Twipper of the Week: Doreen Pendgracs from Chocolatour!
Current city: I live an hour north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Age: Old enough to appreciate cultural differences and personalities
Total countries visited: 35
What makes you interesting: I travel the world in search of the best chocolate experiences. That means I search out the most fascinating and innovative chocolatiers, chocolate makers, chocolate events and attractions and chocolate spas. Yes, I’ve been slathered in molten chocolate from head to toe in a growing number of countries and love it! I’m also a terrific listener. Maybe that’s partly thanks to being a Toastmaster for the past 17 years. But I truly love hearing and telling people’s stories.
What brands do you love: I love NAOT footwear and have worn them for years. Comfort and fashion combined to perfection. I love MAXIM ice-cream bars as they are coated in really good quality chocolate. I love the APPLE brand and have an iMac, MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone and love how they all communicate and share via the iCloud. I also love WESTJET Airlines and fly them as often as I can for their great pricing, reliability, and friendly staff.
What people say when they travel with you: “When you travel with Doreen Pendgracs, it is a first-class experience. Doreen works with tourism officials to arrange every detail and special extras for the trip and makes sure that accommodations are always up to her high standards. Even having to deal with three days of rain in Miami, Florida, couldn’t dampen her enthusiasm and it was the best time to take the bus tours she’d arranged for us.” And from another friend and colleague: “I was honored and delighted to be Doreen’s travel companion/interpreter on the inaugural Chocolatour to Belgium, France and Switzerland. I was most impressed with her organizational skills, her contacts, and her ability to find great places to stay and great deals for travel. She researched everything before we left Canada and booked interviews with key chocolatiers in all three countries. The entire trip was educational, but most of all, fun!” And from another friend and colleague: “Being stranded behind a mudslide on your way to visit cacao farmers in the Ecuadorian jungle isn’t so bad when you have Doreen along to entertain you for eight hours. She even had the wherewithal to bring snacks, and the generosity to share them with our fellow passengers in the taxi.”
So far, where have you tasted the most delicious Chocolate: I guess if I had to pick one country, it would be Switzerland. Switzerland makes the most amount of milk chocolate, and they are the highest consumers of chocolate in the world (according to some polls.) They really know their chocolate, and make exquisite chocolate creations of every variety and from a wide range of cocoa origins.
What is the longest period of time that you have been away from home and where did you go: The longest time I’ve been away from home has been six weeks. We went to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. I absolutely love Vancouver Island as it is a nature lover’s paradise. Clean air and water, magnificent forests, and plentiful wildlife. What could be better?
What is your favorite mode of transportation when you travel: My favourite mode of transportation is flying first class on long haul flights. I think my most memorable flight was to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Etihad Airlines. The quality of service was absolutely amazing and having a comfortable bed to stretch out on during the 13+ hour flight was fantastic.
What are your travel pet peeves: I have two. One is when you are in a hotel room and the alarm goes off at 6 am because the cleaning staff had neglected to delete any settings made by the previous guests. I think hotel staff should be trained to always ensure the clock is set correctly, and that any previous alarm settings are deleted when they clean the rooms between guests. My other pet travel peeve is encountering fellow travellers who do nothing but complain because something is “different/not as good as at home.” Travel is and should be an adventure. If you don’t want to take chances and seize the opportunity to encounter and experience different customs and foods, stay home so you don’t spoil it for the rest of us.
What have you learned about yourself during your travels: That I truly love people. I enjoy meeting people from different countries and cultures and feel that I am the person I am today because of the incredible travel experiences I’ve had over the past 40+ years.
Next travel destination: Scottsdale, Arizona later this month. I was there quite a long time ago (BB — before blogging!) And so, a return visit to explore their chocolate scene and familiarize myself with what’s new in their lodging and culinary scenes will be terrific.
Twipper of the Week: Clark Norton!
Current city: Tucson, AZ
Age: 71 (though since I can’t really picture myself as 71, I prefer “veteran travel writer” or “cutting-edge baby boomer”)
Total countries visited: 120
What makes you interesting: People seem to find the life of a travel writer interesting – that you can actually make a living traveling and write about it. I don’t like to talk about my work all that much – there’s a lot of sitting in front of the computer pounding out (I hope) golden or at least silver or bronze words, and that’s anything but glamorous – but I do love to talk about travel, and I can do that for hours. But only if the person on the other end of the conversation is genuinely interested and asking questions and isn’t fidgeting or dozing off; not everyone wants to hear about your latest trip. Otherwise, I put my work out there and let it speak for itself.
What motivates you to travel: Of course, as a travel writer I’m motivated to travel when an editor sends me somewhere on a paying gig, but in truth, I would – and often do — travel even if I’m not on assignment. I can only say that I love it and there’s some sort of burning pit inside me that propels me to want to go anywhere and everywhere at just about any time. I think it’s mostly being curious about the world. What’s a place I’ve only read about really like? I never feel I can answer that question until I’ve been there and seen it for myself (and, often, write about it afterward – which helps me clarify my thoughts). Then there are countries like France, Spain, Italy and Greece that I return to again and again just because I like being there so much and enjoy the ambiance, people, and food.
Where did you go for your first travel experience and at what age: I’ll have to divide that into two parts. My parents were both teachers, had summers off and loved to take driving trips around the U.S., so I had traveled to 48 states by the time I was 12. My first big trip was at age five when my family visited New York City and Washington, DC; I’ll never forget the impression the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and the U.S. Capitol made on me then. But of all our trips, I was especially enamored of California and the “wild” West, which seemed incredibly exotic to a boy growing up in Indiana. My first overseas trip was to Europe when I was age 20, in college. Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Amsterdam, Lucerne, and London were magical places to me and really opened my eyes to the world. And I’ve been traveling every chance I’ve had ever since.
Who is the most interesting person you have met while traveling: So many, but one quickly comes to mind: Margaret Mead, the anthropologist. She was quite old at the time and I was quite young, on my first trip to Africa trying to dig up stories for a news service but finding myself more interested in seeing the sights (naturally). I was sitting in the outdoor cafe of the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi when I spotted her, cane in hand, standing at the corner of a busy intersection, clearly wary of facing the traffic. I recognized her immediately and jumped at the chance to help her cross the street, then accompanied her to a conference she was attending on environmental issues. She was incredibly smart, of course, but also very funny – she couldn’t get over how there was a KFC (which she called “that chicken place”) right across the street from the conference center — and I got a good story out of it.
What do you enjoy doing the most during your travels: Walking around a city or hiking through the countryside, just observing, soaking in the atmosphere, people watching and relishing the scenery: The world’s best freebie.
What’s your favorite passport stamp: Probably the stamp I got on Easter Island (“Isla de Pascua”) on October 17, 2006. It pictures the moia – the giant carved stone heads the island is famous for – and epitomizes to me getting to someplace that’s in the middle of nowhere but absolutely fascinating.
What has been the most useful thing you have brought on a trip: Besides my laptop and camera, which I couldn’t do without, I still rely on good old-fashioned print guidebooks (often with the appropriate pages torn out to reduce the weight). My most useful guidebook was when I bought Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day back in 1971 while spending three months traveling around Europe. Until I picked up that book, I was sort of aimlessly wandering around, and when I started reading it I realized how much I’d been missing. I’ve been devoted to print guidebooks ever since, no matter how smart my phone is.
Next travel destination: Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, hot springs, cherry blossoms, bullet trains, great noodle dishes, a culture very different from the U.S.
Current city: At the moment we are back in our hometown called Aarau, it is situated between Zurich and Bern, Switzerland.
Age: We both are 23 years old.
Total countries visited: As we both started to travel at a young age, we already discovered 40 countries.
What makes you interesting: As a young and active couple we are trying to inspire others to go out and see the world.
What brands do you love: We recently bought the new GH5 camera from Panasonic and we absolutely love it. It takes amazing pictures and even greater slow motion footage.
What does “Travel” mean to you: Traveling means to us that we get the opportunity to escape our normal eight-to-five life by get lost somewhere new.
Most magical place on earth: For us it is probably Byron Bay, New South Wales Australia. We do have a deep connection to this town because we spent our first weekend trip there as a couple.
#1 thing you must do when traveling: Since we are real foodies the first thing we usually do is trying the local foods.
Where and when were you the most culture shocked: When we visited the sacred tree temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. We learned so much about Buddhism and the Sri Lankan culture.
What is your most favorite travel memory: This was definitely on our road trip to the Ayers Rock. We were camping in the Australian Outback, just with our sleeping bags. We were actually so scared to fall asleep because of the wild animals that we spent the whole night counting shooting stars instead of sleeping. Although we did not get a lot of sleep, it turned into one of the most beautiful nights ever.
Next travel destination: Calp, Spain
Twippers of the Week: Simon and Erin from Never Ending Voyage.
Current city: Berlin, Germany
Total countries visited: 58
What makes you interesting: My partner Simon and I have been traveling full-time for six and a half years and have no plans to stop. We fund our travels with our travel blog, Never Ending Voyage, and our travel expense tracker app, Trail Wallet.
What brands do you love: Apple (we travel with Macs, iPhones, iPad, Apple Watch, and we make iPhone apps!), Tortuga and Osprey for backpacks, Bluffs for men’s travel trousers, and Lush for solid shampoo bars.
What’s one thing you have no problem breaking the bank for when traveling: Food! We love searching out the best vegetarian food on our travels, whether it’s a cactus taco on the streets of Mexico or a gourmet vegan meal in San Francisco.
What is the best part about having a travel partner: Having someone to experience magical moments with.
What do you put in your carry-on baggage: We travel with just one carry-on backpack each so they contain almost everything we own. I travel with a MacBook Air, Olympus OMD-EM5 camera, iPhone, Kindle Paperwhite, about 10 items of clothing and two pairs of shoes. Simon carries our toiletries but we don’t take much—Lush shampoo bar, toothpaste, solid deodorant, and once-a-day suncream, all in bottles under 100 ml.
What is your favorite mode of transportation when you travel: Train. Flying is always a cramped experience and I get travel sick on buses. Trains are usually comfortable, spacious, and take you right to the center of a city. Once we reach our destination, especially in Southeast Asia, we love renting a scooter to explore locally. It’s cheap, gives us lots of freedom, and is a great way to see the countryside.
What is your most favorite travel memory: One of our favorite places in the world is Greenpalms Homestay in the lush green backwaters of Kerala, India. Our host was a kind, gentle man called Thomas who each day would take us out to explore the village and meet the local people. One particularly magical moment came after a late night visit to a toddy shop to drink the local coconut sap brew. When we were returning to the homestay by canoe, Thomas and his friend sang us a capella Indian folk songs under the stars. It was the perfect moment in a beautiful place and brought tears to our eyes.
Where and when were you the most culture shocked: India. We loved it there, but it is a challenging destination and completely different from anywhere else. We found the trick is to take it slowly and treat yourself to a nice hotel every now and then to give yourself a break.
Next travel destination: We’re visiting friends and family in England on a short visit, and then will be traveling around Europe by train to France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.