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Editor's Letter,
February 2018

Dear ActiveTravels Members,

You've likely heard the phrase, "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone". Well, our recent sailing trip was just that... the very edge, literally and figuratively, of my comfort zone. When our 41 foot sailboat was severely leaning over to one side and all I saw was the rushing of albeit exquisitely blue ocean water, I held on for dear life and it felt amazing. When our captain meowed like a cat, I knew either the rain was going to fall or we were going to get splashed from a large swell and I ducked for cover. The wind howled, the waves kept coming, the sun, mostly, shined down upon us. All my senses were alert and my mind empty and I was just soaking up the moment (not to mention the salt water that just landed in my ear).

I had been nervous to go on our sailing trip. I packed Dramamine, Bonine, patches to place behind my ear, ginger to settle my stomach, and was frustrated on my first day when I realized I had forgotten my magnetic wrist bands sure to prevent seasickness! All of these items basically acted as insurance for me. At least I had the comfort of knowing that if I got seasick, I had a remedy to help me along. 

Thankfully, though the winds were strong, our captain, our great friends, Amy and Josh, and Steve steered us smoothly through the beautiful ocean waters. My fears disappeared and I loved every minute of it. That is the gift which travel gives you. And, I am infinitely grateful to receive it.

And, I'm also happy to be sitting at my desk today and back to my routine!

Our February newsletter brings you more details on our trip to the British Virgin Islands, and our quick jaunt to San Juan, Puerto Rico. There's a great piece by Amy Basseches on her family's tradition of "The 10 Year Trip," and I wax lyrical about the exciting topic of trip insurance. Keep reading!

Happy Travels,

Steve & Lisa
On A Road Less Traveled:
Sailing the British Virgin Islands

My barometer for an authentic travel experience is one that plants you squarely in the present where your mind can't drift to other thoughts and worries. This was certainly the case aboard the 41-foot Island Karma last week as we made the crossing from Virgin Gorda to the remote British Virgin Island of Anegada. Sailing at a speed over 8 knots, the boat was on its side, heeling over in the blustery tradewinds. But under the competent helm of our friend, Josh, and the watchful eye of our Captain, "Boss," I never panicked. The swells of the deep blue Caribbean waters and the occasional splash aboard to keep me alert and very much alive, I was relishing the adventure at hand.
A fter 2 hours, we finally reached this sliver of land lined by sparkling white beaches and surrounded by the most spectacular turquoise waters I've seen since diving in French Polynesia. We pulled up to a mooring, motored the dinghy to land, and caught an open-air taxi to dreamy Cow Wreck Beach, passing rambling goats and cows along the way. We arrived at a long stretch of desolate sand and a small beachfront bar, planted our bums in Adirondack chairs, took out our books, and started to read. Ahh, sun, sand, sea, sky, serenity.
We were on Day Four of a weeklong sail in the BVIs with friends (and ActiveTravels colleague) Amy and Josh. We had chosen to rent a monohull from the Tortola sailing charter, Horizon Yacht Charters. We also made the wise move of hiring a Captain, "Boss," a 51-year old grandfather of 4 who grew up on Tortola sailing boats and ferries for a living when he wasn't tending to his goats and sheep. Boss exuded an air of confidence and calm aboard Island Karma, even during squalls in the open sea, when the rain and swells left us soaked. You would have never known that the winds were unusually strong for this time of year, as someone told us at the St. Thomas airport who sailed the BVIs the past 7 years.
Boss 's own boat was still overturned in the Nanny Cay harbor, one of the many wrecks left in the wake of Hurricane Irma, along with shredded docks, roofs ripped off houses, upturned palms, and locals driving cars with broken windows. The devastation from Irma would follow us throughout the trip-classic resorts like Bitter End and Peter Island in tatters, large tankers beached upside down, homes destroyed wherever you looked. It will take years to recover and locals were busy rebuilding.
We had thought of canceling the trip, but were grateful we pushed ahead. Classic sailing bars like Foxy's (where we watched the Super Bowl), Soggy Dollar, Pirates Bight on Norman Island, and Setting Point Reef Hotel on Anegada (known for their classic lobster dinner) were all open and grateful for our business. Taxi drivers, servers, and store owners all thanked us for coming so they can continue to work. Over the next 2 years, it will be the sailors and boaters who can live aboard their boats that will greatly enhance the recovery of this classic cruising ground.
Sai ling the BVIs has been on my bucket list for at least two decades, since I first started writing round-up stories on dream vacations throughout the world. Amy has a family history of sailing the region with her family and Josh spent his childhood at sailing camps so they were the ideal couple to spend the week with us. We have very similar interests in art, literature, travel, and family, so the conversation flowed smoothly. And when we needed a break, we simply grabbed our books or listened to the wind. We also took on varying tasks over the course of the week-Lisa and Amy making coffee and most of our meals, Josh taking the helm during the tough sailing and doing most of the anchorages, me barbecuing and fishing out the mooring ball (not to mention becoming an expert at flushing the head), Boss putting up and taking down the sails and motoring when necessary.
Is land Karma offered 3 berths, a full kitchen with stove, refrigerator, sink, and toaster, two heads, and more than enough sail to tackle these glorious waters. We would spend our first night at Norman Island, snorkeling around the jagged rock formations called the Indians, hiking to a ridge high above the harbor, then grabbing Dark and Stormy's at the beachfront bar (no shoes necessary). The next morning we would rise to do my favorite snorkeling of the week at a spot called the Caves, where you could actually swim deep inside a long underground tunnel.
We would sail to Jost Von Dyke to catch the Super Bowl at Foxy's and swim in the heavenly water at White Bay, where Soggy Dollar is located. Then we would sail the entirety of the northern side of Tortola, harboring at Marina Cay, before heading to Virgin Gorda the following morning. The Baths at Virgin Gorda was the most crowded spot we would find during the week (perhaps 20 boats at the most) but we quickly understood why when we made our way through the vast boulder formations to pools of water that were perfect for lounging. We would end at a divine beach that offered flour-like sand and shallow waters to swim.
Anegada was worth the long sail over, especially dining on lobster and conch fritters that evening and making our way to both beaches on the island, Cow Wreck and the equally enticing Loblolly, stopping to see a large flock of flamingoes in the distance. If we had more time, I would have happily spent several more days on this remote coral isle. We ended with stops at Cooper Island and Peter Island, before one last Dark and Stormy at Norman Bight. A memorable trip that we're happy to recreate for ActiveTravels clients upon request. 
Give Your Grandchild a Gift 
that Will Last a Lifetime

Guest Post by Amy Basseches

In March, my family will hold a 90th birthday party for my mother. Her intellectual curiosity about the world remains unchanged from the time in the late 1980s when she and my father dreamed up the idea of a "10-year old trip." They would take each grandchild to a destination of the young grandchild's choosing (within reason!) once they turned 10. In the mid 1990s, they took my nephew Alex rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon, then my niece Sarah to Costa Rica, where my father was involved with the local environmental group   Organization for Tropical Studies. After my father died, my mother continued the tradition, taking my nephew Ben to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, my nephew Jason to Alaska, my son Jake   to the Peruvian Amazon, and my daughter Sophie to Belize (both to the Mayan ruins in the Cayo District and to the reefs on the coast). 
These trips, I'm proud to say, seem ideal for our Active Travels members. I would strongly encourage anyone reading this newsletter who may have an interest in multi-generational travel to consider something along similar lines. ActiveTravels would love to help you find the right destination and make the arrangements. I am confident that these many journeys had a tremendous impact on both the grandparents and the grandchildren in my family, often exposing the child to adventures they would not have had otherwise and to special bonds with Grandma and Pop-Pop. 

For several of these grandchildren, a love of the outdoors, or of exploring the world culturally, remains at the forefront of their lives. As my son Jake wrote in a postcard, recently unearthed, to a friend back in Brookline: "In my trip to the Amazon, I've fallen in quicksand, eaten a piranha, been skooled in 'football' by the locals, seen a capybara, been blessed by a shaman, and been 65 feet up in the trees on a rope bridge. How are you?"
The UnCruise, Not Your Typical Cruise

We had members who traveled to Baja with UnCruise over Christmas break who loved the experience so much they booked an Alaskan cruise for their family for next summer. Here's their comments after the trip: "The trip was truly, truly awesome. UnCruise was a great tour company, incredibly comprehensive from the moment they picked us up to when they dropped us off. We would completely endorse you suggesting them again. The boat was nicely appointed, not too many people, good mix of activities and downtime. It was actually nice to be settled into the cabin and have that be our base for 7 days versus packing and unpacking. Kids had a great time as well. Food, rooms, activities, crew-all a major hit in our books." 

For years, cruise lines were the antithesis of an active lifestyle. That changed dramatically in the past 5 years thanks to small cruise lines like UnCruise. On their weeklong Alaska's Glacier and Whales trip, you'll hike with a naturalist on the Baird Glacier, kayak and paddle 
board in hidden fjords, and do your fair share of whale watching.   June 15 and July 17, 2018 departures aboard the S.S. Legacy, cater especially to families.
If you're interested, just give ActiveTravels a call and we'll get you started!

Tried & True Travel Tips:
Buy Trip Insurance!

It's a boring subject I know! However, we can't emphasize enough the importance of trip insurance. ActiveTravels highly recommends purchasing it. As much as we love to travel and as hard as we work to make sure all your plans go smoothly, inevitably something can go awry. Whether it's weather, an injury or sickness of yourself, a traveling companion, or an immediate family member at home, your trip can be interrupted or you may need to cancel when you least expect it. 

Many people believe that their credit cards will cover them. Perhaps. If you're going to rely on your credit card company to cover your considerable pre-trip expenses (flights, hotel/resort expenses, trains, tours, guides), then please make sure you've called them before to ask them these questions:
  • What is the maximum trip cost limit? Will it cover us up to $10K each?
  • Is emergency medical and dental and evacuation covered with no deductible?
  • Is the amount of emergency medical and dental and evacuation coverage enough for my trip?
  • Is trip cancellation and interruption included? What are the covered reasons to cancel or interrupt my trip?
  • Does my credit card insurance extend to my traveling companion? For example, can children be included at no additional cost when traveling with an insured adult? 
  • If I become injured or ill while traveling, can I be transported to the nearest hospital of my choice?
  • Are pre-existing medical conditions covered? 
  • If my trip is delayed, can extra expenses like hotel stays, meals and taxi fares be reimbursed? 
  • If my luggage is lost or stolen, can I be reimbursed? 
  • What if my luggage doesn't arrive when I do? Can I be reimbursed for essential personal items to help me enjoy my trip?
Next time you're making a large investment for an upcoming trip, please ask us to give you a quote for travel insurance. Our policies (we work primarily with Travelex Insurance) offer excellent coverage and kids 17 and under are free with a paying adult. Be sure to purchase it within 14-21 days of your initial trip payment to make sure that any pre-existing conditions are covered. If you have any questions, just contact us. We're happy to help.

Quick Escape:
San Juan, Puerto Rico

We were pleasantly surprised when we touched down in San Juan to see how good the city looked. Yes, there were a few uprooted and twisted trees along the coast, but Old San Juan was as charming as ever. Obviously, a good portion of Puerto Rico is still recovering from the tragic impact of Hurricane Maria but I wouldn't hesitate to spend 3 or 4 nights in San Juan for a quick getaway. Locals are incredibly grateful for any travelers headed their way during these trying times. 

We stayed at the stylish CasaBlanca Hotel in the heart of Old Town, dined on indigenous fare at Café Puerto Rico, then walked the boutique shop-laden streets down to the glorious green expanse 
that led to the
historic fort of El Morro overlooking the pounding waves of the Atlantic
Afterwards, we strolled past the murals of the colorful neighborhood of La Perla, where they filmed the music video for the hit song, "Despacito". We quenched our thirst with one of the local Ocean Lab Amber Ales at La Taberna Lupulo before we grabbed dinner at the rooftop deck of Punto de Vista. 

If you're looking for a beach, the upscale Condado Vanderbilt is open and we just heard that the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar near El Yunque Rainforest will reopen March 1st.

Let us know if you're thinking of heading to Puerto Rico. No passports are required!

©2018 Active Travels