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December 11, 2017

Giving Back and Getting Back

Miami Marine Stadium

People travel for many different reasons. Some travel for the scenery, some simply for relaxation or exploration. Others are in search of family history or the history of a particular destination. Still others go just to say they went. For me, travel is usually about the scenery and exploring new places. Sometimes though, the reasons we decide to travel become secondary to our experiences while travelling. Join me for this 2-part series as I explore the emotional impact that travel can have on us.

Giving back and getting back

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel on two guided tours with Collette in the past few years, as well as a volunteer trip that was offered through their partnership with Tourism Cares. In every case, the scenery was amazing! And, I was able to do new things and see places that I had only dreamed about. The surprising thing with 2 of these trips though, was how they affected me.

Canadian Rockies by Train was my first tour and there’s a funny story about my main “must-have” item when I travel, but I’ll save that for another time. In 2014, I volunteered for a 3-day trip to Miami with Tourism Cares. Partly just for the “giving back” aspect of it, as that is one of the cornerstones of the Collette culture. But more so than that, it was because I had actually lived in south Florida when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. Right away, there was that emotional connection for me. A bit of nostalgia, you might say. To have the opportunity to help out after such a catastrophic storm was something I didn’t want to miss.

On the day of the actual work, however, I received some devastating news of my own. My father had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly earlier that morning....now what do I do? It would be several days at least before any arrangements were made. Since there was nothing I could do to change what had happened, I decided to stay and complete the task at hand. The positive effects of doing so were many.

First and foremost, we helped clean up Miami Marine Stadium and replace some of the plant life in the surrounding area. This was the primary purpose of the trip, and a remarkable achievement! Over 20 bags of trash removed, approximately 800 new trees planted, and nearly 11,000 “sea oats” replaced on Virginia Key Beach. I also got to meet many others in the tourism industry who truly care about the world around us. During the course of the day, while trying to figure out what I should do about getting home, I realized that I work with some pretty amazing people as well. From the executive vice president, the HR rep and other co-workers that were in Florida with me, to the people back in the office that made the necessary changes to my air schedule, all were sympathetic, supportive and helpful.

I did end up leaving the trip and returning home a day earlier than I had originally planned. In doing so, I had the opportunity to get to know another colleague, whom I had not even met prior to this trip, but who has since become a very good friend. That story is an entire blog post in and of itself. Needless to say, having a friend nearby at a time like that (new as they were to me in that role), was truly priceless. Even though Miami was a short trip, the effect has been profound and enduring.

In part 2 of the series, I will talk about my tour of Ireland. Visiting the land of my ancestors had been a life-long dream of mine (and many others in my family). So much so for me in fact, that I would still include Ireland on my bucket list of places to visit in the future.

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