The Travel Insider with Joe
I was recently talking with Brian Stacey, tour designer for Tauck World Discovery (one of AAA’s Top Travel Partners), and I was amazed at how cool his job sounded as he described all the places he’s been and seen. I asked him a few questions about what’s it like to have an actual dream job. Here’s what he said:
Joe: What’s one of your favorite places to research?
Brian: On a personal level, I love cultural history and wildlife—birds in particular. So, when I can work in an area that offers both, I get really excited. For example, the Mayan culture in Central America is remarkable, especially in Guatemala—Tikal in particular. I’ve been visiting there for 25 years, and I love the people, the exotic landscapes, the amazing history, and the remarkable bird watching.
Joe: What’s the most unique trip you’ve ever put together?
Brian: In 2004, I traveled to India to put together our first program, and spent an entire month exploring the country. India is immense, and, of course, I couldn’t begin to see it all in a month, but I tried! What resonates most with me, is how everywhere I went was like a sensory explosion. Every sense was enhanced—the beautiful colored saris, the scent of the spices in the markets, and the beautiful flowers everywhere. I can still taste the wonderful food, which varies with each region.
Joe: What’s been your hardest assignment?
Brian: Consistently, the hardest challenge is finding new and unique, “insider-access” experiences for our guests, particularly in popular destinations. One time in London, for example, I was fortunate to meet Celia Sandys, Sir Winston Churchill’s granddaughter and former traveling companion, and I was able to arrange for her to speak with guests on our London tours. That sure doesn’t happen every day.
Joe: What are the most common mistakes you see international travelers make?
Brian: It saddens me to see people visit foreign countries without really engaging with the local people. Travel can be so much more enriching if we take the time to learn some of the local language, engage in conversation, and ask people about their daily lives. A few kind words will bring a smile, maybe a hug, and that just may be the most touching memory you’ll take home—and it doesn’t cost a penny.
Joe: What is the one of the most unusual discoveries you’ve made?
Brian: My favorite discovery was a “secret” submarine base in the tiny port of Balaklava, Ukraine. During the Cold War, the Soviets built a top-secret nuclear submarine base under a mountain, where up to 10 Soviet nuclear submarines could hide, and be provisioned away from the watchful eye of U.S. spy planes. It was right out of a James Bond movie.
Joe: What’s one place that’s still on your bucket list?
Brian: I’d love to explore Colombia more in depth, now that it’s really open for tourism. There are tremendous tracts of relatively unspoiled landscape—mountains, jungles, seacoasts, and lush countryside. Plus, it has the largest number of bird species of any country in the world, and other great natural treasures.
Full disclosure: Besides being a great resource for finding amazing places to go, Brian is also a very close friend. In fact, he got me into the travel business—I was a ski instructor, who also waited tables when we first met!