On The Road Again, Mustapha.

Traveling alone is a joyful experience, I don’t get lonely, and I am rarely frightened. My recent Nineteen Day Camel Caravan through the Kingdom of Morocco reminded me of one slightly chilling moment in Wadi Rum, Jordan. The driver of the 4×4 desert vehicle had a pendant dangling from his rear-view mirror, the more I stared at it, the more alarmed I became. I realized it was a photo of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator who was not fond of Americans, to say the least. My guide realized I recognized the mini shrine and quietly mentioned: he gave us free oil for many years, the driver worships him. On a visit to Oman, seeing camouflage nets covering tanks near a five-star resort, quick geography bolt – oh, the Strait of Hormuz is just a mountain passage away…trivial flashes reminding me of what a tiny world we live in.

I arrived in Morocco for a Nineteen Day Camel Caravan, to explore major cities, small rural villages, and the Sahara Desert with our expert local team, it was while driving through massive linear Sahara sand dunes that the swaying pendant memory flooded my consciousness. However, this time I was with my trusted driver Mustapha. Driver is really an unsuitable description in many contexts; Mustapha was the manager of my ever-changing schedule, bodyguard, cultural ambassador, language tutor, and fanatical seeker of Champagne in a dry Muslim country, he wore at least twenty hats while shepherding me safely across the country.  

Madame should always have bread in the car! Of course, schlepping one of my camera bags!

You may recall my Tribute to Samer, my dedicated driver in Jordan. This is my homage to Mustapha. When our clients set out in cities or untamed countryside, our hand selected teams are their safety net. My complicated roaming about for nineteen days was extremely well planned, and we never experienced a glitch, due to Mustapha’s dedication and his constant connection to our trusted team based in Marrakech. I mentioned that in London, our dear Neville rarely let me out of his sight, even with GPS, I have no sense of direction. If I wandered a bit, Mustapha was like the FBI, I would peer back from an ATM or a souk path and I was never out of his sightline. Morocco has strict hotel procedures, my arrival was always announced in advance. Doormen, luggage carts, all my needs had been shared and VIP Five-Star greetings prevailed. Whisked to suite, Champers on ice!

Several of our clients have already savored Morocco with the fine detailed itineraries organized by our local team and traveled with the ever resourceful and fun Mustapha! Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t traveled for over two years, and this was a very ambitious Journey – begin big, why not?! Most may know, I am rather obsessive about the arrival and solemnly believe the mantra that a driver or guide can make or break a trip. Imagine traveling nineteen days in a car with an incompatible traveling companion?  Mustapha and I had many significant passages, a 9-hour drive day, several 5-hour drive days and if we couldn’t bear spending hours and hours together, we would be in serious trouble! In this case, I would be judging everything from a client’s point of view, a fussy Virgo traveler, business owner, and someone who hadn’t traveled in over two years. Poor Mustapha had his work cut out for him!

A seventeen-hour slog to Casablanca through Charles De Gaulle, and due to a tennis injury, I had reserved a wheelchair for my airport transfers – it turned out to be essential in Paris, such a massive confusing airport. My Casablanca VIP arrival team insisted I be delivered to the car in the wheelchair; I’m sure when Mustapha saw a wheelchair bound traveler, he assumed he would also add Nurse duties to his list of titles. Massive bags loaded, a suitcase filled with fancy winter clothes for Madrid and Paris as well as Moroccan summer clothes; I mentioned I wanted to ride in the front seat of the car for better photographs. Of course, I am here to make your trip perfect. As I re-read my initial post from the Four Seasons in Casablanca, I mentioned my charming driver Mustapha and I would depart for an epic adventure the next morning; within an hour of my arrival, he had already achieved positive reviews!

We had guides arranged in every city, dining reservations, private visits to charming gardens. Mustapha could double as a guide, he’s well-travelled, speaks five languages, and has spent hours with our clients and their guides. He has an amazing memory – he became my ‘Travel Whisperer’ to our team and to hotel staff. Many of the hotels had wine lists, some even had cocktails, a delicious reward after a nine-hour drive day. One evening at the lovely Relais & Chateaux property, Villa Des Orangers, I was sitting in an intimate salon with roaring fire, oud musician in the garden, my private story tellers arrived, followed by a waiter with the perfect Rye Manhattan on a silver tray! I almost burst into tears, it was day fourteen, and I was a bit weary, it was exactly what I desired, he advised staff of my favorite cocktail. Our clients expect these little miracles, I was wowed by the gesture and his memory!

My Nineteen Day Camel Caravan was the perfect blend of history, culture, touring in major cities and through date studded deserts. If you think of the assets we can attribute to travel, trust and resilience come to mind. Traveling alone, my drivers and guides become my local ambassadors and ultimately trustworthy friends. I remain friends with my glorious guide in Bhutan, our renowned guide in Rwanda. These accidental characters become an intrinsic piece of our travel lives. What a gift to treasure, a Journey for the wonders, the layers of personal experiences and ultimately a friend who added wisdom and depth to my travel.

Day Two and already kindly schlepping my camera gear.

A few specific experiences. My goals were established for the Journey – this is my work, with pleasure of course, but I had specific photo locations I wanted to visit, Mustapha knew the lists – if a guide got me off track, he was the policeman. At some point we established several code phrases. If I said Mustapha: I am craving Scrambled Eggs, he knew guide was off track – doing a great job, but not on my track, he either dismissed the guide or nudged the guide back to my plan. It was a gentle method of keeping me happy and a kind way of dismissing a guide if I was exhausted! We also had a ‘ratings system’ for fabulous sight-seeing a Ten Camel Day was the initial high bar. Eventually, we bumped to a Twenty Camel Day and a Hundred Camel Day.

I love meeting locals, when we discussed this, I told Mustapha do you think a family in Madrid or Paris will invite me in for tea? Never! Moroccans are warm, gentle, and generous people, if you say yes to tea, and you should never say no, be prepared for an elaborate tea ceremony with vessels and platters of homemade breads, nuts, and dates! He mentioned his family lived near Marrakech on a farm, would I want to stop? Emphatic yes! There is an in depth post on my visit but his dear mum and darling auntie warmly welcomed me – without a common language. Auntie had never seen a tourist except on TV and within five minutes she laid claim to me – she was keeping me, even though Mustapha told her I needed coffee served in bed every morning, and I didn’t clean or cook, she was unwavering, The Tourist was hers. We giggled for over an hour with no common language, we communicated our affection for each other. It was a Twenty Camel Day, with deep levels of culture, this is what I love most about my travel. Seeing Morocco through the lens of a well-informed interesting native Berber, Mustapha provided layers of inspiring local culture to my Journey.

Always perfectly polished, dress shoes in the muddy Rohuna Garden.

All along the drives through the countryside, near the dramatic gorges of the Dades Valley and Ziz Valley teeming with towering date palms as far as you can see, we saw numerous goat and lamb herders, I am insanely attracted to baby goats and lambs, shouting for one every time we saw a flock! Of course, we didn’t stop, he would slow for photos, but they aren’t pets. As we made our way to Essaouria, along the side of the road were the iconic Argan trees with goats climbing in the tree branches – a truly fanciful Dali-esque sight. Mustapha quickly stopped and said run! The owner, his young son and daughter were under the tree, the tree literally filled with goats. It was kismet, the little girl recognized the lustful look on my face, walked over and plopped a darling baby goat into my arms! Heaven! Another Twenty Camel Day goal achieved!

Finally, my own little goat!

Travel offers so much more than photographic images, one should become immersed in a culture’s history, language, customs, and delicious cuisine. As you explore cultural distinctions, you may discover that we’re all not so different after all. I was humbled by an invitation to the village home of one of the staff members of Dar Ahlam, he and his wife lived nearby, a grand table of tea and nibbles awaited me. Mustapha’s family more than welcomed me, they embraced me and despite no common language, we communicated.

Mustapha was an excellent navigator, an easy to be with travel friend, searcher for bubbly, I can add fifteen more titles to the list. He is truly an excellent listener, and he sincerely wants clients to enjoy their experiences, he is a dedicated people pleaser. Besides always having yet another packet of tissue for a bathroom, always having a coin for the bathroom, always knowing what I should tip here or there, with nary a complaint when said questions were repeated numerous times a day. Without asking, always schlepping my camera bag, my pashmina, never mentioning that I kind of engulfed the front seats with my essential bags. I relied on him completely and experienced a little self-doubt on my travel capabilities when the days were winding down and I would need to function on my own in Europe. He made it very easy to be a tourist; I was not my usual manage everything, be in total control traveler.

When I met our team at La Mamounia for cocktails, they told me if they could clone him there would be dozens of Mustapha’s in their basket, he is the absolute finest Client Ombudsman, our clients are in the very best hands in Morocco!

I survived Nineteen Days of Camel Caravan and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Shukran, Tanmert, Mustapha!

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

The World Is Opening Up! Inspiration and Facts

Spark Inspiration. Choose A Journey. Highly Recommend. Notes On Travel

Guest Post by our Creative Director, Susanne Smith, who creates the stunning front end of our weekly Malchimp posts and client magazines. Everyone can use a refresher on How to Travel Again!

  • Choosing A Destination
  • Getting Inspired 
  • Where It Is Safe To Travel 
  • Assembling Your Journey

The World Is Opening Up And It Is A Celebration! 

Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa

This is the perfect time to create lists of must-see, can’t die without visiting…the proverbial Wish List of travel destinations and experiences. 

Now. How on Earth do you make up your mind where to travel next? It’s part art (flair, instinct, desire, dreams) and part science (budgets, visas, distance, time…). 

The world is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The horizon for travel feels closer, every day a little bounce toward normalcy. 

After nearly 15 months of being grounded, some may feel they have taken travel for granted. Pre-Pandemic, I had composed a globe-trotting list of experiences and a month before we were so quickly shut down, I had just returned from Jordan and Egypt. My Journey began with a starlight walk under a carpet of stars to being dazzled by the Treasury in Petra, illuminated by thousands of candles; my Journey concluded at the great pyramids of Giza. 

Quarantine time provided hours of dreaming and plotting experiences. What do I want to see and what is safe? I’ve flown to Cabo, mainly because it was a three hour flight, which felt safe for my first outing. Double masked, in first class, with wipes and clear glasses, I felt surprisingly comfortable. I’m plotting a long-haul flight, but will take one more short hop to feel 100% confident of airport procedures and other tourists acting responsibly.

I have such faith in our World and can’t wait to get going! 

Buddha Dordenma Statue, Thimphu Bhutan

Choosing A Destination 

Why Exactly Do You Want To Travel It’s not always obvious. Usually, it’s because you have a destination in mind but understanding your motivations and your desires will help you decide. Begin asking questions and consider new ways to be inspired. 

It can be a fun research project; and if you’re planning an international Journey, ask yourself and your travel companions what’s most important. Safety and comfort? Adventure and lots of activities? Or both?

There are so many ways to decide where to go and what to do. Shape your experiences. Dig deep inside. Pester friends for advice. Peruse your bucket list. Inspiration for your next big Journey can be in the form of a single photo to 23andMe results inspiring a visit to your homeland!

Decide Who’s Going Maybe you want to travel alone so you can do whatever you want, or you and your best friend have finally carved out time to take a Journey together. Who you’re traveling with will affect the remainder of your Journey planning. 

Pick A Time To Travel How many days can you go? Remember that the weather and season could be drastically different from where you live. Northern or Southern Hemisphere? Follow the sun or the snow? 

Estimate A Budget It helps to be honest with yourself and whoever is going with you on what you want to spend—and what your priorities are. Budgeting before you decide where to go can provide some structure when narrowing down locations and accommodations. 

Accommodations & Activities  Accommodations can range from aplenty to scarce to extremely rare. Do you feel like kicking back and letting an all-inclusive resort take care of the details or book a private villa and be more integrated with the local community? 

Share Your Travel Plans Communication. Share your travel plans with colleagues, friends and family. Keep in touch through social media and consider registering online with the U.S .Government so the U.S. Embassy has you on a locate list. 

Jumpstart Any Travel Mental Blocks Corral your friends if your own ideas are feeling a little stale, tap into the collective hive mind of your friends. Throw a cocktail party with admittance: one travel story! Social Media Influencers are a great wealth of information too. 

Dream Up An Experience Instead of country-hopping or city-dipping, concentrate on a 360-degree view of what you’ll actually do when there? Have an experience in mind as opposed to just a country. Eg. – ‘I want to go to Sydney and see free range Kangaroos at the Reptile Park,’ rather than, ‘I want to go to Australia.’ 

Sunrise Four Seasons Los Cabos Resort at Costa Palmas

Relaxation Float through vacations. Unplug. Swing in a hammock. Live in the Spa. Consider a private yacht in remote tropical locations. Move into a villa on Lake Como for the summer. 

Culture Countries like Italy, Turkey, Greece, Peru, and China are replete with history. Customize your trip with vetted guides. 

Sacred Places Bhutan’s monks in maroon robes, prayer flags and Tiger’s Nest. Sardinia’s mysteries of Mamoiada with ancient fairy houses and giants’ tombs. Santa Fe’s red earth and strange vortexes – the world is full of sacred places. 


Inveterate Shoppers There are fabulous markets across the globe — from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to the flea markets of France. Plan your Journey around classic fashion cities like London, Paris, Milan, or Tokyo.

Unforgettable Architectural Sites The Colosseum in Rome, pyramids of Egypt, Barcelona for the Gaudi buildings. The best chateaux of the Loire Valley. Tour America visiting choice Frank Lloyd Wright homes or reserve one for an immersive experience.

Solo Journeys Some countries lend themselves to independent travel because they are so organized and simple to navigate like Switzerland, South Korea or Singapore. 

Off The Beaten Path Vacations Spend a week in Sri Lanka, explore Saharan sand dunes in Morocco, or see Cuba that seems to be frozen in time yet modern, utterly unforgettable. 

Explore A Specific Region Pick a region and organize an itinerary that takes you there in depth — the cities of southern France, for example. Or, use a single city as your hub and then get out to explore the region: Annecy, France can be your jumping off point to the French Alps. 

Elements of the decorations of the Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand

Film & Book Inspirations Let a favorite film, television show, or book shape your Journey. Follow Lawrence of Arabia’s steps through Jordan, Amman, and Morocco. A River Runs Through It – can be relived at a luxury Montana Dude Ranch. Meet Diane Fossey’s Gorillas in the misty jungles of Rwanda. 

Food & Wine Sojourns It’s truly the way to a city’s heart. In deciding where to go next knowing what I want to eat and going to the birthplace of that dish is a big factor. Organize street food tours — Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are great places to start. A wine lover? That will get you to France, California, Chile, Australia, Italy… this list grows and grows.  

Follow Festivals & Celebrations Choose an event, not a destination. Consider festivals, celebrations or holidays. Food bashes, film and music festivals, or TED-style conferences can inspire Journeys to far-flung places. You won’t have to decide what to do when you get there — that part’s all planned. 

Sporty Vacations Hike the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. Ride horses through the vineyards of Argentina. Do something sporty – marathons, cycling tours, races, and Championships – X sports, golf, surfing and Olympics. 

Throw A Wild Card When in doubt, throw a dart at a map. Either you will go, or, it will help you realize where you don’t want to go! Throw it as many times as you like. Or, pack a bag and show up at the airport. Hop the first plane to a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

Where Is It Safe To Go?  More than 75 countries currently allow U.S. citizens to visit, but some restrictions apply. See resources below and view Country-by-Country Guides to Reopened Europe and Asia. 

Research the state of the virus and learn your location’s entry requirements, medical facilities and daily life.

Check your destination country’s official government websites—as well as the CDC website and U.S. Embassy website for the country—before and during any Journey. 

What To Pack Even as mask guidelines relax stateside, we’re still packing face masks and hand sanitizer wherever we go. Some travelers feel more comfortable with a face shield. I personally have not had a cold in over a year so may never give them up. 

Where To Get A Digital Vaccine Records

• myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov

You will receive a personal QR code. Take a screen shot of this and save on your phone.


• cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices 

• usembassy.gov 

• nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• travel.usnews.com/features/where-can-americans-travel-right-now

• nytimes.com/2021/05/26/travel/travel-to-europe-restrictions-covid

Things To Know About Traveling Overseas And At Home 

Megeve France Breakfast in a Balloon Basket!

International Travel  Shifting flight schedules, varying hotel flexibility and new tech: A lot has changed since the last time you packed that passport. Flight schedules will be in flux for months to come. 

Hotel flexibility will vary, so read the fine print. Prepare to schedule and commit, rather than wing it. There are now laws in place in some countries allowing hotels and other travel companies to issue credits, rather than cash refunds, for canceled bookings. 

Places you may be returning to may not be the same – realize that Paris won’t look exactly like the Paris you remember. 

Update your tech and tap into App tech updates. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken your phone overseas, research your wireless provider’s options to avoid roaming charges. Companies, including Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, have per diem travel passes that include unlimited data and texting and certain calling benefits. 

Many tickets and entry passes are digital. There are several new travel-friendly bells and whistles from Google Maps introduced more tailored maps that “know” when a user is at home or traveling: A London vacationer who fires up the app at noon, for instance, will see nearby lunch options as well as local tourist attractions. 

Passport renewal services have resumed, but prepare for potential delays, we have services to expedite passports and visas. Here’s what to know if your passport expires any time within the next year. Plus, why a growing number of Americans are looking for second passports. As of late July, travelers can enroll in Global Entry again. And the deadline to apply for Real ID, a new federally approved identification all Americans will soon need for domestic travel, has been extended.

Countries in Asia like China, Japan and South Korea were impacted early on, they’ve also been earlier to peak, earlier to flatten their curves, and, generally, earlier to reopen. Some places, including Singapore and Taiwan took enough preventative measures to avoid a full lockdown altogether.


Havanna Cuba

• cntraveler.com/story/asia-reopening-guide-coronavirus 

• nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• https://www.cntraveler.com/story/asia-reopening-guide-coronavirus 

• https://www.nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• nytimes.com/2021/05/26/travel/travel-to-europe-restrictions-covid 

Domestic Travel  Keep in mind, you don’t need to leave the country to have a memorable vacation. While international destinations are tempting, there are plenty of enjoyable places to safely vacation around the U.S. Trade the Maldives for Maui, Hawaii, the Swiss Alps for Vail, Colorado, or an African safari for an adrenaline-filled Jeep ride through the desert of Sedona, Arizona.

There are many lesser-known destinations around the country – such as St. Augustine, Florida; Leavenworth, Washington; Holland, Michigan – that feel more like Europe than America. 

Choosing a domestic vacation has its perks, especially during a pandemic. You won’t have to worry about visa restrictions, issues with entry or last minute country closures ruining your Journey (though note some states are imposing their own travel restrictions and quarantine rules). Not to mention, you might find a little slice of paradise close to home that you can continue to visit. Highly Recommend touring our National Parks and their early 1900’s lodges, or domestic UNESCO sites. 

Brown Bear in the Wilderness

Perks of a Travel Consultant  Emergencies. Expertise. Extras. Air Travel. Better Journeys. Planning your Journey is a juggling act of timing, travel goals, budget management and coordinating real-time logistics. Every detail needs attention for the big show! It can be likened to choreographing a ballet or planning a wedding. Travel advisors offer unique services – they vet your Journey, save you time and reduce stress, understand ambience, staff, hotel suite size, best dining options, and can create customized experiences. 

Travel advisors are your advocate. Whatever hurdles rise before the most solid itinerary, your travel agent solves the problem and coordinates any domino effect changes. 

Travel advisors add a human element — and an element of trust.

They are invested in their clients’ happiness and want to make sure each and every Journey is packed full of positive lifelong memories. They listen, suggest, adjust, understand and become a friend. They are with you before, during and after your Journey. 

Like any professional advisors, they really do know more than you do. 

Travel Consultant Wandering the World, in Wadi Rum Jordan


• https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2020/01/26/5-reasons-why-you-need- a-travel-agentmore-than-ever/?sh=43bea6c45343

Planning My Personal Journeys My visit to Bhutan reinforced my goal of seeing countries with well-preserved cultures with customs that haven’t been touched by outside influences. As much as I love Paris and Italy, at this point in my life, I’m drawn to lands that feel raw and less explored. Tribal traditions all around the world, understanding the culture of people who live so differently, the remoteness and physical natural beauty of foreign lands are always beckoning. 

Morocco I am planning to return this November wanting to immerse further into the culture and landscape, beyond Marrakesh and the medina.

Ethiopia Talk about my ideal Journey; the origin of mankind, their own calendar that says it’s still 2010 instead of 2021, the ancient architecture, sweeping gorgeous landscapes, people, cuisine…I cannot wait to begin planning!

Papua New Guinea Here tourism is a fairly unexplored area of the world which is very appealing to me. The culture of Papua New Guinea is complex. There are more than 7,000 different cultural groups mostly with their own language. I definitely plan to experience a celebration with the Mudmen of the Asaro tribe.

Botswana Although I’ve visited Africa eight times and trekked for several days with the magnificent gorillas in Rwanda, Botswana will be my next safari. From the Okavango Delta to the large elephant herds in the Chobe National Park and the unpredictable Savute Channel, which runs dry and floods seemingly at random – Botswana has some of Africa’s most beautiful reserves and exceptional wildlife.

Potato Farmer Bhutan Amankora