or representatives of my hosts. I’m coddled like a child. They tell me where to be and when — I show up. They tell me when I’m going home and see me off. I don’t have to think too much.

Pretty good gig, right? But on my current first-time G Adventures Canada fam trip to Belize and Guatemala, I have come to realize the limitations of my privilege.

For some reason, I got it in my head that I was flying home a day later than others in my group. When my wife drove me to the airport, she said “You’re back on Sunday, right?” “No, not until Monday night,” I told her, with the confidence of a grown man. “Hmmm, I was sure you said Sunday,” she replied. “Nope, Monday,” I told her.

G Adventures fam

The G Adventures Canada fam group was hosted by the Belize Tourism Board for a dinner in Belize City. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

All went well on the flight down, and the arranged transfer to our group’s first hotel in Belize City. There I met the 15 women accompanying me, travel agents from across Canada, along with G Adventures Global Purpose Specialist Jenna English, and our G Chief Experience Officer Juan Carlos (JC) Martinez, the only other male on the trip.

Despite searing heat (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity (100% at times), I had one of the best weeks of my life. Our group was amazing. I was welcomed as “one of the girls,” and had a blast getting to know everyone. (I thought male ‘locker-room’ talk was spicy. Damn, girls!) I hit it off with our CEO JC, learned so much from him, and forged a friendship I hope will be long-lasting.

With one exception (there’s always one), our group was exceptionally good to each other — incredibly helpful and caring — and we shared laughs and stories for eight days, while engaging in mind-blowing experiences I will treasure forever. The hotels weren’t my usual 5-star digs, but that’s not why I travel.

I’m a connection-seeker, stimulated by new people and places, and I usually have to go out of my way to find them out on the kinds of trips I do. With G Adventures’ focus on using locally-owned hotels and restaurants, they come with the package.

G Adventures

Tanya Vigeant, (left) with Debbie Loewen on a G Adventures fam trip to Belize and Guatemala. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

With an ‘extra night’ before I travelled home, I accepted an invitation from Tanya Vigeant of All-Ways Travel in Williams Lake, BC. Our G trip ended in Caye Kaulker, Belize, and she had arranged two nights at the luxurious Marriott Autograph Collection hotel Alaia on Ambergris Caye. We would travel together by fast-ferry, I would grab a couch or rollaway bed in the massive suite, and head out the next morning for the airport.

A strong, mature, independent and hilarious 28-year-old woman, Tanya was fantastic company during the trip. We set off together on the ferry and took a cab to the new hotel. After staying in functional but modest properties over the length of the trip, we couldn’t stop laughing when we arrived at Alaia.

Marriott Autograph Collection Alaia

The beautiful terrace on a one-bedroom suite at Marriott Autograph Collection Alaia, San Pedro, Belize. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

We were greeted by the gracious Eric with cold, eucalyptus-scented towels and a very fancy welcome drink. We hung by the pool and had lunch until the suite was ready. The giggles started again when Eric showed us to the suite, which was sprawling and contained every imaginable modern convenience.

As we settled in, I figured (as an experienced traveller, don’t you know) that I should check-in for my next-day American Airlines flight, 22 hours away. Instead of selecting my seat, I was greeted with a message that I had a flight credit. I assumed the flight had been cancelled, and contacted G’s Air Department to find out what was going on.

What was going on was that I was booked to fly that day, and had no-showed for the flight. I reviewed my paperwork, and yes, it was all there in black-and-white. “You are such a dumb-ass,” I told myself, not for the first time.

While G worked on new flights, Tanya and I swam in Alaia’s glorious suspended rooftop pool as the sun went down. Dinner brought more hilarity, as we headed for a modestly priced local restaurant, and somehow ended up in an un-signed, ultra-exclusive boutique hotel. Still thinking we were at the right place – it was just much nicer than expected – we sat at the bar and looked at the menu.

“Holy #$%^,” we exclaimed. The appetizers cost more than any meal we’d had all week. Hell, one drink cost more than our previous evening meals. As staff were setting up our dinner table, we pondered how we would accomplish the ‘walk of shame’ out of the place without embarrassing ourselves too much.

The bartender, as amazingly hospitable as everyone we have met here in Belize, made it very easy, and we slunk down to the beach, where 50 yards away was a pretty, but much more modest resort and restaurant. For a total price for two that was similar to a single appetizer at our first stop, we had flaming hot jalapeno poppers, two meals and four drinks between us.

Marriott Autograph Collection Alaia Belize

Comfy couch at the Marriott Autograph Collection Alaia in San Pedro, Belize. (Photo Credit: Bruce Parkinson)

We returned to our Alaia oasis and had an early night, Tanya in her gorgeous, expansive room, me on a very comfortable couch in the living room. Tanya has graciously invited me to stay again tonight, so we’ll do a hotel inspection and check out Ambergris Caye and San Pedro. With any luck, (and the watchful eyes of an experienced advisor) I’ll get home on Tuesday, with a couple of days to launder my sweat-soaked clothes and repack for the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit in Panama.

And this dumb-ass travel writer will be reading his documents very closely.

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