Meet the Jacobs, travelers extraordinaire!

Richard and Ilene Jacobs

Meet the Jacobs, travelers extraordinaire!

Richard and Ilene Jacobs

Passionate travelers and valued ExpeditionTrips clients, Richard and Ilene Jacobs have traveled to Timbuktu and back. Literally. And, many places in between including three trips to Antarctica! We recently checked in with them to chat about their travel philosophy and inspiration!

You are avid travelers. What do you love about travel and what motivates you to keep traveling?

What do we love about travel? Just about everything, but probably first and foremost, being able to witness and experience the great diversity of humanity and nature, from the bush of Africa to glaciers in Antarctica. That being said, we have come to appreciate that around the world, "people are people" and that a smile and a softly spoken "hello" or "thank you" can bridge the gap between cultures and languages.

We feel absolutely privileged (or is it lucky?) to “drop in” on places which had just been dots on a map and to realize that we were witnessing someone else’s "reality"–-perhaps a city or village or animal habitat where life had been going on long before we "discovered" it and would continue to do so long after we’ve moved on to our next stop.

What are some of the reasons you choose ExpeditionTrips to help you with your travel plans?

We consider the staff at ExpeditionTrips our friends, whose advice is often based on their own travel and work experiences. We also appreciate the candor with which they provide their views and their willingness to roll up their sleeves to dig for the answers to our questions. Finally, we feel that we’re being provided individualized and personalized attention by folks who are familiar with our preferences – a far cry from being treated as just another "number" by the behemoths in the travel industry.

What is your travel philosophy? How do you select your adventures, and what are some of the most important elements you look for in a trip?

We classify our trips as cultural, nature-based and archeology-focused. Of course, most trips combine at least two of those three categories, our recent visit to Iran being a good example of a trip which combined culture and archeology.

We take inspiration from the essayist, Susan Sontag, who wrote that "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list". Generally, we decide on a destination based on conversations with other travelers, articles in the International Travel News, and offerings from those adventure travel operators with whom we have confidence. Once a destination has generated a "hmm, sounds like an interesting place to visit", we work with ExpeditionTrips to identify one or more trips from which to make our final selection.

There are several important elements which we look for in any trip. The itinerary, of course, is center stage. Likewise, the tour leader and staff for any trip are as important to us as the itinerary. We also factor in the reputation of, or our prior experience with, the tour operator. One item which should never be overlooked is the weather. We once booked a trip (long before we discovered ExpeditionTrips) to Costa Rica in its rainy season. What we discovered was that it’s a really bad idea to take a trip to a rain forest in the rainy season. There are several good Internet sites which provide climate data; you can be sure that we now visit them early in our planning process for each of our trips.

Finally, our preparation often includes reading up on the place which we’ll be visiting. The trip continues after our return, as Richard spends a lot of time editing our photographs from the trip.

One of the trips we helped you with was the anniversary/family trip you took to Alaska. What are some of your favorite memories from this experience?

ExpeditionTrips did a great job in planning a trip to Alaska which included a week on land followed by a week aboard a small ship which cruised the southeastern panhandle of Alaska.

The land piece took us and our son and daughter-in-law well into Denali National Park, where we stayed at a lodge operated by an Alaska native tribe. We were far from the touristy area adjacent to the Alaska Railroad stop at the National Park. The six hour bus ride to the lodge included a bear sighting (indeed, the bus driver had to shoo Richard away from the open front door of the bus because the bear was getting a bit too close to leave the door open). We took short hikes each day and felt as though we had the National Park to ourselves.

Our daughter and Richard’s brother and sister-in-law joined us for the cruise. Best memory of that part of the trip was the whales. We were treated to acrobatic breechings; several whales swimming under our small ship at the same time; and best of all, several hours of bubble feeding by a pod of 16 or so humpbacks.

Thus far, which two adventures would you say have been your favorites and why?

We’re not alone in considering our visits to Antarctica and South Georgia as a favorite adventure. Indeed, ExpeditionTrips has helped us plan our third trip “south” during the 2010-11 season. Certainly, there’s something very special about the penguins; they seem to be the world’s favorite animal! Indeed, we’ve spotted pictures of penguins in such diverse places as the South of India, Turkmenistan, and Iran! But, beyond the penguins, Antarctica’s unspoiled beauty, along with the birds, seals, and whales are overwhelming.

Second place generally belongs to whatever trip we’ve most recently taken. We’ve just returned from 2-1/2 weeks in Iran. The trip was truly eye-opening. The Iranians—not to be confused with their government—were the most welcoming locals we've ever encountered. We were treated like rock stars. First "what your country"? Then, eyes widened when we replied "America," followed by "welcome to Iran" and their asking "can we take your picture"?

What advice would you give to others who would like to travel more?

Just do it. When Richard is asked why we travel so much, his answer is "because we can". That may sound flippant, but it reflects that none of us are getting any younger and that now is the best time to take trips which might push the envelope.

If possible, find friends or family with whom you can travel. Sharing your trips doubles the fun. We have travel "buddies" whom we met on other trips, stay in touch with and plan new adventures.

We’ll close with more advice from Susan Sontag:

Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.