Adeona Odysseys featured in the Washington Post Sunday Travel Section: Adeona Odysseys photo of a humorous homophone plagued sign on interstate 90 in SD was featured in the Washington Post Travel Section’s “Sign Language” on July 14, 2013. When traveling across those long, barren stretches of interstate it’s good to know that one can get a pedicure at any hour of the day or night! Enjoy the photo here and full article at the Washington Post online
Read about our Mid East tours in the Washington Post Sunday Travel Section: The Washington Post showcased travel to the Gulf Coast Countries with Adeona Odysseys’ Director and Travel Curator, Valerie Haeder’s travelogue on the Arabian Peninsula, “High and Dry in Dubai? Not a Chance.” The newspaper’s lead story by Valerie Haeder which ran December 7, 2008, presents the activities and highlights of an Adeona Odysseys visit to the region. Read the travel article reprint here courtesy of the Washington Post and in the newspaper.
THE TRIP: A week on the Arabian Peninsula: Muscat, Oman; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Doha, Qatar.
WHO: I traveled with my sister, Connie; she’s five years older, but everyone thinks we’re twins.
WHY: We read an advertisement promoting a tour to Dubai.
WHEN: The last week of September, which coincided with Ramadan. No eating — unless we were sneaking food in Marks & Spencer’s dressing room — from sunup to sundown. But celebrating with the locals during their holiest month was very festive.
PLANNING: Because September is the low season on the peninsula, with temperatures in the low 100s, it was relatively affordable. Through online research, we discovered Emirates’ Arabian Pass, which offers air travel to multiple Gulf Cooperation Council countries for trips originating in Dubai.
We reserved hotels online, from the small, independently run Naseem Hotel in Muscat to Dubai’s Ibis Hotel, which is geared toward business travelers. In Dubai, we bought tickets for a hop-on/hop-off bus that stops at tourist attractions, such as shopping malls, the Dubai Museum and the world’s largest flagpole, and includes a boat ride up the Dubai Creek on dhows, wooden vessels local to the area.
COST: About $2,150 each, not including food.
GETTING THERE: A 13-hour flight on a new double-decker A-380 (on its sixth flight, at most) from New York’s JFK to Dubai, with spoke flights from Dubai to Muscat and Dubai to Doha.
MOST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION: Muscat’s giant incense burner, which stands sentinel over the Muttrah Corniche, a path hugging the Gulf of Oman. We couldn’t smell any scents from the burner (we climbed right up to it), but it sure beat the incense sprayers/air fresheners placed in bathrooms throughout the Middle East.
THE HIGH LIFE: We had tea on an overhang dangling over the ocean atop the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab, a self-proclaimed seven-star property. To even set foot on the hotel’s grounds, which (typical of Dubai) are on a man-made island, you need a reservation of some kind (we booked tea service, which cost $100 each). Be sure to print an e-mail as confirmation.
Another highlight: We flew right over the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building. It looked as if we were just inches from scraping off the building’s antenna.
FLOATING IN SALT: When it’s 105 degrees and you’re the only two people out on the street, it’s time to seek relief. We happened upon a little beach in Muscat. Wearing a long shirt and trousers to respect local dress, I tore off my running shoes and socks and dashed into the warm water of the Gulf of Oman. Under the shadow of the giant incense burner, I floated easily because of the water’s high salt content. After emerging from the water, I was dry in no time.
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: We decided to check out one of Dubai’s air-conditioned bus stops. The sliding door into the bunker-size stop got stuck, so I yanked it open until it jammed on the other end. I heaved and pulled to no avail. But Connie came to the rescue, tugging the door loose and back to the closed position.
FAVORITE SOUVENIR: A handmade miniature leather helmet sewn by a Qatari at the falcon souk in Doha. Bigger versions cover falcons’ eyes when they’re not hunting.
DON’T MISS . . . dune-bashing and sandboarding in the UAE desert. The sand is soft and red, fulfilling all expectations of the Middle Eastern desert.
Read about us in the travel website, InsiderPerks: Adeona Odysseys and its sister company, Adaro Adventures, were spotlighted on the travel website, InsiderPerks. In the interview, Valerie and Connie Haeder share the best tours of a lifetime, must-see destinations, insider tips and tricks for flawless vacations, their love of travel, and answers to questions you always wanted asked of Valerie and Connie! Below is a reprint of the “Inside the Travel Industry with Connie and Valerie Haeder” article, courtesy of Brian Searles and InsiderPerks.
The travel industry is one of the largest in the world. Those who work within it include authors, journalists, bloggers, tour operators, travel agents, owners, managers and their entire staff that includes public relations, marketing, customer service or anyone else caught in the middle.
Now is your chance to get an in-depth look into their lives. Learn what brings them to work each morning, how they deal with problem customers, how they work on a deadline or write the next chapter of their book. These are their stories of struggle, accomplishment and survival.
Valerie and Connie Haeder in Pyongyang, North Korea
Where does your love of travel come from?
Connie: For as long as I can remember, travel and the yearning for adventure, cultures and experiences have been a part of me. Simply put, it’s in my DNA. Perhaps it’s my being from a small town in SD, where I hankered to see the world and visit the exotic places friends boasted of – Egypt . . . NY! In high school I begged my parents to let me travel to Mexico on an exchange, to no avail at that time. But at least my relentless pleading, along with graduating from high school a semester early, earned me an extended stay in London, for which I planned weeks and weeks in advance. On that first trip I also visited Paris, and the combination of sites, sounds, history, art, people and food hooked me for life. It’s been a visit to a minimum of three or four new countries every year since, with a goal to experience 100! I’m exactly ¾ of the way there with 75 countries across all seven continents!
Valerie: Student travel agencies are ubiquitous in Oxford, England. Roaming the city when I studied there, I noticed the great deals these businesses offered. I figured that my location gave me easy and affordable access to European countries. It was from there, in fact, that Connie and I met up with each other in Lisbon and traveled on to Morocco. After that we took at least one big trip together per year. The habit was formed! There hasn’t been one disappointing adventure. From discovering fascinating culture to tasting regional delicacies, I certainly have the travel bug and can’t wait for my next destination!
Out of all your career options, why create custom tours for clients?
Connie: With the glut of information and options available, many travelers don’t know where to begin, how to make sense of the endless data, or what to see and do to maximize the very few vacation days available to them. Eighty two percent of travelers who do organize their own trips are so utterly exhausted by the time they reach their destination that they are unable to unwind while away, and are disappointed with their selections. They want value for their money, and they certainly don’t want precious vacation time spent herded about en masse from one tacky tourist agency sponsored gift shop to another! They want personalized trips with personalized service. And we provide that. We free travelers from biased information and having to arrange the hundreds of details that make a seamless mini-break, so they are unruffled and can luxuriate immediately upon arrival in their destination. Having traveled the globe extensively and experienced both the thrills and challenges of being on the road, we intimately know the most efficient itineraries and insider tips and tricks, magnificent resorts and hotels, restaurants and food stalls, must-see destinations and celebrated attractions, as well as the less known but equally memorable hidden gems. We love sharing our deep knowledge of hand-picked locales, creating a one-of-a-kind trip tailor-made to their unique interests, including the whimsical little extras and special perks, as well as eliminating the hassle factor for them so all they need to do is enjoy an unparalleled vacation. It’s very gratifying to partner with clients who come to us pressured and overworked, wanting a brief escape from the everyday for something memorable and extraordinary. They return from an Adeona Odysseys getaway or Adaro Adventures excursion relaxed, revived, less stressed, and for some couples more in love! What we’ve known anecdotally for years recently was proven medically – that travel improves productivity, energy levels, sleep quality, blood pressure, personal relationships, resilience to stress, and ultimately happiness. Doesn’t get more rewarding!
Valerie: Travel is as unique as the traveler. No one tour fits all. With the exception of trips to North Korea and Antarctica, we’ve had the opportunity to travel independently at our own pace, touring destinations we want to see and taking time to focus on what interests us most. I want to pass on the excitement and happiness we’ve experienced to our clients so they can have unforgettable travel memories they will look back on with fondness and pleasure.
Tell us the differences between Adeona Odysseys and Adaro Adventures.
Connie & Valerie: Adeona Odysseys, tag line “Luxuriate in Less Time”, specializes in luxury travel of five days or less. One third of Americans are so strapped for time that they don’t even take all their vacation days. We heard from many of those individuals who hadn’t traveled in years because of time constraints and not finding a relevant, short vacation stripped of the stress and hassle of planning and booking. Yet they wanted to travel if only there were available brief escapes tailored to their needs and wishes; the pre-packaged tours that did exist (nine, 15, 21 days with multiple days parked in one location) weren’t accommodating to limiting schedules or to those who wanted to get away for just a short while. We certainly can relate to being harried yet craving travel! We’ve seen much of the world and intimately know the essentials of an area by fashioning our own quick excursions. To heap that rare, deep expertise and service excellence that clients have come to expect, only a very limited number of our hand selected best-of destinations made the Adeona Odysseys collection, with each of the personalized, luxury jaunts falling within one of six types of escapes: 1) Beach – for rest and relaxation, 2) Food/Wine – for culinary journeys, 3) History/Culture – for art, antiquity and enrichment, 4) Adventure – for active, adrenaline inducing activities, 5) Romance – for private indulgences, and 6) Wild! – to revel and break free from the banal. Tours are entirely personalized to our clients’ exacting desires. They can be all-inclusive, a la carte or a combination, depending on the client’s preference. For instance, we’ll take care of door-to-door transportation, flights, accommodation, tours, daily activities and dining for a completely stress-free vacation, or if clients favor unfilled days, we customize all other aspects of their trip as they wish. We help them with as much or as little as they desire.
Sister company Adaro Adventures, tag line “Dare Yourself”, focuses on radical travel to remote corners of the planet. It’s a travel company that works with thrill seekers searching for outrageous, off-the-beaten-path frontiers that few ever experience. The more distant and inaccessible, the more likely we’ll get you there! Example? Iran is next on the list, and this is in addition to our North Korea offering!
If you had to pick just one tour to recommend to all your clients, what would it be?
Connie: At the expense of sounding cliché, a visit to Antarctica through Adaro Adventures is truly transformative. Seeing darling penguins first hand, breaching whales, albatross flying hundreds of miles without stopping, seals feeding, bergy bits floating inches from your Zodiac, and parts of glaciers spectacularly collapsing right before your eyes will make you question the value of that corner office. At a minimum the bragging rights aren’t too trivial . . . ! The continent is welcoming to all travelers — nature lovers, adventure seekers, photographers, cruisers. The experience can be as ambitious as one wants – swimming in freezing Antarctic waters and cautiously crossing 75ft crevasses while hiking to the top of glaciers, or as relaxed as one wants – drinking hot chocolate in the cozy comfort of the ship and observing wildlife and breathtaking scenery from the bridge. Everyone should and can visit the coldest and driest region on earth. And while there, be sure to reserve a day for Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, to visit Tierra Del Fuego National Park, the southernmost park in the world. It’s a feast for the eyes, rich with majestic, snow-capped mountain peaks; glacier valleys; innocent, unafraid rabbits, foxes and birds; pristine lakes, untouched streams and mirrored bays; and bountiful flora and fauna. Be sure you bring extra memory cards for your camera as even the least inclined photographer becomes a shutterbug!
Valerie: Cartagena, Colombia! The city has everything: culture, history, food, nightlife and beaches…especially beaches! Situated on the Caribbean, Cartagena has the most idyllic, paradisiacal beaches known to man. It’s where you find white sand moistened by warm, turquoise water. Through Adeona Odysseys take a boat trip to Isla del Rosario, which is the ultimate in beaching. Circumnavigate an entire island by swimming around it! On a 2-degree day, as it is here in Rapid City, SD, I can’t help but reminisce on such a pristine and tropical destination!
What is the one place you’ve been that everyone should see before they die?
Connie: Despite Valerie’s difficult time in the Andes due to altitude sickness, hands-down it’s Machu Picchu! Seeing the Lost City of the Incas in the misty mountains is an utterly life-affirming moment. Just remember to pack and take high altitude pills so you can continue to enjoy that moment throughout a long life!! Start in Cusco, the ancient Incan capital. And if this is the one trip you take, then unquestionably ride the romantic Hiram Bingham train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, along precarious cliffs and long-winding switchbacks. Step on board and it’s a step back into a civilized, bygone era. If you seek more vigorous travel and have over a week, then retrace the footpath of the Incas and trek the Incan Trail. Plan to be at the “mountain citadel” for the breathtaking sunrise, then be sure to cautiously hike some of the mud and stone cliff-side trails which flirt inches with 1,000 feet drops! Follow the west trail around multiple bends to view the narrow wood Inca Bridge carved into a smooth rock mountain precipice. A simple and simplistic yet stunning engineering feet that will send your hairs on-end and make your hands sweat! Later warm up with the locals in the town of Aguas Calientes, and take a dip in the hot springs. A note of advice: bring your own swimsuit instead of renting one!
Valerie: Yellowstone National Park is fascinating! It’s a scenic and stunning living science lesson. No two visits are ever the same because the geological activity constantly changes the landscape. And within the park there’s so much variation. Mammoth Hot Springs is an otherworldly geothermal hot spot with limestone formations. A few miles down the road is the Boiling River where many tourists stop to relax in the hot water. And don’t think the river’s name isn’t indicative of the temperature: there are spots that really are too hot for swimming! So choose a temperate spot where you can wallow in warmth while your toes dangle in the cold, flowing river. Head east over to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and you’ll catch vistas of dramatic waterfalls. Most glorious of all? Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin. The clear and intense water is enticing—it begs you to jump in. Just don’t do it—the pools in Yellowstone are hot and acidic, habitable to certain bacteria only!
If you could retire tomorrow but only pick one place to do it, where would it be?
Connie: Auckland, New Zealand — aptly called the “City of Sails” because it has more sailboats per capita than any city in the world. Undoubtedly it is the most inviting town with modern and classic architecture, extensive public transport, outgoing and welcoming people, healthy approach to life, spotless parks and public places, pristine ports, clean and endlessly shimmery waterfront, vibrant city center, fashionable shopping, and sophisticated international cuisine. Each time I’m back in Auckland I’m sure to visit the trendy Parnell district to partake at the most divine, quaint chocolatier: the Chocolate Boutique Café. Relax at one of the charming outdoor tables with a sticky date pudding washed down with a praline chocolate submarino drink, both sinfully decadent but worth every guilty calorie. Or take your hot drink to go, and meander the chic neighborhood boutiques. Finish the afternoon at the beautiful Parnell Rose Garden then make your way to the lively waterfront for drinks and dinner. Local New Zealand mussels rival New Zealand lamb; and if you can’t decide between the two, you live once so try both!
Valerie: Shanghai, China. Shanghai’s energy is infectious! The hustle and bustle of the city is nonstop as water traffic criss-crosses the Huangpu River constantly, neon lights provide brilliant nighttime entertainment, and shops like the Apple store and even more upscale luxury brands are maxed to capacity. The skyline is amazing. Shanghai’s architecture is an eclectic mix of European colonial buildings that dot the west bank of the river and avant-garde skyscrapers that shoot up from the ground. After one visit to Shanghai where you’ll see that the Audi Quattro is as commonplace as any Ford here in the U.S., you can’t help but ask, “Communism, what communism?”
What is involved with screening a destination before you recommend it?
Connie & Valerie: Each destination, local partner and activity is filtered through an extraordinarily rigorous value sieve before qualifying as an Adeona Odysseys or Adaro Adventures product. Because Adeona specializes in quick luxury jaunts, we ensure clients can visit and truly enjoy the destination in a time frame of five days or less. There are many idyllic and fetching spots in the world, but Adeona Odysseys doesn’t promote those because the long-haul flight would consume too much of the mini-break. Additionally, the destination must be unique, prestigious or exclusive, offer impressive accommodations with superior appointments. Our on-the-ground partners must be wholly focused on client service, be consummate guides, and provide first class options in all areas. Activities available need to be relevant, authentic and in-keeping with the personalized tour theme. The vacation destination must meet the goals of the client which can include art, culture, architecture, natural wonders, regional dishes and wines, pampering, relaxation, adrenaline, or just nothing! For example, with our “Go-Wild!” collection, travelers come to us to tap into an entirely different experience from what they’re used to. They want to leave their ironed suits behind, let loose and break-out into festive costumes for Carnival in Rio or into wicked tough riding gear for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Complementing all this, having worked in demanding corporate jobs ourselves, we understand the needs of our clients, many who are professionals. As much as they want to completely untether from their office for a few days, they nevertheless need a business infrastructure that supports their unending work obligations. Yet at the same time, many significant others insist on electronics-free zones while away! We effortlessly accommodate the seemingly contradictory demands through, for example, boutique properties with both phone-free beaches and restrictive wi-fi designated areas. From our best-of, only the select merit inclusion in our collection, those destinations we know the client will love.
Clients who travel with Adaro Adventures know they’re venturing a wild destination which went through the same rigorous screening. Our highly selective, elite landscapes are those that very few adventurers ever experience – mysterious North Korea, breathtaking Kilimanjaro, unrivalled Antarctica, the enthralling North Pole, and the absorbing Stans. If there’s a frontier a client wants to visit and Valerie and I have tamed, we’ll work together to turn their dream into reality.
What is the most remote or isolated place you have ever visited?
Connie: Having trudged the off-limits extremist areas in Malaysia and Indonesia with a leading expert on Jihad, on that same trip that occurred over Christmas I wanted to be in a tucked-away country that allowed me to celebrate the holiday. So Brunei in the South China Sea it was. Needless to say, we were the only Westerners on the flight from Jakarta to Bandar Seri Begawan. After driving hours deep into the island of Borneo, we finally reached the rain forest to see the proboscis monkey. While removed from all of civilization and utterly drenched with sweat and plastered with mud, we happened upon a Gurkha regiment practicing drills, and crazily continued to trek knee deep in mud further into the island with them. Having worked up an appetite that day before, on December 26th we treated ourselves to high tea at The Empire, an ornate, opulent resort built by the Sultan’s brother. Disregarding all warnings of bird flu rampant throughout the greater region, I dove right in to the custards, quiches, and all variations of egg dishes too tempting to pass up. The Empire’s afternoon tea makes the British spread seem like a pauper’s table — an astonishing feast worthy of a queen. A remote island nation has never been so deliciously satisfying!
Valerie: Aktau, Kazakhstan. While Antarctica is most certainly remote with no permanent human inhabitants, everyone who visits is a tourist or researcher. Aktau doesn’t get a lot of tourists…if any. There are a lot of oil cowboys who are sent over to work the oil rigs, but you don’t get many, as in maybe two – me and Connie — lone women. In fact, as we sat in the corrugated-metal airport shell around midnight waiting for a red-eye to Baku, Azerbaijan, an English oil worker was so shocked to see Connie and me that he asked jovially, “What are you girls doing here?” Tired and worn out, I mustered my reserves and replied, “We’re on vacation.” He was incredulous!
What is the worst travel experience you can remember?
Connie: On non air conditioned public transportation of essentially a converted school bus, for 16 hours across broken and uneven paved and dirt roads, I travelled overnight to reach a religious extremist area of Indonesia so my travel companion, a leading academic on Jihad, could interview a known terrorist. We sat three to a bench seat, with me squished sardine like in between the professor and a rather large, sweaty stranger. Even if I could have stood up, I wouldn’t have been able to move anywhere because of animal crates stacked four and five feet tall, motor scooters, flapping chickens, bicycles, and squealing pigs all blocking the aisle. Without the bus even slowing down to a running pace, all throughout the day and night locals still somehow jumped onto the moving vehicle to stare straight ahead bored-like while singing karaoke to music set at a decibel of 11 and then insist on Indonesian rupiahs for the “nice entertainment” (as translated by the professor) before leaving you alone. Animated children regularly hopped the bus and climbed over the animals and crates to hawk cigarettes damp from thick humidity, carnival like toys with flashing lights, and mini radios blaring discordant sound. Somehow I managed to restrain myself from purchasing those items essential for any traveler’s pack. Perhaps it was not being able to raise my arm to get to my rupiah . . . It was a hauntingly raw ride!
Valerie: Once experiences become memories, they start to lose any drawbacks. But no amount of time can gloss over my memory of the physical pain I suffered from altitude sickness while traipsing through the Peruvian highlands (elevation 14,000+ feet). Thankfully I felt well throughout our day of touring, but upon returning to our hotel, I broke into a cold sweat and put on every piece of clothing Connie and I had packed on our trip. Feeling sick, I nevertheless forced back the heaving because the action caused so much pain in my head—like a collision between my skull and brain. My sister called down to the lobby to ask for the oxygen tank, a common feature in any Cuzco hotel, and the reception said I’d have to come down to the lobby to use it. Connie convinced the person on the other end of the line that I couldn’t make it to the lobby. When two men brought the tank to our hotel room, they took one look at me, and their jaws dropped at my condition. Had I simply taken my altitude sickness pills, I would have been just fine. The next day we made it to Puerto Maldonado, a gateway to the rainforest. At 0 feet elevation, the air was thick and moist—ah, pure bliss!
What advice would you give someone interested in selling travel experiences?
Connie & Valerie: Specialize, know your product, focus on your clients, and be passionate. All four are indisputably interrelated and essential for being successful in tourism. When seeking a travel consultant, clients want an authority who really listens to their wishes and expectations, and then dependably advises them on an experience, not just sell them on a destination. The world is so vast and the type of experiences so varied that no one can know everything about every hotel, beach, or monument; therefore a defined niche is critical. Consultants need to provide more than just destination information; they need to share insightful knowledge and really bring a place to life with the little details and stories that come only through first had expertise and passion and enthusiasm for the locale. That’s powerfully infectious. And clients appreciate that and know there simply is no substitute for working with specialists who personally have visited each and every hand-picked area, exhaustively vetted all aspect of a trip, stand behind 100% of their escapes, and are genuinely excited about the travel jaunts and journeys. We love the tours we’ve created for Adeona Odysseys and Adaro Adventures so much that our enthusiasm is pretty catching. In fact, we’ve had clients so excited along with us during the consultations that they’ve invited us to join them on their trips! They’ve since become repeat clients!