The End of An Era

After a lot of trepidation and back-pedaling, because of my back issues, I have reluctantly decided to stop organizing, researching and leading group trips to places around the world.

It has been a great 22+ years. The close associations that I have developed (and I hope the feelings are mutual) with so many of you can never be replicated. Travel With Chardoul began with just a few friends and over the next two decades expanded to over 200 individuals/couples. This was based on referrals and recommendations: friends inviting friends and relatives as it continued to grow.

The membership of my Traveling Friends list stretched from California and Washington across this great country, all the way to Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut and Maine in the United States. Add to it, some from Puerto Rico, Canada, United Kingdom and Greece.

Our group trips included China (to which I will not return while Xi is the dictator), Russia (to which I will not return as long as Putin thinks that he is the Patriarch), and countries that are in the throes of revolution or tumult. I have been careful to select parts of countries that I thought would interest you and on several occasions, I was a bit perplexed that more of you chose not to respect my judgment and join in. Those of you who missed the fantastic trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos missed an absolutely fabulous trip — and even more if you like Spring rolls. When we were in Thailand, I did cut it close and our flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok left just prior to the airport closing. The same thing happened on our flight back to the United States from Bangkok as rebels attempted to shut the country down. (In case you didn’t know it, I had sort of anticipated that and did have a contingency plan to extricate us out of the country!)

The process of determining the site of a future trip, then deciding what I wanted to include, measuring distances between cities and means of transportation, working with my wonderful colleagues at Dolphin Vacations — especially Lynne Erikson, who kept me out of trouble and handled a lot of issues that I could not resolve — finding accommodations, internal transportation, and then figuring a cost before I advertised the trip made me realize how important it is today to rely on professionals. The most recent trip to northern Italy proved that point as Lynne used her magic fingers to come up with alternate flight arrangements when a flight was cancelled at the beginning of a trip at the last minute.

I most strongly recommend that when you travel out of the country that you use the expert services of travel advisors (note that they do not refer to themselves as travel agents anymore — for a reason).

I cannot thank enough the quality of guides that we encountered. I still am in communication with many of them. There are essentially two levels of them: one are the “step-on” guides who meet the group in a city and share their detailed knowledge of the city with the group; the other are those who accompany the group from meeting the group members at the incoming airport and stay with that group the entire trip.

In any event, they are indispensable. This includes recommending restaurants in various cities, finding errant luggage in a strange airport and ensuring that the luggage is properly and promptly delivered so that the tourists whose luggage is missing don’t have to wear the same clothes for days.

I am not disestablishing Travel With Chardoul, Inc. Although I will not be leading group tours any more, I can assist you if you have some idea where you want to go. My background and access to information will allow me to share that information with you and make recommendations.

In any event, the time that I have spent on travel has been a great trip and if I had to do it over again, I would do so with pleasure. The relationships that I developed with you will be lasting memories and I know that I have grown and hope that you have as well.