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Hotel Moment episode #63 Sharing memories good food and good times
Hotel Moment episode #63 Sharing memories good food and good times
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 63

Sharing memories: good food and good times

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, we’re reflecting on memorable moments in hospitality. Our past guests share their favorite travel adventures and the hotels that made their trips extraordinary — welcoming them with open arms and exemplifying what exceptional guest service looks like. You’ll also find recommendations for cuisine around the world that you can look forward to trying on your next‌ vacation.

Tune in and discover what brings this industry together and how you can facilitate guest experiences that make memories.

Red, yellow, and blue lines to indicate soundwaves.
Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

As Chief Marketing Officer at Revinate, Karen Stephens is focused on driving long-term growth by building Revinate’s brand equity, product marketing, and customer acquisition strategies. Her deep connections with hospitality industry leaders play a key role in crafting strategic partnerships.

Karen is also the host of The Hotel Moment Podcast, where she interviews top players in the hospitality industry. Karen has been with Revinate for over 11 years, leading Revinate’s global GTM teams. Her most recent transition was from Chief Revenue Officer, where she led the team in their highest booking quarter to date in Q4 2023.

Karen has more than 25 years of expertise in global hospitality technology and online distribution — including managing global accounts in travel and hospitality organizations such as Travelocity and lastminute.com

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Transcript

Karen Stephens: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast. I am your host, Karen Stephens, Chief Revenue Officer of Revinate. This week on the podcast, we’re gonna go back and listen to the answers to 1 of our questions for all of my guests, which is, “What is the most striking experience you’ve had so far in terms of a food experience, a stay, or a holiday?”

They’re great answers, so give it a listen. Enjoy.

Noreen Henry: There’s so many different ones. I’ll tell you. One of the ones that was most impactful for me is we did a family trip, um, to Ireland and it was a trip with my children and with my parents. And my mom’s from Ireland. And so it was a chance for us to experience Ireland through her eyes.

We met her family over there. We toured the beautiful scenery. My children connected with their cousins and all wanted to go to college there afterwards. Like it was just one of those, like, “Ah, this is where I’m from.” And you just connect it with the people. And they’re such lovely people in Ireland. Oh my gosh, they are just so warm and welcoming.

So yeah, that’s probably my best.

Karen Stephens: Ah, that’s a cool one.

Peter Ricci: The most striking thing to me is always about guest service because I’m a guest service junkie. It’s just in my nature to constantly, every day, all the time be evaluating service. It drives my spouse nuts, but it is what it is. It’s in my blood. And so, the best one for me is a restaurant in Hollywood Beach, Florida called Billy’s Stone Crab.

Short version is that I went there for the first time. Um, when I drove home, I noticed my key fob was kind of damaged. I called back and the restaurant was closed. I left a message, but I still got a call that evening around midnight from the owner. He had found the key fob. They sent it to me. It didn’t work. They went out and bought me a brand new one from Chevy and FedExed it to me and wouldn’t accept a dime.

And the best part of the whole story is that their valet was subcontracted. It wasn’t even theirs, but they believed in guest service so much. That is an example I just never forget because it was just their culture that said we take care of guests. Never question.

You know, it was like $200 or something, which is ridiculous for the price of a key fob, but that’s a whole other issue. But you know, they took it under their wing. And they’re in the business of being in the restaurant, selling seafood. Their focus on guest service just pushed me over that.

And I still teach that in my guest service class. I have multiple examples like that, but that struck me to the heart that they went so far above and beyond. And to me, it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do, but it just never happens.

Fabricio Titiro: I have so many.

But, a few times, um, I cannot remember exactly now, the situation, but, it happened to me 2, 3 times, traveling, because we have, again, this lack of, of having the, to have war to live to also for, professional, task to have visited so many countries. And, a few times it happened to me, that it really, could see that statement, that, famous quote, that “The world is so small” And it happened to me being, you know, in a completely different country, in a completely different place, and having found something physical or, or a connection with a person that, they told me exactly the same thing, that maybe somebody else was doing on, on, on the other side of the world.

This happened to me two or three times, and not technology-related. And it is true that, this is such a small place and that some way or another, we are, we are all connected. I, I had this 2 or 3 times and, and that really struck me.

Johnathan Capps: You know, for me, and I, probably your last one, the uplifting moment personally, I’ll, I’ll cross over with that and say, that is great for me, right? I, I have 2 kids, and being able to travel with them in this industry and, and them have access to some of our great properties, and see things that I know I didn’t see at that age and just experience it. So, you know, a summer ago we went to Chicago and I think our thing is, is putting itineraries together for us. So we had a, call it week in Chicago, where we bounce around a few of our properties and we have a great property out in Lake Forest. It’s a corporate property. It’s unassuming, but it’s built like an old English inn and the service is just top-notch.

So my, my daughter got to experience a tea service, my son and I biked to the lake and then took a kayak out. So, I guess to cross over, 2 of those same things happened in Denver, over Thanksgiving last year. You know, we got to hike the Red Rocks park and my kids got to see two hotels and one of them, it was really cool for bunks. So I think for me, you know, the striking is, is, is striking every time we get to do that kind of together, and I see their reaction to, you know, something really cool or an experience where I’m like, man, this, this industry has provided that, and you know, when you find something unassuming, it’s almost like not to give him a nod cause he is very successful, but like a Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, when you, when you hit on that kind of, and you’re not picking, you know, the top five TripAdvisor attractions in every town that you’re, you know, a hike, on a beautiful morning is, is what does it, those, those strike me a lot.

Paul Hitselberger: So way back in 1986 when my wife and I got married, we’ve been married now 36 years, I sent a, a letter, snail mail, to a general manager of a hotel in Cancun. Cancun back then did about 250,000 tours a year. I think it does 40 million now.

Karen Stephens: Million, right?

Paul Hitselberger: Uh, so I sent, I sent a letter and I just said, “hey, you know, my wife and I are gonna be down there, for our honeymoon”.  And, and we got in, and we were checked in, put in a suite on the beach, champagne in the room, and I thought, “wow, this is great!” I’ve only been in the industry for about four years, and I thought this is a pretty cool industry. Nice perk! Blew me away. Blew me away.

Rob Mangiarelli: take this, uh, picture. The one over that shoulder? No, this shoulder. That shoulder. So for my 40th birthday, my wife, took me to Pebble Beach. And I, I love playing golf, and we did the whole thing. We, you know, got the caddy and did the walk, and she hired a photographer to follow me around and take pictures all day, a professional photographer. But just that walk, and the caddy who knew everything about the course, and he was not only my caddy carrying my clubs and telling me the distance, but he’s also my tour guide. And he’s pointing out houses and he’s telling me about history and just that whole experience. Right? It’s just that reminder in our business that this isn’t about, you know, stuff, it’s about experiences.

And that was one of those memorable experiences that he was able to create for me. It was a, it was a fantastic time.

Matthijs Welle: It’s hard because I am mostly underwhelmed by experiences in hotels, which is also the drive behind what we do at Mews. We want to change some of it. And, I was planning my wedding this year. I was finally, after 16 years together, getting married to my now husband, and we were going into Amsterdam to look for venues. And I really was so disappointed by some of the hotels that I saw.

And then we walked into the Waldorf, Amsterdam, which is crazy, ridiculously expensive. I got lots of people outta my guest list to make that work. But I walked in, and you know, I was with my friend and she just, she, she just mentions like, “oh, I’m so thirsty.” And it’s just this moment, like within a second someone came with a glass of water. And that was the first moment that I was like, the moment that, that happened, my now husband’s, he could see that I was like, “okay, this is, you know, this is a hotel, and we don’t even need to see the venue anymore because I deeply care about service.” And it was throughout. It was like that. Like the turndown service, like every night, you know, you know that bucket of wine that sits in your room with melted ice for three days that they never replace? But every time a housekeeper came in the room, they replaced the ice. So whenever I was ready to drink the bottle of champagne, that was, it was nice and cold, and it was just those little touches that really thought about the experiences I was having. That’s very special.

Zachary Schwartz: So beyond my day job, I guess in the, the service department space, I, I’m personally, uh, a big fan of the, the sort of the old school independent hotels, the Leading Hotels of the World, um, and sort of their commitment, uh, to, to remaining special and unique, uh, and creating those, those really wow, wow moments.

Um, and so I was fortunate enough to stay in one of these independent, uh, Leading Hotels, um, on a recent ski holiday in Italy. I think it was, uh, just before the pandemic a few years ago now. Um, and, uh, to wake up on the, on the, on the first morning and to hear that my skis overnight had been brought up the mountain and we’re sitting in a, a warming locker, um, at the, at the base lodge, um, was a moment that, uh, probably make me a lifetime customer. Um, and that ski butler service is not something I’ve, I’ve seen a lot of places, so it was, uh, it was quite, um, quite unique and special. And just reaffirms that there are so many experiences, um, that, that, that people can have, uh, and people are looking for experiences more and more as they travel.

Philip Bates: My wife and I, um, we, we like, travel is our thing. And so like all our discretionary spending goes into like trips. And I would say it’s probably a tie between, um, this kind of beachfront villa we rented in Thailand where um, just the service was, was, insane. We had like a little punch pool in the front, and you’re right on the sand, that it was the softest sand I ever felt. It was like flour, um, on your feet. Yeah, just like so soothing and, um, that or, or a, um, very, ornate, is kind of the wrong word, but just very detail-oriented, uh, boutique hotel we stayed in, in Istanbul, um, where, you know, as is common in the Middle Eastern sort of architectural and design, they just have, they’ll put a million, you know, small little tiles on one wall, and it’s just so stunning when you look at it both up near and from afar.

So I’d say it’s probably a tie between those 2. .

Pete Sams: Yeah. Wow. well, I’d say a 2 of my most, my favorite, recent experiences of traveling abroad- one was I did a, um, a river cruise with Viking. Uh, European river cruise, and, and I, I really enjoyed that experience. One of the interesting things is when you think about Europe, and how it evolved, and the tributary system, and so many of the major cities and experiences are right off the river, right? So this was a trip from Switzerland up to Amsterdam. .And if you’ve taken any cruises historically, other cruises, you know, often you have to get off the ship and it’s, it’s a, I’m gonna go New York on you, it’s a schlep, to get to wherever you’re going. And then, you know, you get on a bus and it takes you here, and you take– but I mean, every time you got off the, the ship, you were literally there in the destination, at the destination. The other thing I loved was the, the, the focus on the cuisine, and that the cuisine was, was tapered each night to the city that we were visiting next. Right? So I thought that was like a pairing, think of it as a pairing of food to where we were staying.

Karen Stephens: I love it. Culture and cuisine.

Pete Sams: So, it was a great trip. Then I did, I did have the, unique opportunity to stay at the, um, the Ritz Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico, and that was, uh, a really great food and beverage experience again. I think the tree dinner in a tree house, you know, on, on, on the night of my anniversary, uh, I think was really special, and experiential.

So those were some things abroad that I’ve experienced outside of our own portfolio.

Karen Stephens: I love it. So, Pete Sams is a foodie, in case y’all didn’t know that.

Tobias Koehler: Yeah, that is a really good question because, um, I traveled a lot, and because I love traveling, I love experiencing other cultures and, um, had some stops at some wonderful hotels in my past. Also, I like to think back to the Honeymoon Hotel where we stayed in roads on, uh, on an island in Greece. However, what struck me the most is the hospitality that people give to their guests that don’t have much. Like, for example, I, what I experienced in Cambodia or Indonesia, where, I was, uh, in times before Airbnb, yeah, there was, there was, um, a platform called Couch Surfing. And, um, I was, uh, hosted by a friendly person. And he showed me around. He brought me to his family gathering. He, he brought me to a ceremony, uh, which was awesome, and so uplifting to see with how little things, wonderful experiences can be created. And um, yeah, this is something we tend to forget with all those material — beautiful, shiny things we, we have.

And, um, thank you for bringing back this memory.

Karen Stephens: Yeah. And where was this in Indonesia? Where was it in Bali?

Tobias Koehler: That was in, in Bali, right. In, uh, near Ubud.

Karen Stephens: Yes. Ah, that’s a magical part of the planet. What a cool story. That’s great.

Amanda: I have to say it’s my trip to India, New Delhi.

It was such a striking experience that I, I still can see those colors vividly when, when I think about it and all those spices, right? I like spicy food. But all those different types of spices, the Indian food compose, it’s, it’s really amazing. But I think the most important thing, or most thing that I remember, is that the people who were working there, who work in the hospitality industry there. You could feel that they are so proud and so passionate about their job and about what they do, and of course if it’s coming from their heart.

So the service level, it’s really different, and you feel very warmly welcome there.

Sean Dee: Well, I was gonna, building kind of on the covid and the pandemic theme, I had sort of a, I guess, a life-changing moment happen for me, kind of right in the middle of the pandemic. We basically, you know, everything shut down. We kept 4 of our properties open around the world for a variety of reasons, but mainly to service critical healthcare workers, air crews. There’s still people flying cargo and pilots needed a place to stay.

So some of our, our properties stayed open. Um, but I moved my family, they were outta school. They had nowhere to go, so I moved them to, we call it, “the big island” or “Hawaii island”, which is 1 of the 4 main islands. And that, that’s actually where my wife’s family’s from — where we were married. And so it’s a special place for us.

And so we had some other relatives come and join us and we’re blessed to have a house there. So we spent almost 2 and a half months kind of sequestered, I mean like right after Covid broke out. So the resorts were closed, the Mauna Kea Resort — very famous resort, the Westin Hapuna, which is connected to it, were completely shut down.

I think they ended up having to furlough close to a 1,000 employees at those properties. And so, we were involved with food drives and raising money for those people because they literally had no job and no, no, no real means of, you know, supporting themselves. Um, and then I flew back and forth every week here.

A few of the executive teams stayed in place and, uh, we worked through the pandemic, you know, together. But with the properties closed, you suddenly had access to these incredible beaches with no people, you know, maybe a fisherman here, here or there, a painter. I mean, it’s, it was just an incredible, you know, change.

And so, 1, I decided to take my daughters down to the beach — Kona Honu Beach, very again, very famous beach, but usually pretty busy and crowded. And they had left the lights on in the bay, and so the bay lights were attracting manta rays and they usually had manta rays, but a lot of boats and congestion. Well, there’s no people. It’s pitch black. The, I mean, literally the, the resort is closed, but they give you access to the beach and the state here for Hawaii, the beaches are public, and although they were closed for a period of time, incredibly, you could go to the water, but you couldn’t stop on the sand. I mean, that’s how, that’s how nuts things were for a while, so, right?

I took my, my, my daughters and they were 4 and 8, I wanna say, at the time. And we took ’em out. We’ve got some, you can get diving lights, and I said, let’s go and see if there’s any mantas. And they’re a little trepidatious, little nervous about it. And you know, 2 hours later we had walked down the beach and walked out to the middle of the bay and we had literally the bay to ourselves.

And we’re surrounded by hundreds of giant, Imean, these are the biggest manta rays you’ve ever seen. Because the big ones had come in. They weren’t worried about, you know, being hit by a boat or something like that. So, you know, I had, it’s sort of a, I know it’s not a stay per se, but you know, it just reminded me the importance of connecting with my family, connecting with nature, you know, um, and then again doing it in this incredibly iconic kind of surreal moment, you know, at 9, 10 o’clock at night and pitch black.

So, you know, well, I know my daughters will keep that memory forever. And my wife actually came to the point and videotaped us. So we have it actually now as sort of a, something to look at whenever we’re frustrated by traffic.

Karen Stephens: Right.

Sean Dee: Work. Say, “okay, hold on.” There’s moments that we’ve had that will cherish forever.

Dr. Jeffrey: ‘ve had, I mean, I’ve had wonderful experiences. I travel all over the world.

I’m in different hotels, different, you know, countries, continents. So you know, I travel quite a bit. So when you’re so used to traveling and encountering amazing hospitality, and at times that falls a little bit short. You know, you sort of, I don’t want to say you sort of set a high bar, right? But I remember going to Jamaica with my wife on, on, on a visit years and years ago, and I’m not going to mention the property.

I don’t want to be plugging a particular property, but this property was absolutely amazing. And, we walked into the property, and the General Manager and the Front Office Manager came out of the hotel to welcome us right in front as soon as we pulled up, right in front of the building. It was a small, intimate hotel, around 80 or 75 odd rooms.

And they came out to welcome my wife and I, right outside, you know, the building. And then, you know, we walk into the, into the hotel. We went to the counter to check, check in the front desk reception desk, to check in. And they said to my wife, “you don’t have to wait in line. You guys don’t have to wait in line. Come over here, sit over here. We’re going to, you know, check you in. We’re going to bring your keys over to you.” So we went and sat in this area, this nicely appointed area, and they brought us, you know, coffee, and wine, and offered us, you know, all this different you know, you know, things, and we’re really excited by that.

And then, they brought us the keys, checked us in. And then after checking us in, I remember the gentleman saying to my wife, “Ma’am, let me take your bags from you. Let me take your, you know, purse, your pocketbook. You don’t need to walk around with that.” And I tell you, if you know my wife, she’s not going to part with her pocketbook. Absolutely not. She’s not going to.

Karen Stephens: No woman does Dr. Jeffrey.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Yeah, so she paused and looked at the gentlemen like, “I’m not giving you my pocketbook.” But the guy insisted and said, “Listen, I promise, you are in safe hands. I don’t, when you are, you’re in safe hands. You don’t have to have any sort burden. You don’t need to carry anything. You don’t need to do any work. You need to just be here to relax, and have an amazing time.”

So my wife reluctantly handed over her pocketbook to this gentleman, and the gentleman walked us around the building. He showed us the building. Here’s the restaurant, here’s the second restaurant, here’s the bar. You know, here’s the pool. I mean, watching, you know, did a tour of the hotel before taking us to our room.

Now get this, we get to our room and he has the key before he opens the door. He takes his shoes off. And I’ll never forget this, he takes his shoes off, like he’s about to walk into hallowed ground. He takes his shoes off, and then he lets us into the room.

So. I am just blown away because it’s like, my goodness, this is amazing. And this is just the arrival experience. Nothing else, just the arrival experience. So I was almost tempted to take my own shoes off, and I thought to myself, “No, I’m not taking my shoes off. I paid for this room anyway.” But the arrival experience was so absolutely brilliant. So perfectly choreographed and orchestrated that it blew me away. From the GM coming out, the front office manager coming out, offering us champagne and, and, and, and, and wine and, and, and, you know, coffee and tea. Choose whichever one you want. And then taking my wife’s bags, walking us around the property, taking us to the room. And then, you know, opening the door, taking his shoes off, and he walked us into the room. It was just amazing. That was just remarkable hospitality. I’ve had many amazing experiences, but that is just something that sticks out.

Billy Skelli-Cohen: You know, I think like many people, I’ve experienced a bit of kind of the glamping and kind of some of these outdoors experiences where you kind of connect hospitality and nature together, that have just been incredibly special.

Billy Skelli-Cohen: You know, I can think of am trip to Costa Rica or the National parks in the US. You know, being in the middle of the countryside in France, and whether it’s staying in a, you know, in a villa that kind of makes kind of the mixture of old and new, and that yin and yang or, you know, a tent that’s fitting out like a proper hotel room. You know, the, being in these environments where you have the, the, the help of mother nature to enhance the experiences are some of the most special things I’ve certainly experienced in a few years, and I’ve been very inspirational in the way I look at the business moving forward.

Chip Rogers: You know, I’ve been blessed in my career both before getting into this, and of course during this, my time here, to get to travel to some of the world’s greatest destinations. Obviously, in my role at AHLA, 99% of that travel is domestic. So I have now visited 47 states, and every major city in the US multiple times.

But as I look back at just my life, even before getting into this role, I think the most memorable trip that I took was I had an eight-day trip to Israel. And it was sponsored by a well-known, I won’t get his name here, but well-known American businessman who had built a globally recognized brand.

And his goal was, at that time, was to increase, and to help facilitate relationships between the United States and Israel, so that we could learn from each other. And so the trip was set up in ways that we would learn all about the Israeli government, culture — everything, technology. And that was so amazing to me.

It’s a beautiful country, and I recommend anyone who ever has a chance to go there. You know, some say it’s the home to, you know, to 3 major religions and how that is woven into everyday society, and how in that part of the world, there are certain challenges that we don’t necessarily recognize here in the US and how you live through that on a day-to-day basis.

It’s really interesting. That was probably the most impactful trip that I personally have ever taken. And so I usually pointed that one as, as the one that kind of stands out amongst all the others.

Karen Stephens: Certainly.

Tom Luersen: Yeah, I you know, been blessed to have, you know, traveled a lot and in our industry we’ve, our company manages world-class properties. But, you know, one of the stories that come to mind is, my oldest daughter at the time was going to school in Florence, Italy, and my wife and I went over and spent time with her, and, subsequently started to fall in love like everybody does with Italy.

And the second time we came back, the first time we went, we saw all the expected experiences in Italy, and traveled the country — Rome, and Florence, and Tuscany, and others. We came back the second time and we stayed in a smaller town, not well known, called Cortona. And it was in a 700-year-old villa.

And there was a sense of hospitality there. It was out in the rural area of Tuscany in the agricultural area. It wasn’t a tourist spot. The only way you got there was by train. And we ended up staying there with some friends, as they call themselves. Aama was our family host and she made us dinner — authentic Italian cuisine each night, obviously accompanied with great wine, I might add, and told stories. And she spoke in broken English. And we would walk in the morning up to the, literally a butcher shop, and it was the only little retail in this city of Cortona. And you could talk to the proprietor about the breads, and the cheeses, and the foods that she wanted, and it just reminded me of one, a building we were staying in — 700 years old, and hotel talk. That’s called a guest room. You know, there it’s a villa. And it was built long before, you know, even our country started the hospitality of someone greeting us in the spirit of an innkeeper, the mamasita of the villa, who greeted us, and when we left, hugged and kissed us.

And you know, we talked about family, and then we experienced it all. It was just so unique. So every time I think about how we deliver a service in our business today, I think about how do you personalize it like they did there. And I’ve told the story now for, gosh, it’s been 15 years.

And many people, my friends, have gone back and stayed at that house just because the story and the experience was so real. So, one might expect me to tell great hotel stories, and this context is more about hospitality, but it was special.

Sunish:I guess in the last few years, I could have said India, but again, I’ve only experienced India when I was very young. I think in the many years of travel, especially in Southeast Asia, I would say Vietnam. Whether it’s the food, the culture, whether it’s having a simple drip coffee in the morning, or at 7 in the morning having a hot pho, which is the hot noodle soup, which really amazes you because every sip you take, you have a different herb you can smell. Or 3 in the morning after having drinks, going over to a 90-year-old woman who gives you a piece of bahn mi, which is the bread from Vietnam with different fillings in there and which tastes the most amazing in the world, right?

So, that’s why I would say Vietnam, even today, because I’ve been living outside Vietnam for 13 years. 13 years back, I used to stay in Vietnam. In fact, my wife is even Vietnamese. My kids all carry Vietnamese passports. I have 3 boys. Even today, I think, every 3, 4 months, we go to Vietnam just to experience that again, right?

Ross McAlpine: I think the most impactful experience, you know, I’ve had is, during the time honor tradition of backpacking through Thailand, and Australia, and New Zealand. I dunno, you living in London, you might have experienced that — you know, everyone from the UK goes to Australia and New Zealand, and everyone from Australia and New Zealand comes in the opposite direction to work in hotels and restaurants in London and, and the like.

So, that experience that I had, you know, over, about a year traveling through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand was just an incredible experience. You know, it just gave me so much in terms of experiencing other cultures, and travel, cuz you know, up until that point, I’d lived all my life in Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

So, that period of time, I think, you know, impacted me in such a huge way in terms of understanding how hospitality worked — really getting a bug for travel, and seeing, you know, so much more culture and life outside of Scotland is something I’ll always remember and cherish.

And there was, you know, 1 specific moment in Thailand. I was sort of traveling through Thailand, about to go into Malaysia, and I was in southern Thailand at this very tiny little, family-owned hotel. And this was just, to age myself a little bit, this was in the days of the Lonely Planet Guidebook.

This was not quite pre-internet, but certainly pre-hotel website days. So I picked this, you know, from the book, arrived there, and they, this family, you know, insisted I stay for dinner.

They cook this wonderful Thai, meal. I ate with the husband, and the wife, and the young kids there. And then they made everything from scratch. It was incredible. And then they insisted that they give me a ride by scooter the next day to the bus, to catch, and to Malaysia to continue my travels from there. So, that experience of true hospitality has always stuck with me as well as, really humbling. A great memory I have from that year.

Karen Stephens: I love that. And probably the ride on the scooter was equally a great adventure if you’ve ever been in traffic in Southeast Asia.

Ross McAlpine: Indeed — with a huge backpack on. You know, I’m quite tall. I’m 6 foot 4, so 6 foot 4 Scottish man, with a giant backpack, on a tiny scooter, was probably a sight to behold. But yeah. Great memory.

Karen Stephens: And how long was that trip? Just curious. The whole thing.? The whole tour?

Ross McAlpine: It was just over a year. All in. So yeah I moved around. Most of my time was in New Zealand and Australia — traveled around there and, had some fun jobs along the way as well.

Karen Stephens: You’ll never forget it. Kids take a gap year. That’s what I have to say about that. Do it. You’ll never forget it. It’s amazing. Fantastic.

Heidi: So I was blessed growing up by having a family that did a lot of travel.

Um, my dad had a bunch of personal goals he wanted to meet as far as like locations and things like that. And he was very big on, uh, never going to the same place twice because there’s too much in life to experience. And he was big on different, uh, culture aspects, and ensuring that his kids were rounded, and not just knowing locally what was available, domestically what was available, but he wanted global children, and so we did a lot of world travel.

And when I was, uh, 20, I had the opportunity to go to Tanzania. Um, so we’ve been on an African safari. And when you’re talking about like different types of experiences, it’s gonna open your eyes, um, for a lot of different reasons. Um, but most of them is really like, you’re in the middle of a just like a desert jungle scenario, right?

Um, there’s wild animals all around you. Um, there’s security for the animals, and for your own personal safety. And then you have these beautiful, all-inclusive resorts that sort of sit in the middle of all of this. So you get to experience wildlife in a way that you’ve never experienced — culture in a way that you’ve never experienced.

But the defining moment of that entire trip, which still to this day makes me laugh, and I’ve told my kids this story a million times, is, we’d stayed in a tent camp. And it was a luxury tent camp. You know, they had bathrooms. They had floors. It was, it was lovely. Um, and I asked when we went to check in, “Well, where’s my key?” And I can never, to this day, like the person’s face, they were trying not to laugh in a, like, bless-your heart type scenario. But they, they go, “It’s just a zipper, honey.” I was like, “It’s, I can’t lock my door there.” He’s like, “There’s no door to lock. It is just a zipper. It is literally a tent.” Um, and that’s just sort of this memorable experience for me. And um, next year we actually are, um, taking our children, uh, back for that same experience. And I’m just so excited to be able to share that with them as well.

Karen Stephens: That is so cool. That’s my, one of my bucket list items: this safari. You know, go to Africa, and see the animals. So that is very cool, very cool.

Heidi Cosio: It will change your life if you get a chance to do it.

Karen Stephens: I’m gonna make a chance to do it because that sounds so cool. Get myself a tent. No key.

Heidi: Exactly.

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