7 Favorite Inspiring Travel Stories

Posted by Amy Clyde on 9/19/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Europe, Italy, Travel, Florence, Food, National Parks, Rome, Vatican, Scotland, Sicily, Grand Canyon, Spain, Peru, Yellowstone

One of the best rewards of travel is how it can shake the cobwebs from your head, touch you deeply – and trigger a seismic shift in how you think about things, including yourself. A sudden revelation might be sparked by a wonder of the world or an encounter with a local or just something unusual that catches your eye. I’ve noticed that these transformative experiences tend to sneak up on you. The surprise is part of the fun of life on the road.

Here are some real stories of just such pivotal personal moments – and a few ideas to inspire your next adventure…

1. Visit the Land of Your Ancestors edinburgh
My father’s ancestors left Scotland for the new world before the American Revolution, but when I got off the train in Edinburgh for the first time, by some quirk of DNA, everywhere I looked there was someone who resembled my father, my paternal relatives, or me. It was staggering, like déjà vu and a long-awaited homecoming all at once. Just like that, I belonged.

From that trip on, I began to wear Fair Isle sweaters, eat shortbread whenever possible, and like good whisky. Mary Queen of Scots is now my favorite Royal. And after spending time with the Scots, I’ve come to believe that some of the basic American values I treasure most came partly from the waves of industrious, unpretentious Scottish immigrants many generations ago. So, in a strange but rather nice way, starting to feel Scottish has managed to make me feel more American too.

Sheryl A. had a similarly powerful experience when she went on our trip Sicily: Culture Through the Ages to see the country where her grandparents were born. Growing up, she used to spend a lot of time with her maternal grandmother. “I loved to ‘help’ her make bread or bake cookies or just anything because I loved being with her,” Sheryl told me. “When I asked her when something was ready, she would say, ‘You can just tell.’ When I asked how much of an ingredient I needed, she would say, ‘Enough.’”  
When Sheryl had some free time in Sicily, she visited a special pastry shop. The story of the owner, Maria, was truly inspirational – she was born into a poor family and was sent to a convent because her family could not care for her; there she learned the art of making marzipan, and after years of hard labor, she left the convent, opened her shop, and has since become quite famous.

Sheryl asked how much marzipan Maria needed to make each day now that her business is booming and she sends her delectable goodies all over the world. Maria’s answer was “Enough.”

“In that moment I was a child at my grandmother’s side again with all the remembered warmth and love and joy I always felt when I was with her,” said Sheryl.

grand canyon 22. View the Grand Canyon at Dusk or Dawn
It’s all true, what you’ve read about the Grand Canyon. You’ve got to see it to believe it, and even then it’s hard to believe. On our America’s Canyonlands trip, we make sure you experience the canyon’s full impact by staying overnight right on the South Rim. Sander Bellman from Georgia told us on Facebook about his profound reaction to the canyon. “The first morning I walked out to see the sunrise over the rim of the Grand Canyon,” he said. “As the light struck the top of the canyon walls, I felt a sense of serene beauty filling my soul. My breath caught in my throat and tears filled my eyes.”

Another guest, Bobbie Morrison, described her feelings this way: “When we arrived at the Grand Canyon, there was so much fog we could not see the canyon. About 6:00 p.m. that evening, the fog lifted and that magnificent canyon appeared. I was so moved that tears streamed down my face and at that moment I knew that I wanted to see all of the national parks in America.”

3. Witness Pilgrims Making their Spiritual Journey
While on our Paradors of Northern Spain, Cissy Swearingen found herself deeply moved by the pilgrims she saw walking on El Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint James – on their way to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela; some had been traveling by foot for as many as thirty days. “To watch the pilgrims walking was very touching, knowing that some had come from great distances,” she said. “And then staying in the hotel that used to be the monastery resting place for pilgrims as long ago as the 16th century just made the whole experience so much more meaningful.”

After Cissy and her Tauck group arrived at the hotel in the former monastery, Parador de Santiago de Compostela, she was in a reflective mood. “I went and sat in the courtyard looking up at the rooms and wondering about those who had traveled here so long ago before me,” she said.

4. Find Yourself in the "Lost City"machu picchu
Many guests have written to us about the exaltation they felt at Machu Picchu, a highlight of three of our journeys: Peru & the Galápagos Islands, Empire of the Incas: Peru & Bolivia, and Mystical Peru. Coloradan Karen Braverman climbed the final steps to the summit of Machu Picchu accompanied by friendly llamas on the trail. “We took time at the top to just sit overlooking the ruins and marvel at the overwhelming beauty, peacefulness and spirituality that the Incas created,” she said. “Machu Picchu is a magical place.”

“The silence and awesomeness of the place has a spiritual feeling about it,” wrote our guest Arnold Poltenson of New York. Word to the wise: he found that his perfect time in the sacred ruins occurred late in the afternoon after nearly everyone else had left.

sistine chapel 35. See the Vatican Museums
and the Sistine Chapel After Hours

On most of our trips that go through Rome, we visit the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums after the tourist crowds have departed for the day. “Our after-hours tour through the Sistine Chapel gave me chills,” said our guest Jill Stem from Tennessee in her review of Classic Italy, Small Groups.

“Our guide was riveting as he illuminated the story of the Sistine Chapel ceiling,” said Linda Alexander, another guest. “We were not rushed at all, and being there at night was hauntingly beautiful. The visit took everyone's breath away.”

6. Watch the Sun Rise from the Ponte Vecchio
To celebrate their high school graduation, twin brothers Josh and Zach Malett went with their parents on A Week in… Venice, Florence and Rome. There were many wonderful moments, Josh told me, but the morning in Florence that he and Zach got up early to watch the sunrise from the Ponte Vecchio sticks in his mind. “It was just an immense feeling of beauty,” he said. In that moment he saw that “a whole city can be beautiful, a work of art, and not just commercial and industrial.” He added, “It made me want to travel all over the world to see what else I can learn.”

7. Layer Up and Do Yellowstone in Winter
How often in life do we get to go to a different planet? Visiting Yellowstone in winter comes close. If you’ve seen it in another season, you’ve seen another place entirely; the Yellowstone winterscape is unique – otherworldly, like a work of the imagination with its bubbling and steaming geothermal dramas and rare beasts appearing in relief against every shade and texture of white. One guest on Wonderland: Yellowstone in Winter told us about her “magical Yellowstone winter” with us, snowshoeing, spotting wolves, staying right in Yellowstone near the most famous geyser in the world. “It was almost spiritual watching Old Faithful erupt at dawn witnessed by only the two of us and the bison,” she said.


Of course, you can always create your own amazing personal moment in an amazing new place, like the couple who got married on the Amalfi Coast while touring with us, the one who proposed to his girlfriend in Japan, and the couple who celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary by renewing their wedding vows on a game reserve in Africa!

Have you already had an incredible moment on the road that changed you? Please tell us all about it on Facebook and inspire others on their next adventure!


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