About

About Me & Why I Love Travel

the professional traveller travel history

My Travel History

In the 70s (when I was a child!) I was able to enjoy long haul holidays and had some great experiences, not least having a birthday cake with candles presented to me on a British Airways flight to America (that was when you could smoke on a plane!).

I was also a member of the British Airways Junior Jet Club, which not only kept kids entertained on flights but also arranged lots of activities and trips in the UK too.

At 16 I started work for a Danish company which involved lots of business travel around the UK but also through Europe. At 17 I drove across to Denmark in a right-hand drive Volvo which was good fun.

Finally in my early 20’s I decided that I would quite like a job in travel. My boyfriend then was a coach driver and I had been with him to Poland one Christmas and to Lake Garda for another Christmas.

Girlfriends and partners used to be able to go free with drivers on Christmas tours.

I decided to take the plunge and sent off my somewhat embellished CV to a travel company that recruited me on the spot and sent me off to Lake Garda for a month to manage 4 tours. My passport had expired, I had no training and I didn’t speak any Italian so it really was getting thrown in at the deep end.

That was nearly 30 years ago now and I’ve been a Tour Manager/Director/Guide for various holiday companies ever since taking groups of British travelers overseas, in Europe initially and then to longer-haul destinations such as China and Australia.

I’ve been lucky enough to be paid to travel, albeit with a group of people with me, and to visit some fantastic places around the world.

For me travel has given me the opportunity to learn about different cultures and history. Despite being told I was rubbish at history and geography at school these are now my two favourite subjects and each trip adds a bit more to the story. Of course travelling for work is a little different but I have still been very lucky to travel as much as I have.

the professional traveller melanie tour manager
A much younger me at Lake Lugano

Professional Travel

Most of my travel has been for work purposes, initially travelling to events and exhibitions all over the UK and Europe and later as a Tour Manager.

It is a different type of travel to leisure travel.

Most of my travelling has been done leading a group of holidaymakers, mainly British, overseas and latterly leading groups of US guests around the UK.

This makes it a different experience too.

I am often busy when away sorting out problems, confirming flights, getting supplies and in the old days before WiFi was in hotels you would often find me at an internet cafe trying to catch up on emails and messages related to the tour.

The photo above is me at Lake Lugano when I was based in Lake Como. We used to visit weekly and it was always a nice place to spend the day. It’s quite an old photo and was during the time when I was too scared to fly!

When travelling with groups I never stray too far away from the vicinity of the hotel we are staying in, just to make sure I am on hand in case something is needed.

Often I am working with a coach driver which can add another spin on the work experience.

solo travel the professional traveller
Baku At Night

Solo Travel

In the last couple of years I have discovered the joy of solo travel and it has been a revelation. I have enjoyed solo stays in Portugal, Spain, Istanbul and Baku and I have lots more solo trips planned.

Whilst there are moments of being scared and uncertain I love the sense of achievement and I love the fact I can do what I want, when I want without having to compromise (something I am not very good at anyway!)

doglets the professional traveller
My fur babies
My Dogs

The hardest thing about travelling is leaving my family, although that is easier now than it used to be as me nephew has gotten older. However, leaving my dogs just gets tougher.

My dogs have been my best friends and kept me company through everything life has thrown at me over the last 12 years or so. They sleep next to me at night and they snuggle next to me on the sofa.

As I write this, during the Covid-19 period of life, they have been my constant companions now for 9 months. I have never been at home so much and they have kept me calm and sane through this craziness, helped me to focus while I work and helped me to appreciate life when at times that has been a bit harder to do.

I think the reason I love dachshunds in particular, Lotty and Christy are my 3rd and 4th, is their characters. They are strong willed, independent and not very biddable – much like me!

Favourite Travel Experiences

How hard this is to narrow down but here are a few that come to mind.

Venice

Seeing Venice for the first time was as amazing as I thought it would be. A coach driver whizzed me through narrow alleys and we popped out onto the Rialto Bridge. It was so beautiful I cried and I have loved visiting Venice ever since. I used to be lucky enough to visit weekly and I am planning a longer stay there in the not too distant future. Not only is it beautiful but also fascinating, with everything normally done by road being done by boat!

Australian Outback

I love the sea, coasts and beaches so it came as a complete surprise that the Outback was one of the places I absolutely loved in Australia. I’m also not a big fan of the heat and despite it being 46 degrees Celsius, which feels like putting your head in a hot oven, I still loved it.

The colour, the history, the importance and meaning of the landscape and the nature. Sitting out under the stars enjoying the Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru was truly amazing and I am looking forward to returning to Australia and doing the big lap!

First Solo Trip After An Argument

My first solo trip was actually supposed to be with someone else. However, having had an argument I decided I wasn’t going to compromise on everything, especially when I was paying half for the holiday.

I jumped on the internet found a lovely hotel nearby and headed over to check in. I was upgraded to a lovely little bungalow room with a fab terraced. It was adjacent to the spa and pool so I could easily pad down and take a dip. It was an incredibly relaxing few days.

I also jumped in the little hire car and headed on a circular drive out into the hills above the Algarve. I found this absolutely stunning little white village with a river running beside it. It was just so pretty and I sat myself down in the very quaint cafe and enjoyed a coffee.

I cried (again!) because it was so beautiful and I felt so proud of myself for getting out on my own. I knew then that I could travel on my own and have been enjoying doing so since. Without that argument I may never have found out!

The Most Fantastic Group

In 2019 I was lucky enough to travel with one of the best groups I have ever met. They were amazing. At first I was nervous as there was a large group travelling within the tour. In the past that has never gone well. However, this time it was impossible to tell who was in the private group and who wasn’t.

The people were all genuinely lovely and I loved spending time with them. We laughed our way around England, Scotland and Wales and the tour reminded me why I loved my job so much, because it didn’t feel like a job. I’ve stayed in touch with some of the group members too which is always lovely.

Seeing Fantastic Wildlife

When I was first asked to go to the Azores I had no idea where they actually were, but always keen to explore somewhere new I said yes of course. These fantastic group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic is an amazing place to visit and I fell in love with the island of Faial.

We went whale watching there and we had an amazing encounter with a Blue whale. I was stood at the front of the boat and the whale swam towards the boat, which had stopped as the whale was so close. This beautiful creature turned over and this huge eye looked at us and then the whale turned over and swam under the boat.

The local guide who had done the trip many many times was extremely excited and we all had the feeling that we were being watched rather than the other way round. It was such an amazing memory and one I will never forget.

That evening I invited my group to take a walk up a nearby hill with me. I instructed them they couldn’t take photos or use torches because we were off to see Cory Shearwaters returning to their burrows after being out fishing all day. To my surprise the whole group of 35 guests came with me and we stood on this small hill, with birds calling to each other as they returned to their burrows. It was a spine tingling experience.

One lady came up to me in tears saying it was never something she would have know about or thought to do on her own, and she wasn’t really a bird watcher but it made her holiday. I love doing those sorts of things for people and we call came back to the hotel.

Travel Style

Hotel rather than hostel.

Independent hotel rather than a chain, generally in nice location or with good transport connection.

Love a free upgrade and a great room.

Enjoy an in room buffet every now and again, alongwith in room takeaway. Although I always clear up and put all the rubbish in a bag so housekeeping don’t have to deal with it!

Enjoy exploring like a local using local transport – even though it often causes lots of reroutes, or unexpected walks because I’ve got off in the wrong place

Love trying out some words in a new language, but often end up with international sign language i.e. acting things out.

Museums are a favourite travel activity – love learning.

Trying local flavours is a must when travelling, even though sometimes as a vegetarian that can be a bit challenging. Really enjoy exploring local markets and supermarkets to see what people eat.

Less is more when packing. Can easily stay 5 -7 nights with a case that is hand luggage size for the airplane, saving all the hassle of checking in.

Don’t like flying so upgrading the airport experience by using a lounge, speeding through security and paperless travel is a must. Do like an airport bookshop though!

It’s got to be an aisle seat, and generally close to emergency exit or sometimes at the back of the plane. However, that can sometimes mean you just have a queue for the toilet beside you all the time.

Think seat etiquette should be explained on flights – a man should not assume he has the right to the armrest and I will reclaim my armrest space to make the point if I have to. Likewise there is no need to recline a seat on a short flight, anyone who does it just being a knob.

Not sure what the fixation with selfies actually is. I want a picture of the view – I know what I look like and I know I was there. Sometimes it feels like people are just there to take a selfie rather than experience the place. Taking selfies at places such as Auscwhitz and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin should just be banned.

All hotel doors should have door closers fitted by law, plus anyone that stands in the corridor having a loud conversation late at night or early in the morning should be escorted off the premises immediately.

Travel Essentials

1 pair of sturdy shoes, one pair of lighter shoes

Clothes in compression packing cubes to help get more in and making unpacking speedy

Lightweight raincoat

Hat to keep wind out of my ears

Eye mask, ear plugs, pillow spray

Long electrical lead to ensure phone ends up being by the bed, emergency battery charger

Mini first aid kit with plasters, bandage, gel, wipes

Medication including pain relief, cold/flu relief, sore throat tablets, diarrhoea tablets

Camera including spare battery

Mint tea and sweetener, drinks bottle

Great travel insurance

Notepad and pens for when travel inspiration strikes!

Something to eat, which I keep topped up so always have something to eat in my bag!

Random Information About Me

I have a Blue Peter Badge.

This is a source of great pride! I got it for writing a letter about CousCous – little did I know if I had written another letter I could have got a Gold badge. The Blue Peter Badge gives reduced price and free entry into various attractions.

I was, and am, a huge Blue Peter fan. I went to see the statue of Petra which was located outside the BBC centre. I was devastated when the Blue Peter garden was vandalisekd – it felt like a personal attack!

I also have a bronze medal in Disco Dancing.

Oh yes! I wore a red pantsuit with stringy straps and gold shoes. I was praised for my flexibility! I still love disco dancing although now it is generally in the confines of my house.

At 21 I got my HGV Class One

My first love was trucks. I still have a soft spot for them and photograph them when I travel. I grew up in the transport industry so couldn’t wait to get my HGV. It took me two attempts to pass but I got my licence. I used to sell truck equipment so I needed my HGV for that job. Nearly 30 years ago it was quite unusual for such a young girl to get an HGV. Thankfully now there are many more female HGV drivers – it’s great to see.

The Highlands Has Been Home for 17 Years

I absolutely love the Highlands. I visited here when I was in my late teens and always said I wanted to retire to the area. Thankfully I got here much earlier, in my mid 30s and have loved living here ever since. It’s a part of the world that constantly delights. Every day I notice something different.

It also offers a fantastic quality of life with really lovely people who have time to chat with each other – it makes all the difference.

Add to that the scenery which is all around and it really is a slice of heaven.

Further Reading;

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