Giving Back to the Communities We Visit

Giving Back to the Communities We Visit

GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITIES WE VISIT

While The Divine Destination Collection co-founders Deb Niven and Allison Frame work hard to create flawless travel adventures that combine luxury and adventure with a touch of the spiritual – they also try to find effective ways to give back to the communities they visit, especially in economically challenged areas.

“We get so much out of visiting these amazing destinations that we are committed to leaving a positive impact everywhere The Divine Destination Collection travels,” says Allison.

That positive impact can take many forms. For example, when The Divine Destination Collection travelled to South Africa, the group brought along two huge hockey bags full of school supplies with their luggage.

The supplies were for Tongabezi Trust School in Zambia, which provides education to underprivileged children in the rural area of Simonga. The school receives no government funding and relies solely on private donations.

As part of their itinerary, the entire group visited the school and had the chance to meet the children and see first-hand what an impact their donation made.

SUPPORTING THE LOCAL ECONOMY

“We also learned a valuable lesson,” says Allison. “It almost cost more to transport the supplies from Canada than the total value of the supplies. We realized it made more sense to buy the items at the local destination. That way we could spend all our money on the donation, instead of delivery costs, and also support the local economy.”

So when The Divine Destination Collection visited the city of Cusco on their way to see Machu Picchu in Peru, they bought a variety of local items, such as pajamas and shoes, to donate to the San Judas Chico Girls Orphanage, a home for girls aged 4 to 16.

“The girls sang for us when we arrived,” says Allison. “It was very emotional. The girls were so appreciative.”

After Cusco, the group went on a four-night cruise down the Amazon River, where they brought along dental kits full of toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as soccer balls and dolls, to give to a local rural Amazon community.

“Everything has to be transported by barge, so it’s hard for people living in the area to get supplies,” says Allison.

A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR DMC

In Bali, supporting a local orphanage was again part of the itinerary, where our travellers donated 42 school bags filled with supplies, as well as a printer, cases of paper, and cleaning supplies.

“Our local DMC [Destination Management Company] told us about the orphanage and we were able to find out exactly what they needed.”

In fact, Allison and Deb often look to the DMC they are working with to find impactful ways to make a contribution to charities in each country. These donations are included in the price of the trip, so each guest knows they are making a difference.

But sometimes a donation occurs by happenstance.

Before leaving for Mexico, one of Allison’s contacts in Toronto mentioned that they had some kid’s soccer uniforms they wanted to give away. “So I took jerseys, shorts, and socks with me on our trip to Mexico and gave them to students in a rural Mayan community.”

HELPING PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT

Besides striving to make a positive impact on the lives of the people in the countries they visit, The Divine Destination Collection also tries to incorporate sustainability practices into their travel and activities.

“The recent flooding in Venice is just one of the latest devastating effects of climate change,” says Allison. “As concerned global citizens, we want to try to protect the environment and lessen our impact as much as we can.”

For their trip along the El Camino in Spain, no plastic water bottles were allowed. Everyone was given their own Divine Destination Collection water bottle and could fill it up from glass containers set up at all the refreshment and lunch stops along the trail.

“We were committed to leaving no plastic footprint,” says Allison.

For the upcoming June 2020 trip to the South of France, all the hotels and vehicles were selected with the environment in mind. “We wanted to stay in hotels that have sustainability programs in place, and travel in greener vehicles whenever possible. The local DMC we are working with in France is really into sustainability. That’s one of the reasons we chose them,” says Allison.

“Our goal is to leave each destination a little bit better than we found it to show our appreciation for allowing us to visit.”

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Memories of A Highland Adventure

Memories of A Highland Adventure

MEMORIES OF A HIGHLAND ADVENTURE

To Sue Sparkes, the best thing about any Divine Destination Collection trip is – you don’t have to think!

“They take you everywhere. They think for you. They plan for you. There is no detail that they have missed!” she laughs.

Sue has travelled with Divine Destination Collection to South Africa in the past and joined co-founders Allison Frame and Deb Niven on the group’s recent journey to Scotland – Mists, Mystics and the Whisky Trail.

“Everything was a surprise. All you had to do was be at a certain place at a certain time. And no matter where we went, the food and drink was outstanding. Everything is planned to the greatest detail. The transfers were even first class!”

Although Sue says it’s hard to pick one highlight, she says she loved the mystical Clava Cairns. When they arrived, there were picnic tables waiting for them, complete with buckets full of wine, bubbly, hot soup, and gourmet boxed lunches. To make the event even more magical, a flautist played as they enjoyed the scenery and explored the Cairns.

EVEN SCOTLAND’S FAMOUS SOGGY WEATHER BROUGHT SURPRISES

Another highlight for Sue was when a walk on the moors was cancelled because of extremely soggy weather. In its place, one of the TDDC guides took them on what they thought was an impromptu walk around the three golf courses at Gleneagles, filling them in on the history of the famous property. But when they came up over a hill, there were two pipers playing.

“It was so beautiful. Everyone was in tears,” says Sue.

The pipers led them to a gazebo where they sat around a fire pit and sipped hot toddies. The guests were also all given matching purple tartan scarves as a memento of their time in Scotland.

The last evening aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia was a huge standout. “We had it all to ourselves,” says Sue. After a champagne reception, the group had the chance to wander throughout the yacht and get a peek into royal life. “We had a magnificent meal and were entertained by adorable young Scottish dancers.”

“It seems like every time I turned around, there was something new.”

Leanne Hunter also enjoyed her experience aboard the Britannia. “I knew that going aboard the Britannia would be incredible, but I wasn’t expecting the food to be so amazing! It was the best dinner of the trip.”

But what really stood out for Leanne was her first glimpse of Inverlochy Castle, in the Highlands outside Fort William, where they stayed the first two nights. “It was the first of many jaw dropping experiences, walking into this beautiful, historic castle.”

A COUNTRY MADE FOR HISTORY LOVERS

A history buff, Leanne loved learning about Scotland’s fascinating past.

“I didn’t expect such a rich, cultural experience. The TDDC guides were great. They gave such a vivid account of what happened in Scotland’s history, and made it all the more fascinating by telling the history in story form, and often to music.” 

The visit to the Culloden Battlefield, the site of the final Jacobite Rising, was also a highlight for Leanne. “Even though it was incredibly sombre, it was wonderful to see how it’s been beautifully honoured.” 

Leanne also loved the surprise of seeing the pipers at Gleneagles. “The hotel was beautiful and the hike through the famous golf course was magical, especially when the bagpipers appeared in the distance, piping us into a cozy outdoor area with a fire and a ‘wee dram.’”

FAMILIES AND FRIENDS

In Edinburgh, Leanne loved the architecture and the rich history in such a bustling, vibrant city. “I could have stayed there for another week!” she says.

While in Edinburgh the group had the chance to dine with a local family to get a taste of Scottish culture. It was a great meal and the family was very warm and welcoming, says Leanne, but what made it extra special was when the daughter stood up and sang Caledonia, a beautiful Scottish folk ballad.

“It was unrehearsed and spontaneous. We were all teary-eyed. It was wonderful.”

Leanne says one other surprise was how much she enjoyed the whisky tasting. “I’m not a whisky drinker, but I did learn to appreciate it,” she laughs.

And finally, an unexpected part of the trip was how easily the group formed friendships. “We were all strangers at the beginning, but sharing the same wonderful experiences together creates a common bond. That may be the most spiritual part of this adventure for me.”

FOR THE ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT

John Kafieh finds the Divine Destination Collection trips to be more like an “adventure” rather than a vacation.

“They are more of a learning experience than just a sightseeing tour,” he says. “And the learning has as much to do about the discovery of things about ourselves, as with the destination itself.”

Like Sue and Leanne, John says he finds it difficult to pick just one highlight of the trip to Scotland. He enjoyed staying at the Inverlochy Castle and riding on the Jacobite Steam Train. He also couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking scenery in the Highlands and in Edinburgh.

“I would say the trip exceeded my expectations largely because of the scenery throughout the trip, and the combination of different modes of transportation used to get us around. Add to that the quality of the TDDC guides and the information that they provided us all along the way.

“Although we have some personal time to do as we please, we are generally moving from one experience to another. And I enjoy that. The only challenge is that we are doing so much in such a relatively short time I need to refer to our itinerary to remember all the things we have done!”

John has travelled with Divine Destination Collection to South Africa and Muskoka in the past, and enjoyed traveling with his daughter Vanessa on this trip.

“That was the real highlight for me.”

To find out about taking a group trip to Scotland, check out the Divine Destination Collection website or contact us at info@divinedestinationcollection.com if you have any questions.

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Next stop – The sacred South of France and the mystery of Mary Magdalene

Next stop – The sacred South of France and the mystery of Mary Magdalene

NEXT STOP – THE SACRED SOUTH OF FRANCE AND THE MYSTERY OF MARY MAGDALENE!

Interested in walking in the footsteps of one of the most iconic and historic female figures of all time – while basking in the incredible beauty of the South of France?

Next June, The Divine Destination Collection will be travelling to Carcassonne and Aix-en-Provence to uncover the 2,000 year-old legend of Mary Magdalene– who was believed to have been forced out of the Holy Land with other devout followers of Christ after his crucifixion, and arrived by boat to the South of France where she spent the rest of her life as a teacher and healer.

THE DIVINE FEMININE

The story is made even more fascinating by rumours that Jesus may have actually survived the crucifixion and secretly married Mary, and by tales of hidden symbols and codes concerning Mary found in churches in the ancient towns of the region. Mary is also regarded as an archetype of the Divine Feminine – possessing an energy that combines creativity, justice, awareness, and other strong feminine traits.

You’ll get the chance to decide what is fact and what is fiction as you travel the French countryside, visiting vineyards and sampling the excellent cuisine – all in the comfort and luxury that The Divine Destination Collection is famous for.

ANCIENT FRANCE

Your adventure starts off in the medieval walled city of Carcassonne whose beautiful hilltop castle is France’s second-most coveted tourist site after La tour Eiffel. You’ll spend three nights in this UNESCO World Heritage site at the celebrated Hotel de la Cité, a 19th century neo-gothic style five-star hotel built on the site of a former bishop’s palace. This will be your base as our expert guides take you on a journey into the lore of Mary Magdalene, with visits to Alet-les-Bain, a charming town full of hidden clues to her existence; Rennes-le-Château, a tiny hilltop town with a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and believed to be the location of many historical mysteries, including one linked to Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code; and Rennes-les-Bains, where Mary is thought to have baptised and healed her followers in the pools of the Lovers Fountain.

While in Carcassonne, you’ll indulge in the amazing cuisine of the South of France, including a few surprising gourmet twists, such as a “hint of Italy” dinner at La Bourdasso, a famous family-run Italian restaurant in the countryside where they make their own buffalo mozzarella and grow the wheat for their delicious home-made pasta.

ON TO THE LAND OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS

The next stop is Aix-en-Provence, known for its glorious countryside full of vineyards and fields of lavender and sunflowers made famous in the paintings of Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Matisse. After stopping for a feast of local oysters, you’ll check in to the enchanting Hotel Le Pigonnet where Cézanne loved to wander the grounds and paint the neighbouring Sainte-Victoire mountain.

While at Le Pigonnet, you’ll enjoy a special “La Vie En Rose” evening in the garden. Just imagine dining on regional specialties and drinking a local rosé under a fragrant rose arbour while the songs of Edith Piaf fill the air.

The journey into the legend of Mary Magdalene continues with a visit to Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume, a beautiful town at the foot of the Sainte-Baume mountains where the tomb of Mary Magdalene was believed to be found in 1279. You’ll hike up to the grotto where they say Mary lived for 30 years, and then be transported back in time with lunch at a monastic retreat. After lunch the search for Mary resumes with a visit to the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, built in the 13th century and dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In the crypt below you’ll find a shrine, containing what they claim is Mary Magdalene’s skull.

That evening you’ll get the chance to wander through the ancient streets of Aix-en-Provence and dine at one of its elegant restaurants. Full of boutiques, galleries and numerous fountains – the streets remain full of life long after midnight.

CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE

The next day you’ll have the delightful decision of choosing between spending the day in Marseille, France’s second largest city, and the 2013 European Capital of Culture – or in Avignon, full of medieval streets, and once the seat of the popes – or in Lourmarin, known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and home of Nobel Literature Prize winner Albert Camus, who is buried in the local cemetery.

If you choose Marseille, you’ll go on a walking tour, with lots of opportunities to load up on the area’s famous lavender, olive oil, and Herbs de Provence, as well as drop by the many chic boutiques, before visiting the St. Victor Abbey where Mary Magdalene is believed to have preached, and have lunch overlooking the harbour.

In Avignon, you’ll visit the Palais des Pape, where the popes used to live, and then indulge in a private wine tasting and picnic at the celebrated Châteauneuf du Pape wine estates.

In Lourmarin, you can wander through the town’s quaint, winding streets, and browse through the weekly market full of delights from the local farms, olive groves, and orchards, finishing up with lunch and wine tasting at one of the area’s vineyards.

The day finishes off with everyone coming together for a culinary extravaganza at a Michelin Star restaurant.

A TRULY MAGICAL LIGHT

The final day is spent exploring Aix-en-Provence, which is always bathed in a magical light, whether it is from the brilliant sunny blue sky of the afternoon, or the golden glow at dusk. Pick the perfect terrace for lunch and stay a little longer with a glass or two of wine. You can spend the afternoon shopping or return to the hotel for a dip in the pool or a game of petanque – the local version of lawn bowling.

You’ll then bid au revoir to Provence with a final, incredible French feast at a private estate, complete with vintage wines and special entertainment.

Want to know more about this fascinating journey into the legend of Mary Magdalene, as well as some other once-in-a-lifetime adventures waiting for you in the South of France? We are finalizing all the last minute details to this amazing itinerary and will be officially launching the trip within the coming weeks. Here’s a teaser or click here if you would like us to contact you directly when we go live with all the details!

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Travelling solo

Travelling solo

TRAVELLING SOLO

TAKING ON AN ADVENTURE WITH NEW COMPANIONS

Have you ever wanted to go on a group trip – but were hesitant about travelling with a group of people you didn’t know?

Take Anna Tsirakidis for example. Anna and her husband had always planned to travel the world, but when her husband passed away Anna found she was reluctant to travel alone.

“I had lots of question marks in my head – especially about the ‘unknown’ waiting at the other end. But I took a deep breath, sucked it up, and decided to just do it.”

So last September Anna travelled solo for the first time, and emboldened by the experience, she decided to join The Divine Destination Collection trip to El Camino in Spain this past May.

“It was exactly the kind of trip I wanted,” says Anna. “I wanted all the bells and whistles.”

At first Anna was worried that the other people might form cliques and she would feel out of place. But after attending the initial trip presentation, her fears were allayed. “It gave me a picture of who would be going and I felt very comfortable.”

The group also did a pre-trip walk to prepare for El Camino, which made Anna feel even more at ease. “As we walked I got to talk with more people. It was a wonderful group to talk to and listen to.”

The trip ended up exceeding Anna’s expectations – especially the extra details The Divine Destination Collection puts into the trip, like garden parties, surprise dinner nights, and invitations waiting at each new hotel. “It all flowed so beautifully, and these little incidentals made it so memorable.”

In fact, Anna ended up enjoying the trip so much she will be travelling solo again next year when The Divine Destination Collection heads to the South of France. “I think travelling alone makes you more open to new possibilities. It expands your horizons.”

Her Camino adventure also made her appreciate the care The Divine Destination Collection takes in planning their trips, especially for solo travellers. “You have everything you need – even if you didn’t know you needed it. I felt confident knowing there was someone at the other end taking care of all the arrangements.”

ONCE IS OFTEN NOT ENOUGH FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS

Nancy Cronyn is another repeat Divine Destination Collection solo traveller. She has actually gone on five different trips, with two by herself – Muskoka and El Camino.

“I’ve travelled a lot by myself,” says Nancy. “I like meeting people. If you just travel with family you don’t tend to mix.”

Like Anna, Nancy took advantage of the chance to meet her fellow travellers at the pre-trip gatherings The Divine Destination Collection organized.

She admits it’s natural to feel a bit nervous about meeting a new group of people and wondering what they will think, but Nancy always remembers the advice her mother gave her when she was scared about going to a new school – everyone else is actually thinking the same thing.

“You can’t be afraid,” says Nancy. “You have to go for it. Be yourself. Enjoy yourself!”

There are also lots of opportunities to get to know your travelling companions at the many group activities planned for each trip. Although you can choose whether to participate or not, Nancy loved taking part in each group adventure.

While on Divine’s Muskoka Experience, Nancy did everything from foraging for mushrooms and taking a boat ride with a local wildlife expert, to carving Hallowe’en pumpkins. In Spain she loved the horse ride on the last day and the Queimada Ceremony, and the chance to enjoy a fantastic Galician meal at the O Muiño de Pena, a charming 19th century mill.

But since she likes to meditate, Nancy also enjoys being by herself, and found she liked walking alone when the group travelled along the Camino trail.

“It was a nice surprise,” she says. “Being alone was very pleasant, a perfect way to do the journey – hearing the wind and listening to the birds.”

THE LUXURY OF HAVING SOMEONE ELSE TAKE CARE OF ALL THE ARRANGEMENTS

Even for people who usually travel on their own, the chance to travel with a group can be a nice change.

Maura Lendon also went on the El Camino trip, as well as The Divine Destination Collection trip to Mexico a few years ago.

Although she is a well-seasoned solo traveller, Maura finds it good to be part of a bigger group with like-minded travellers from time to time.

“Travelling by yourself can be tiring, so it’s nice to have someone organize things, and to have a group of people to have dinner with,” says Maura. “You also get to take part in activities and experiences that you couldn’t access by yourself that brings an authentic aspect to your trip.”

For example, the Camino group was treated to a private performance by local singers in a beautiful Spanish Church in Santiago and a Youth Choir at the final night’s dinner. A historian joined them on their journey to point out significant sites along the Camino trail. The food was also “mind-blowingly good,” says Maura.

There was also lots of freedom, adds Maura. You didn’t have to take part in the group activities if you didn’t want to, and you could choose to walk alone or walk with different people at different times.

Maura’s advice to other solo travellers considering a group adventure – “Be open to the experience!”

FINDING THE TRIP THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

El Camino had been on Kathleen Fanstone’s wish list for a long time. “I’m pretty sporty. Lying on a beach just isn’t me. I like a trip where you need to push yourself.”

While the Camino wasn’t a tough journey, Kathleen enjoyed walking for five or six hours a day. “It made my heart sing,” she says.

An avid traveller, Kathleen takes at least three or four trips a year, usually on her own, but sometimes meeting up with friends for part of the trip.

“My philosophy is – I like doing what I like. Some mornings I want to sleep in, other times I’m ready to get up and go. It’s my day, my way.”

When Kathleen heard about The Divine Destination Collection trip to El Camino she knew that this was what she wanted to do. “It was the right place and the right time.” She also liked the combination of a spiritual journey wrapped in luxury.

“You are so very well looked after if you are travelling alone. The Divine Destination Collection co-founders, Allison and Deb have a knack for knowing what you need before you do. They are always looking out for everyone’s best interests.”

Like Maura, Kathleen likes the fact that you have lots of choices. “Whatever you want to do, they support you.”

She also enjoyed the surprises that were planned along the way – like private concerts, learning opportunities, and unique locations. “Just when you are wondering when you will be stopping for lunch – the place is revealed and you have an absolutely incredible meal.

“Each day was even better than the one before. I’d do it again in a heartbeat”.

Interested in joining The Divine Destination Collection trip this October to Scotland: Mists, Mystics and the Whisky Trail? We only have 2 rooms remaining. Or next year’s Sacred South of France and the Mystery of Mary Magdalene? The exciting itinerary will be revealed soon! You can also read more testimonials from The Divine Destination Collection travellers on the website.

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Setting the itinerary for adventure!

Setting the itinerary for adventure!

SETTING THE ITINERARY FOR ADVENTURE!

From the highlands of Scotland, to the beaches of Bali and the game reserves of South Africa, The Divine Destination Collection manages to create the perfect blend of luxury and adventure – along with a unique touch of the spiritual – with every trip.

SO HOW DO THEY DO IT?

The secret sauce turns out to be a whole lot of experience, blended with a generous sprinkling of trusted colleagues around the world, and topped off by a big helping of curiosity and imagination.

“It all starts off with a decision from our Travel Advisory Board on where our next adventure is going to take place,” says Allison Frame, co-founder of The Divine Destination Collection with friend and business partner Deb Niven.

“Creating the Divine-by-Design Travel Advisory Board was one of those Aha! moments,” says Allison. “We thought – why not include the traveller before the travelling actually takes place!”

Deb and Allison present about eight options to the Travel Advisory Board, which is made up of like-minded travellers, ensuring each selection fits in with their signature style – five-star luxury along with a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual dimension.

“Spirituality and hotels are our two anchors,” says Allison. “We do a lot of research on destinations that have a sacred or spiritual pull. Then we make sure the accommodations are outstanding.”

PUTTING THE DIVINE INTO THE DETAILS

With the Travel Advisory Board’s help, an amazing destination is selected – and Deb and Allison start putting the itinerary together for an unforgettable trip.

Since both women have been involved in the corporate meetings & incentive travel business for years, they have a lot of experience to draw on – as well as a large Rolodex (do we still use that word?) full of valuable contacts from around the world!

It always helps to have someone on the ground with local knowledge of how to get around, what to see, and where the best restaurants and hotels are.

That’s why Allison & Deb bring a local Destination Management Company or DMC onboard. They help find unique accommodations and experiences that are impossible to find without a local connection.

“Yes – there are actually DMCs in almost every country around the world! And the great thing is, once they find out how different we are, they are really inspired to dig even further to find more unique & spiritual elements in and around their destination.

“We tell them what we are looking for, but we also ask them for ideas. That’s because we always want to add in a few surprises to delight our guests on every trip,” says Allison.

THE REALITY CHECK

Of course, when something looks great in a photo or on paper, it may not always turn out to be as good in real life. So, Allison and Deb actually take a trip ahead of time to test out all the luxury accommodations, fabulous restaurants, and incredible adventures they are considering for the itinerary.

“It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it,” laughs Allison.

And this reconnaissance mission (aka site inspection) always pays off. For example, for their trip to South Africa, Allison were intrigued by the idea of enjoying a gourmet meal while travelling through the countryside and game reserve on a beautiful antique train from the 1920s.

But when she showed up for the train it was late, and then, instead of a delightful meal accompanied by spectacular scenery, the train stopped on the track and dinner was served onboard a stationary train beside a busy road.

Not exactly the elegant, historical adventure they were hoping for!

To make sure all the food, amenities, and service add up to a truly luxurious and outstanding experience, Deb and Allison stay a night at each hotel – and visit the list of exceptional venues they have lined up for the trip.

“We want to try out all the new and up and coming restaurants & venues – the places that are really generating a buzz,” says Allison. “That’s another reason a good DMC comes in handy – they can often use a connection when it’s hard to get in.”

One of the highlights of the trip to Ireland a few years ago was the opportunity to dine with a local family, and the group is going to feature this experience again when they go to Scotland.

“We use our contacts to meet really interesting, fun people to host a meal. It ends up being a night full of great local food and wonderful conversation – a real window into how people live – and an experience you couldn’t get by travelling on your own.”

Local contacts also help the group navigate through the sometimes confusing travel and customs procedures in different parts of the world.

“In Zambia, as soon as our plane touched down, our DMC was there to collect everyone’s passports and quickly move us through customs & immigration. As a matter of fact, we were at the hotel relaxing and having drinks on the lawn when our fellow passengers on the plane finally arrived,” laughs Allison.

NEXT STOP – THE SACRED SOUTH OF FRANCE AND THE MYSTERY OF MARY MAGDALENE

Allison has already completed the site inspection for next spring’s South of France adventure.

An important part of the trip was speaking to experts in the legend and lore of Mary Magdalene, who is believed to have come to France after the crucifixion of Christ.

“I learned about places she was said to have been, preached, and where she has said to have healed many,” says Allison. “It was like the Da Vinci Code. It was fascinating!

“We also learned a lot about the excellent food and wine in the South of France. I never really cared for Rosés before – but now I’m a convert!”

Stay tuned for the exciting itinerary to be revealed in September. This is a trip you won’t want to miss!

TIPS FROM ALLISON FOR CREATING YOUR OWN ITINERARY

Do your research

– Whether you are looking for the high-end travel of Condé Nast Traveller magazine, or the rough and ready adventures in the Lonely Planet guides, learn as much as you can about your travel destination.

“That also includes checking out travel blogs, reading reviews on Trip Advisor, and talking to anyone you know who has been there.”

But most important, have an open mind

– “Say yes to it all!. That way you will always be surprised and pleased.”

“And if you are up for a great adventure, but just don’t have the time to plan – think about booking a private group trip with us. “We’ll reveal the magic of the destination in a way you never thought possible,” promises Allison.

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Home From The Camino

Home From The Camino

HOME FROM THE CAMINO

Last year we spoke to three travellers who were journeying to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with The Divine Destination Collection to ask how they were preparing for the trip, and what their expectations were. As promised, we have caught up with them after the May 2019 trip to find out what they experienced.

A SPIRITUAL PORTAL

Jenny Grajpel has always been attracted to exploring the spiritual side of life, so it was the spiritual aspect of the Camino that had really called to her – and it didn’t disappoint.

“I was aware that the Camino was a spiritual portal, or area of high energy concentration – so I knew what to expect and I was open to connecting to it,” says Jenny. “I experienced beautiful insights, transformation, and clarity.”

Jenny also loved the group experience. “I didn’t have to think about things. Everything was taken care of from the moment I was picked up – meals, hotel, transportation. And the standards were very high. I loved being pampered with such outstanding food and wine.

“I remember backpacking in my 20s and spending so much time looking for a place to stay and figuring out where to eat. So I fully understand and appreciate the effort put into all the arrangements.”

The highlight of the trip for Jenny was travelling by horse on the last day of the Camino. “It was wonderful to connect with the horse and see things from a different perspective. After we dismounted, we had a superb lunch in a meadow with wine, rice, seafood and Serrano ham – then we walked the last leg of the journey into Santiago.”

WALKING WITH OTHERS

Kathy Zurla had an idea of what the Camino was going to be like from books and films, “but until you physically experience the Camino, it is completely different,” she says.

“The beautiful Galician countryside, architecture, historical pilgrim stories, and all the different weather elements. It was continually magical.”

A big part of the magic came from the diverse group of people she travelled with on the adventure, says Kathy. “Many had insights into the spiritual side of the journey, pointing out how to allow your heart to stay open to the adventures and signs that can occur along the path.

“I don’t normally have these opportunities in my everyday life, so it allowed for new personal learning and self awareness experiences.”

Although Kathy trained for the trip by walking five to seven miles a day, she says the 100-kilometre trail wasn’t incredibly strenuous. “It’s very doable, even without training.”

A yoga instructor was also on hand to lead the group through stretches first thing in the morning and at the end of the day’s walking to help avoid sore muscles.

Kathy says the trip was extra special for her because she was joined by some lifelong friends from school in Tokyo. “We were like kids again. We relived those Tokyo days and what that meant to us going through life now. Our friendships were made even stronger after walking and experiencing the Camino together. The trip also allowed for making new friends as the group all got along so well together.

“I’m happy that I didn’t go into this trip with a lot of expectations. I allowed myself to experience each day as it happened. The Divine Destination Collection also added the luxury element, which was an extra layer of wonderfulness! This trip truly exceeded any hope I may have had – it was fabulous!”

OVERWHELMED BY HISTORY

The physical challenge of walking 100 kilometres is what led Victoria Worley to the Camino – but she ended up finding it less taxing than she expected, even when carrying a 10-pound backpack. “It was peaceful walking each day,” she says. “You had the whole day to get to your destination. There was no rushing.”

Leaving the world behind and focusing on herself is what Victoria found she enjoyed the most. “You wake up, eat breakfast, and walk. You don’t worry about anything but your own happiness, and how you chose to live your day.

“I never used my phone except to take photos. I never checked my email. It was like being a child again.”

Victoria admits the first day was a bit overwhelming because of the unknown journey ahead, but connecting with the group made all the difference. “I walked with a different person each day. They were all ages and from all walks of life. Whether they knew it or not, everyone had so much to offer me.

“All you had to do was walk and be with yourself, or listen to someone. It makes you so self-aware. I felt I could be who I really am.”

Victoria felt overwhelmed again at the end, when the group made the final walk to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

“Three hundred years ago someone was walking this route. People have been walking this for so long. I was overcome with emotion at the significance of getting to this spot.

“It was a great 10 days. I’d go again in a heartbeat.”

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