How GeoEx Staffers Are Keeping Their Wanderlust Alive | GeoEx
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How GeoEx Staffers Are Keeping Their Wanderlust Alive

By Don George | April 1, 2020

In last week’s letter, I focused on what you, our beloved travelers, are doing to thrive—and keep your wanderlust alive—in these unprecedented times. Many of you responded in the Comments section at the end of my column, and others wrote personal emails to me. Thank you so much for all your responses! They are tremendously heartening and inspiring in these challenging times.

For this week’s letter, I decided to ask GeoEx staffers what they are doing to keep their wanderlust alive.

First of all, I know that for the past few weeks, they have all been extremely busy doing what they do best: taking extraordinarily good care of our travelers. They have been working overtime to make sure that everyone who was out in the world got home safely—sometimes making miraculously choreographed arrangements to do so. And for travelers on immediately upcoming trips, they have been creatively collaborating to transfer those plans to fall/winter 2020 and 2021 journeys.

Following these efforts remotely, I have been awed once again by the passion, expertise, and commitment of these staffers. I don’t say this lightly. I have known GeoEx since the late 1980s, when, as the Travel Editor at the San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle, I traveled on a life-changing GeoEx (then InnerAsia) journey along the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan to fabled Hunza. Through all the years since, I have associated GeoEx with bedrock integrity, commitment to world-class service, exceedingly high ethical standards, and profound passion for the world and for the potential of travel to transform ourselves and our planet. In the past few weeks, these qualities have shown brighter than ever, and I am prouder than ever to be affiliated with this amazing team.

Now that all our travelers are safely home, I felt this was a good time to check in with staffers to see what they are doing to thrive in this unanticipated new world. Impressively, but not surprisingly, all of them are thinking positively and creatively about the future of travel. Many are working with travelers to discuss upcoming trips or journey-of-a-lifetime dreams. Others are drawing on their own travel experiences—for years, GeoEx has been sending every staffer into the field each year to research his or her chosen destinations—to craft and refine new itineraries, which we’ll be announcing in the months to come.

Of course, they’re also taking advantage of this expanded time at home to pursue domestic passions, from baking to gardening, neighborhood trekking to map-celebrating. Here’s what some of them told me:

Kristina Tuohey, Managing Director, Product Development:

The silver lining of this completely unexpected situation is that I’m able to carve out some space for my family and for me, which isn’t always easy as a working mom of a little one. Because we’re all here, because I have no commute, I have time; I’m not running to the next thing or rushing to get home to put my daughter to bed. Instead, I’m here, present, I can cook, schedule virtual time with friends, tend to my tomatoes, plant some herbs or even weed the garden while my kid is in the sandbox, and, yes, binge-watch shows, or even read (read!). Dare I say, it’s actually been kind of nice to be still and appreciate where I am. Which is a different kind of wanderlust, I suppose.

Corinne Edwards, Director, Global Sales:

I have a favorite film that has always kept my explorer spirit charged—it’s called 180 Degrees South and recently I’ve watched this movie more times than I care to admit. I feel a kindred spirit with the documentary filmmakers who were inspired by explorers—Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins—who came before them. The intrepid route they chose to take, to involve various outdoor elements, adds to the soul stroke!

As for music, I’ve been dipping back into classics that I grew up with to evoke simple pleasures. My family always had music on, and I’ve found comfort in reverting back to oldies such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, or bluesy tunes from Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King, plus jazz favorites from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane (to name a few!).

To keep entertained, I’ve taken up making dorodango, a Japanese art form that is basically mud ball-making! It’s been truly soothing molding mud while getting earth tones stained on my hands. Massaging and slowly shaping the mud dumpling is a welcome therapeutic activity, plus watching the process with patience day after day has been a pleasing pastime. Someday I’ll pay direct tribute to this art form by visiting Japan!

Errin Mixon, Frontend Developer & Web Designer:

I have been baking—but that was offering a bit too much comfort, so I’m switching to biking. Next week. After I finish these cookies.

Jenny Velasco​, Director, Special Projects:

We were planning to take our one-year-old on her first trip out of the country this spring. Now that that’s not in the cards, we stand with her in front of a map on the wall and greet the world each day. “Hello, world! Hello, Africa! Hello, South America! Hello, Asia!” We tell her about some of our favorite travels and point out places we’d like to visit with her in tow.

Jean‑Paul Tennant​, Chief Executive Officer:

My wife and I recently watched Tampopo, and loved it. We find Japan to be a very special corner of our planet, and this film transported us right back there while at the same time eliciting quite a few laughs, which is a nice bonus during these interesting times!

Danielle Garland, Director, Communications:

To keep sane, I have been using online yoga classes, cooking a lot, meeting friends virtually for drinks and a chat, and going on socially distanced bike rides, walks, or runs every day. Oh, and weeding! Garden “parties” (AKA pulling weeds for hours) have been great, too.

Elizabeth McNeil​, Director, Guest Services:

I’ve been fueling my wanderlust by culinary measures—making great Thai curries and Korean bibimbap and trying out recipes in my dusty cookbooks now that I have more time to do so. If I can’t go to these places, at least I can be transported there by my taste buds!

Travel-ish books that I’ve enjoyed include: Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson, Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, by Haemin Sunim. (The last one is slightly less travel-y, but does remind me a lot of my host mom’s wise sayings when I was an exchange student in Korea and seems fitting for these times!)

Alysa Pakkidis, Director, Creative:

Since I was a little girl receiving my weekly Fraggle Rock books in the mail, my adventure-seeking spirit has always been fueled by books and wonder. (I was always fascinated and curious about Uncle “Traveling Matt”!) Even though I cannot physically travel at the moment, I’ve been tending to my passion for travel by diving into the storied lands so sublimely illustrated by authors.

I’m revisiting one of my favorite novels, Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, except for this time I’m listening to the audiobook. It is wonderfully produced, bringing to life the complexity of the character’s lives in a new, vibrant way. I’m also chipping away at the enormous stack of books on my nightstand, which includes 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende, In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, and The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan, to name a few.

Walks around the neighborhood have provided their own sense of adventure as I admire the freshly blooming colors of spring arrive and take in all the variances of landscaping I wouldn’t normally be as intrigued by. I’m also finding great delight in cooking every meal at home, using inspiration—and spices—from my travels. During this time, I find it crucial to take pause each day to remind myself how unbelievably lucky I am to be in a safe place, with access to plenty of food, and the ability to keep—and deepen—friendships, even if virtual. Perspective has made a world of difference.

Natalie Crow​, Managing Director, Global Sales:

My boyfriend and I were supposed to fly to Mexico last week with some friends, so now that we are here, I am waiting for my shipment of mezcal to arrive, and when it does, we will be making margaritas and having a virtual happy hour with those friends, who will be in their apartment. I think I’ll find some good mariachi music to play in the background. And we will probably make tacos.

Also, I have been going on lots of neighborhood walks, and “traveling” by admiring my neighbors’ front yards. Thank goodness I live in an eclectic neighborhood, with lots of interesting houses and plenty of front yards with beautiful succulents and flowers blooming in so many amazing and vibrant colors! Also, the air quality and clouds here in Northern California have been stunning. Every day the sky has been magical. Yesterday there was even a rainbow.

Jennine Cohen​, Director, Global Sales:

I’ve been working on “the everyday magic project.” It’s my podcast about how to harness the aliveness we feel when we travel in our everyday lives. We can all use a little magic right now and it’s a great listen while being inside.

Heather Cunningham​, Director, Group Departures:

I’ve taken this opportunity to lighten my overabundant citrus trees of some of their fruit—I have been trying new recipes, including preserved lemons which are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cooking, used in fragrant lamb and vegetable tagines, recipes for chicken with lemons and olives, and salads. I also made jalapeño poppers the other night and reminisced about Bhutan’s national dish (chilies and cheese—yum). Cooking is an amazing way to nurture my wanderlust while homebound.

I’ve also been using my time at home to organize my travel gear and get rid of things I no longer need. It’s a perfect time to do home projects and tackle my very long project wish list. So far, I’ve cleaned out my basement, maintained my compost, tended my garden, and am nurturing the jalapeño seeds I started growing from the previously mentioned jalapeños.

I’ve also been appreciating the additional time with my two dogs. I have a love of animals, almost as strong as my love of travel, which can be a challenge to manage at times. As much as I love my travel adventures, I do miss my furry family members when I’m gone. I can’t always take them with me on the road, so this is the perfect time to give them lots of my attention and love.

I want to extend huge thanks to all these staffers for sharing their activities, recommendations, and reflections. And I want to encourage you, dear readers and fellow travelers, to continue to send us your recommendations, reflections, and activities by posting your comments in the Leave a Reply section below. We love hearing from you!

At GeoEx, now that we’re all working out of our individual offices, one thing we have been trying to do is to gather together virtually once a week just to keep in touch, lift our collective spirits, and savor our smiles. Earlier this week, about half the team managed to meet online at the same time, and we created this group portrait of the GeoEx staffers working at home.

This is our way of saying hello and sending good cheer to all of you!

Finally, we all know one thing to be true: We will get through this, and when we do, we will have some serious celebrating—and travel—to do! With you!!

Yours in abiding wanderlust,
Don George

* * * * *

When the time comes, GeoEx is here to tend to your wanderlust. If you have any questions about upcoming trips or booking future travel, we encourage you to call us at 888-570-7108.

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Barbara MacKay
Barbara MacKay
4 years ago

How nice to see your faces. Hope to travel with you before the end of the year. Meanwhile here is a photo (if you can make it out) of me and temple host in Kashmir, 2017, happier times.

DSC00383 (1).JPG
Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Barbara MacKay

What a lovely photo, Barbara! Thanks so much for sharing it.
The end of the year is still quite far away; we’ll be doing everything we can on our end to get you back out there just as soon as it’s safe to do so 😉

Jane Johnson
4 years ago

Passing time During self quarantine I have been working on designing a platter to be fired and auctioned online to benefit The Retreat, which provides services for abused people.

For inspiration I have turned to past travel photographs of designs from Iznik tiles from Turkey, Indian paisley in all its manifestations, Carpet designs and Moroccan tile and textiles and to treasures at The Galbenkian and The Victoria and Albert Museums.

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane Johnson

Hi Jane, What a lovely gesture to auction one of your platters to benefit The Retreat — and so wonderful to be able to pull from your own travel pictures for sources of inspiration. Such a worthy cause! We hope it all went well and would love to see the finished piece.

Sandra Long
Sandra Long
4 years ago

Thank you for this look at the PEOPLE who make up Geoex! Like some of you, I am finding hidden blessings in having to slow down and go within myself, my thoughts and spirit. I am enjoying the continuance of my various dance lessons via ZOOM, my photography class via ZOOM plus catching up (less than more) with photo editing, reading, and journal writing and projects in my home and garden. I am blessed to have already done most of my world traveling already and glad to have done so before this current hiccup in plans and opportunities. It doesn’t… Read more »

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Sandra Long

Hi Sandra! Wow, you have a lot of fun things happening during this slowing down period. How fun to continue to take dance classes, even if it does have to be at home and sounds like you have so many wonderful projects to keep you more than busy. We agree, travel and procrastination just doesn’t make any sense — we are eagerly awaiting new adventures to those places on the ‘get there now’ list when we’re all able to! We’d love to see some of your photography if you’d care to share 🙂

Peggy Lamb
Peggy Lamb
4 years ago

Glad you’re all home safe! Lind De La Torre, how was Antarctica? Did you get to go?

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Peggy Lamb

Thank you, Peggy! Linda did get to go to Antarctica and, fortunately, made it home safely just before shelter-in-place took effect! She’ll be sharing details about her trip in an upcoming photoblog, so please stay tuned. (She’ll, of course, also send it your way when ready)

4 years ago

As we are all grounded, my travel friends are posting lots of images from past trips. From take-off through the entire voyage. We may not be able to travel right now, but the images keep wanderlust alive. Much aloha.

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Maggie

Love that they’re posting from take-off all the way through; what a fun idea!
We’re digging through our images — and videos! — as well to share with our travelers!

Joan Fondell
Joan Fondell
4 years ago

Looking forward to traveling with your company again soon!!!

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Joan Fondell

Thank you so much, Joan!
We’re looking forward to making that a reality soon as well!

Story Kirshman
4 years ago
Reply to  Joan Fondell

Joan! Hello! Kim and I were just talking about our trip to Morocco with you and wondering why the heck we thought it was a good idea to eat a raw oyster in Casablanca! That was a little crazy! Hope to see you soon! xoxo

4 years ago

It seems this is a special time for staff to connect back to gardens, books, music, cooking, neighbors and even indulge a bit in parenthood. Travel can come in many forms.

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago
Reply to  Helen

Truly dreadful circumstances, however, this extra time at home has been a blessing in disguise for many.
So true, travel is ingrained in us adventurers, whether we are traversing across the world or around the block!

Pamela Ebsworth
Pamela Ebsworth
4 years ago

This is so sweet! I have been thinking about my friends at GeoEx. What a tough time
we are in! We will get through it!

Best wishes to all of you & stay safe!

Warmly, Pam Ebsworth

Alysa Pakkidis
4 years ago

Hi Pam, thank you for the kind words & well wishes!
We’re all doing what we can to stay engaged and positive, and, yes, as you say, we will get through it!
Having a wonderful community of travelers – and colleagues – certainly has been the biggest help.
Please do keep in touch, your friends at GeoEx 🙂

GeoEx eBook:
The Best of Wanderlust

An Anthology of Travel Stories
Edited by Don George