20 Questions with Johanne
Here, Johanne shares some of her global experiences and a bit of travel advice:
1. I never leave home without a list of the clothes packed in my checked luggage. In the event of a loss, the information would be essential to make an inventory of the luggage content (in case it never gets found).
2. On my first TCS World Travel expedition I discovered two countries where I had never been before: Armenia and Mongolia. Both pleasantly surprised me with their unique sightseeing, particularly visiting a nomadic family in their yurt in Mongolia and learning how they cope with wintry living conditions.
3. On our trips, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how well organized they are and how much detail goes into the product manuals that are given to us, the expedition staff. The information provided is absolutely invaluable in order to ensure that all logistical aspects are followed for a smooth journey. It truly is like clockwork.
4. A place I thought I'd dislike, but fell in love with was Rwanda. Because of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, I wasn't sure how the Rwandans were coping with their past and if they had moved on with their lives. As it turned out, they were among the nicest, most hospitable people I had ever encountered. Tourism is a fast-growing sector, and Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely. A truly unforgettable experience.
5. My absolute favorite place in the world is Bali, where I've been no fewer than 35 times. The Balinese couldn't be any nicer, and the island offers everything to please all travelers—out-of-this world photography opportunities with lush vegetation and spectacular rice terraces; water activities such as snorkeling, diving, surfing and river rafting; great shopping filled with high-quality, locally made arts and crafts, including wood and stone carving, paintings, textiles, silversmithing; relaxing spa treatments; delicious cuisine; unique architecture and design; a spiritual environment. I could go on and on.
6. One place I haven't seen yet that I'm dying to visit is Bhutan, one of the world's most enigmatic places. No doubt that a country where Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product has to be a fascinating place to visit, inhabited by life-loving people.
7. If I could travel with anyone, dead or alive, it would be any of our lecturers, but on an individual basis. Their expertise would add so much to my journeys, and I would be able to ask them so many questions.
8. And we would definitely go to all the countries where I've never been yet and wish to visit.
9. The one moment from my travels I will never, ever forget was my husband proposing during a cruise in Antarctica. It was Christmas Eve and we were in Grytviken, South Georgia. The sky was extremely clear and we could see the constellation the Southern Cross. It was very romantic...and it completely took me by surprise.
10. While traveling, I've bought a bit of everything, but I'm particularly interested in textiles and beadwork. I've bought old ikats and batiks from Indonesia, handwoven cotton from Myanmar, handwoven silk from Vietnam and saris from India. As a matter of fact, I was wearing a beautiful sari when I got married.
11. My favorite place to shop is Asia in general. I love the atmosphere of Asian markets. They’re busy and full of energy. And you can find so many treasures for very reasonable prices.
12. Some of my favorite countries to eat in are Morocco, India, Indonesia and the Middle East in general. They show so much creativity in preparing their dishes, especially the vegetarian ones, with blends of spices and seasonings that are so flavorful. There are no bland dishes in their cuisine.
13. When I get home from a trip, the first thing I do is unpack unless I get back in the evening. I take everything out of my luggage and pretty much start laundry right away. It makes me feel more at home to not see clothes in suitcases anymore.
14. The best way to get over jet lag is to follow the destination's schedule. If it's a mealtime, it's better to eat, even if your appetite is not there. Try to resist the temptation to nap in the middle of the day, that really messes up the sleep cycle. The best is just to stay awake for as long as possible, but at least until about 9 p.m.
15. If you get motion sickness, you should look outside, far in the distance, and get some fresh air.
16. When I need to relax, I take a hot bath. Occasionally, I indulge in a massage, but only when I'm sure that I don't need to do anything at all afterward. I try to prolong the soothing benefits of it.
17. If I hadn't been an expedition leader, I would have been working in the travel industry anyway. I tried another occupation before. I was a PR consultant prior to working in tourism. It was interesting, but I wasn't discovering the world. So I went back to school and studied tourism.
18. The first trip I ever took as a child was to a seaside town in the province of Quebec, about 12 hours drive from my hometown, Montreal. I was 12 years old and participated in a student exchange program organized by the school I was attending. I remember being very impressed because it was the first time I saw an ocean. I had no clue then that I would end up working on cruise ships and navigating on all oceans of the world.
19. I got my love of travel from my first trip to Europe at the age of 17. It was a two-week educational trip organized by my high school history teacher and his wife. We were 24 students and the whole experience was just a delight—fascinating sightseeing complementing the history classes of my school year and extraordinary camaraderie developing into long-lasting friendships.
20. My best piece of travel advice is take the local public transportation system, buses, subways, etc., and favor restaurants frequented by locals instead of touristy ones. It's the best way to immerse yourself in the way of life of the destination. It's also a great way to have contact with the locals. So often people ask where you are from and give you advice on their must-see places and their not-to-be-missed restaurants.
Johanne Gordon leads several luxury jet expeditions each year.