We have been catching up with some familiar faces that are also the faces of our awesome overland trucks in Africa and South America. Sue who used to work with us gave us an interview on all things travel!
1) Can you tell us a bit about your time at Tucan Travel? When did you start, what was your first job role, what made you get into travel
After a round the world trip that included a 14 week Tucan Travel Overland trip in South America I was hooked with the travel bug. I’d given up my job of 10 years in London and didn’t want to go back. When I got to Australia I decided to pay a visit to Tucan Travel and enquire about becoming a tour leader. I met with Pip and Liliana Tyler and they gave me an interview. At this point I had also booked another 5 week trip with Tucan Travel in Central America. Pip said if I could improve my Spanish then I could do a training trip after my Central America tour. I was then full steam ahead learning Spanish. I went back to Central America and did my tour and Bec Whiffin was my tour leader, she was the tour leader I always aspired to be. After Central America I spent 6 weeks in intensive Spanish school and then I headed back to South America where I did another tour through Colombia and Venezuela. After this I returned to Guatemala for my training trip. So it was a long journey to finally get to do the tour leading gig. I absolutely loved being a tour leader, I had an amazing 4 years working in South and Central America. After I retired from tour leading I worked in the London office in Operations for another 5 years.
2) What were the first countries you travelled to with Tucan Travel?
All up I did 20 odd weeks as a Tucan passenger, so I visited most of South and Central America as a passenger before I started tour leading. I never made it to Antarctica or the Northern part of Brazil though
3) Can you tell us some of your favourite experiences had whilst working at Tucan? Anecdotes from the adventures you had?
I loved helping people to experience Latin America it is the most amazing area to visit. One of my favourite places was Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia, the highest navigable lake in the world, the peace, quiet, beauty and simplicity of the islands was amazing. When we stayed on Amantani Island we stayed with local families at homestay accommodation. This was always a highlight for me, the families were so welcoming and generous, even though they had so little themselves and their homes were very basic. I was once on the Island with another group and the other tour leader (Georgina Young) and I stayed with the same family. Their little boy was just about to turn 1 and we were asked to cut the hair of the child to help him transition from baby to boy, apparently this was a custom and seen as a very important event in a child’s life. George and I did feel very honoured! We were provided with a pair of very blunt kitchen scissors to cut his hair with, and we ended up improvising with Swiss army knife scissors that at least were sharp! Not sure about the quality of the hair cut the boy got but he did look like a boy rather than a baby when we finished. We were very proud of ourselves and the family were very happy too. So much so that they decided to kill their prized old hen and make a meal for us. George and I were presented with hen soup for breakfast with beak and foot included….luckily they left us in private to eat the soup. Neither of us could face it at 7am in the morning but we didn’t want to leave it and cause offence. Luckily we had eaten some Pringles the night before so we were able to take out the bits we really just couldn’t eat and hide them in the Pringle container and then we ate the rest. Everyone was happy and we left the family in high spirits but we rather wished they had kept their hen to enjoy themselves!!
4) It may be hard to pick, but what’s your favourite destination and why?
So hard to pick a favourite destination as the region is so diverse. I think I would have to go with the waterfalls at Foz do Iguazu, I went there about 20 times and never skipped talking a walk there. So much to see and do around the National Park and different throughout the seasons. With over 200 amazing waterfalls to take in I would always leave in awe of nature.
5) Any tips for people wanting to travel but don’t know where to start?
I really didn’t know where to start when I decided to take a year off and travel. None of my friends were interested so I was going alone! Back then (1998) there wasn’t a lot on the internet so I went to the Adventure Travel Show in London where I got loads of info, met specialists and picked up lots of brochures. Even with the amount of info available on the internet now I think it really pays to talk to experts, so would definitely recommend visiting a travel show. You get a feel for who all the different companies are, and it was meeting the people from Tucan that made me pick them and I am so glad I did!
6) Have you met your truck?
Alas I have not met my truck. Sail and I would love to head back to Africa at some stage to meet our namesakes.
7) How do you feel travel has changed (if at all) ?
Travel has changed a lot since I first did my Overland trip back in 1998. Overlanding (travelling on a truck and lots of camping) was very popular back then, now travellers like a bit more luxury and to stay in beds rather than tents. The world has opened up enormously and it’s much easier to travel to more far flung destinations.
8 ) If you could live with any local community around the world, which would you choose?
If I were to move overseas again (I now live in Australia) I would probably pick somewhere like Buenos Aries.
9) What are the tastiest and grossest things you have eaten?
The best food I have had when travelling was in Malaysia, a melting pot of cultures means an eclectic mix of different cuisines. Nyonya, Chinese, Indian and Eurasion, cheap, cheerful and delicious food. Grossest food would be at the night food market in Beijing where you can find anything from starfish to centipedes and scorpions to sheep’s penis, you name it they eat it there and usually barbequed on a skewer! It is such an interesting place to visit and see what can be eaten, and it’s really a really colourful place, a photographers dream.
10) What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
I feel like I have ticked a few adventurous things off the bucket list since I got the travel bug. The most adventurous (for me anyway) were tandem sky dive over the desert dunes at Swakopmund, Namibia and conquering the summit of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.
11) Finally, which destinations are still on your bucket list?
I am hoping to get to my 100th country by the time I am 50 (2 years to go and 3 countries to go) and have always got lots of trips in mind, my current wish list is Myanmar (booked for October with Tucan Travel), Japan, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Caribbean. So much to see so little time and so little money!!!