As members of the Travelers’ Century Club we are all connected by our love for travel, and I am honored to be your new president. Travel brings us closer together, provides new perspectives and opportunities as we share our adventures and defining travel moments in our lives.
Have you had heart-stopping experiences in your travels? Of course you have, and I love hearing your stories at our events. My memorable experience was a trip planned for my daughters and grandchildren to the Galapagos Islands. We always anticipate our annual travel adventure together. When my grandchildren were 8 and 10 years, I promised them we would go to the Galapagos Islands when they were 10 and 12 and I would be 66. My 8 year old grandson replied, but gigi (my nickname for Grandma Gloria) you will be dead.
Two years later all reservations were made and we anxiously looked forward to our travels to Quito, Ecuador, and on to the Galapagos Islands. This would be a very special memory so my typical economy class travel was upgraded to First Class flights and Penthouse Suite on the ship. An extravagance for me.
Our departure was scheduled for April Fools Day, 9 am. The itinerary was San Diego, Houston, and on to Quito, Ecuador, and finally the Galapagos Islands. Reviewing all travel documents the evening before take off, I felt excited and confident all details had been thoroughly reviewed. This trip would be a lifetime memory. Reviewing every paper in my trip folder I chanced upon the visa information. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Ecuador, which simplifies entry into the country; however, a passport valid for at least six months past the planned date of departure is required.
Not sure about the grandchildren’s passports with the 5 year expiration, I phoned my daughter around 6 pm and asked her to check the expirations. April Fools’ Day came early! Both passports would expire in 2 months… not the required 6 months. Frantic, I began trying to gather information on my options. The cruise line suggested driving from San Diego to Los Angeles the next day for new passports. Checking with the airlines, no seats were available for rescheduling. My magical trip suddenly came crushing down around me. What are the solutions, I asked myself. First of all..breathe! I phoned the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, DC. No answer, so I left a message for someone to return my call as soon as the office opened. I also left a message on the phone at the American Embassy in Quito.
After a sleepless night, my phone rang at 6 am and I was speaking with a lady in the Embassy of Ecuador, Washington, DC. Understanding the problem, she asked me to e-mail passport numbers of my grandchildren and she would send a letter from the ambassador giving permission to enter Ecuador. The e-mail was sent and the wait began. One hour passed. We were approaching time to leave for the airport. I called back to confirm my e-mail address which had been incorrectly entered. The e-mail document was resent and received and we were on our way.
Arriving at the airport, we shared the document from the ambassador at the check-in counter and were told it was unacceptable. I asked for the manager. She would not give permission. I asked her to please contact corporate. The corporate phone line was busy and departure time was quickly approaching. She instructed us to go to the gate and she would continue trying to reach corporate. Approaching the empty gate area we heard the phone ring and my heart stopped. The next thing I heard was, “Hurry get on the plane, they are opening the door for you.”
The trip was truly the lifetime memory I had hoped for. The hikes and snorkeling were incredible. My grandson will always remember driving the zodiac from ship to shore. Because of their ages, the grandchildren were respectful of the environment and the animals. Dinner in the captain’s quarters was a special treat and I was so proud of the questions and manners of my grandchildren.
Travel has challenges and as TCC members we have learned to persevere and seek the solutions. I like the quote from Francis of Assisi:
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”