Our recent “President’s Club”, singles cruise to Indonesia sent me down a path of reminiscence and introspection that rekindled my sense of identity. Inspiring others to bring out the best in themselves, brings out the best in me. Since the very beginning (1993), during my first trip with singles to Amsterdam and Brussels, I began serving my purpose. I may not have been fully aware of my destiny just yet, but I felt good watching my travelers not only enjoy the destination, but grow personally in the experience.
I heard all about the fears that they overcame to take a “first trip to Europe”, “travel alone for the first time, without knowing anyone else”, “leaving the US for the first time” and so on. Quickly, it was obvious that, with just a little encouragement, they could realize that their abilities to try new things, overcome fears and break down barriers were right inside of them all along. Holding 1 hand at a time was the beginning of a new beginning for me and after 24 years as President and CEO of Singles Travel International, my gift of helping singles grow and develop themselves through travel is still at the core of each of my days.
This summer kicked off a concept that our team created during one of our recent brainstorms; they said that members might enjoy traveling with me, as president of STI. We agreed to try it out on a sailing vacation in an exotic location because it would provide an easy platform for inspiration. Indonesia is half way around the world for most of us and a sailing vessel of 364 feet was outside the box for nearly all of us. As one by one, our members signed up to join me, they dreamed of learning to sail, experiencing an exotic new culture, tasting new cuisines and making new friends. But I don’t know how many anticipated that amazing accomplishments and life changing experiences were on the horizon.
We all met in Bali, that in itself a 40 year dream for me and as I understood, for many others on the trip. We were all looking to check off a bucket list trip together. What ensued was magical. Our local guides, Suwin and Windy immersed us in the Hindu, Balinese life that they knew so well and of which we were unaware. One of the memorable moments was during a private event for STI members to include a cooking class and lunch in the countryside. What we never imagined was that we’d have a chance to try planting rice in a rice paddy. Some of us gave it a try and later in the trip, Elizabeth came to me to say that “it was such a meaningful experience to her because her mom had been from Asia and had done the same to raise her family in her early years.” The love and care that we felt from the locals, who treated us like family, nurtured incredible feelings in us all that the world is a good place.
But dragons were on the horizon… Komodo dragons that is.
For many, visiting Komodo Island was a highlight of our cruise, for some, the biggest fear. Meeting face to face with a flesh eating beast and a guide with only a forked stick as protection, was not what some may describe as a “walk in the park.” Our small group encountered a dragon early on and as we rushed to see a young male in the bush, Kristie looked at me and said, “thanks, I am glad I have someone here by my side to do this and not alone!”
For others, it was a matter of “how close can I get”? Becky and Emily from Michigan said that it “was a bucket list dream to get a selfie with a Komodo Dragon” and “they were so excited to get one with the dragon’s mouth wide open!”
Back onboard the Star Clipper, we found many new opportunities to challenge ourselves. Fourteen of us “climbed the mast”! Renee was cheered on by Singles Travel International members and said that “she was supported by her new friends, which made it possible and added to making her trip wonderful.”
Socializing in a small ship also stretched the comfort zone of some members. On a large ship with all the distractions of shows, dance clubs and casinos, conversations are often simple and polite but don’t always have the chance to gain depth. On our intimate vessel with 100 guests (40 singles), there was plenty of time for making new friends and deepening relationships as the week passed by and our very own members joined together to participate in activities, shows and even the entertainment. Our members were lovingly encouraged to get on stage to sing karaoke, play an instrument and I don’t think that anyone was left off the dance floor on any given night. Kathy rose up like a star after we heard her version of “Summertime” during our happy hour one night. With a little encouragement and Sergio as back up on the guitar, Kathy “spread her wings to take to the sky” while the entire ship clapped and cheered her on. Ron from Chicago, got his backup singers and dancers (Maryann, Lisa, Lisa, Jim, Laura and Kathy) together for one last performance on the road! They brought down the house with “Johnny Be Good” at the talent show.
Our team sets out to create an environment for our members to have an incredible adventure and to grow personally at the same time. What we continuously witness is the amazing creativity and courage that comes along with every group.
David from New Jersey did his first open water dive encouraged by super divers Maggie, Tanya and Melinda. Several other members were able to try diving for the very first time with a certified instructor. Stephanie from Arizona learned to snorkel for the very first time and she said, “it was another member who encouraged me to try it and gave me lessons this week.” We all agreed that snorkeling and diving in Indonesia was incredibly beautiful with virgin reefs, walls of colorful fish and everyone’s favorites, the sea turtle and blue starfish!
I am always delighted to see what costumes appear during our theme nights and the STI team had selected Robinson Crusoe or “shipwrecked” night for the President’s Party. What a blast walking onto the deck to twin Gilligan’s, Mary Anne’s and a few Wilsons! Bill from California, delighted us all with his version of Robinson Crusoe, with long hair, full beard and tattered clothing, we barely recognized him. What a transformation from a relatively quiet guy to life of the party!
On the first day of the cruise we provided each member an empowerment card to fill in independently as they accomplished new things on their week in Indonesia. I was filled with joy when several returned the cards to me at our farewell party to say thanks for cheering them on and how much it meant to them to be a part of this incredible journey.
The magic on this cruise is not unique to Indonesia. Similar stories are part of every Singles Travel International vacation. Our team of caring and professional Concierges are ready to meet you right now. I look forward to sharing the next President’s Trip experience with members, next summer, at the World’s Largest Jazz Festival in Montreal! Appreciating live Jazz music, savoring gourmet cuisine and tasting fine wines in Old Montreal are new opportunities to spread your wings! Click here to join me.
Contributed by Tammy Weiler, President of Fun & Adventure at Singles Travel International