Family Travel is Not a Dirty Word

No rant needed from me this week as I think this letter from one of our guests speaks volumes about why families should travel and in particular with us 🙂

Dear Brian

We have been back for a few weeks and we’ve been re-living all the great moments.  Unfortunately, we only have 2000 photos so we have to go by memory for some things!  Now that life is finally settling back down, I’ve had a chance to get the photos organized and pull this package together for you.  Where to start…

First – Thanks for organizing the trip, arranging Ashley to be our guide (and allowing us to become like a volunteer marketing team for ROAM)

Second- Prior to this trip, if we asked our kids for their idea of a perfect vacation the answer would always involve some combination of Mickey Mouse and a Mexican beach (with a swim up bar).  Now they want adventures!  This is excellent.

Third – You have created a great family-friendly program for us.  If you are not marketing this aggressively, I’d say you should be.  For sure, you are more than welcome to use any or all of our pictures on your website, in brochures…whatever you like.  We had a series of experiences that kept surprising us.  The trip truly exceeded all expectations.  At the start of each day, we’d say that we didn’t know how we’d be able to top the amazing things we saw and did the day before.  Then over dinner each night, we were honestly able to say we had indeed raised the bar again.

Fourth – How are we supposed to improve on swimming with sea lions, hiking in Vulcan Chico, soaking in hotsprings in the Andes, rafting the headwaters of the Amazon, snorkeling with sharks, rays and turtles, watching dolphins dancing on our bow wake in the moonlight, looking for bugs on night hikes, seeing marine iguanas on the beach where we were building sand castles, riding horses amongst volcanoes and glaciers, seeing giant tortoises, watching boobies dive all around the boat, standing on the equator, seeing a baby hammerhead swim circles around the boat, staying in haciendas and jungle lodges, and sleeping on deck so sea lions could wake us up.  We’ve been ruined!

Fifth – What a treat to meet your crew, Ashley, Juan Fernando and Arturo as they are all EXCELLENT – great people and great fun.  You were right that we would love Ashley.  She was perfect in everyway and went way beyond the call of duty to be sure the kids and adults were having a wonderful time.

Sixth – Visiting the Ecuadorian mainland is totally under-rated experience.  It should be on the world’s top ten list.  The people are spectacular, the scenery is unbelieveable, the food was great, the price was right and its not touristy.  We were so focused on the Galapagos that we had not spent much time anticipating the second part of our amazing trip.  It was fantastic.

Seventh – It woudln’t have been an adventure if Harry hadn’t fallen off a horse, Catharine hadn’t fallen off a bike, Elizabeth Anne hadn’t been bitten by a dog and I had not broken a toe (I think) as it is not as straight as it used to be.  Those were some of the memorable moments.  Very cool to say ” I fell off a horse in Ecuador”

Eighth – It was fun to see places that we remembered from the website and your daughter’s photo album.  It was not hard to imagine you and the girls chilling out on the beach at Isabela.  In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to relocate to Isabela!  But Beto’s margaritas (especially the second one) should come with a warning label.

Ninth – we appreciated all your help and intimate knowledge about the areas.  It was great to get advice from a parent’s perspective as well as your naturally adventurous side

Tenth – We are looking forward to planning our next ROAM Vacation

The Armstrong Clan
Bob, Elizabeth-Anne, Harry, Alison and Cookie

Being Chuck

Over the last 2 years a very strange phenomenon has been occurring.  It’s not something totally foreign to me as it was pointed by my grandmother 20 years ago, however, it has resurfaced with a vengeance.  It’s not something I embraced initially but I have begun to understand it better over time.

Apparently I look like Chuck Norris…

I couldn’t be lucky enough to look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney.  No, instead it’s the martial arts movie man also known as Walker, Texas Ranger.  I would have been OK with it if it stopped at a cameo fight appearance in “Return of the Dragon” or B-grade cult classic “Delta Force” but really…Texas Ranger? 

Don’t even get me started about “Lone Wolf McQuade”

As stated earlier, almost 2 decades ago I was visiting my grandmother donning a beard (me, not my grandmother) when she told me to shave as I looked like that “hoodlum” Chuck Norris.  The reference didn’t sink in nor did I really see the resemblance at that time but I was impressed grandma even knew who Chuck was.  I once was accused of looking like the Honeycomb Kid (on the cereal box) but Chuck is a lot shorter and a frankly older than yours truly.

In 2009, it reared its ugly head again – in a diner in Kamloops, British Columbia.  Predominantly a mill town, the diner was a place where it was plausible the patrons owned Chuck Norris VHS box sets.  Our waitress told me her co-workers thought I looked like Chuck Norris.  Without hesitation, and for those who know me you will not be surprised, I told her I was Chuck Norris.  She fist pumped and enthusiastically shouted “I knew it”.  After signing a menu for the diner wall, we enjoyed our complimentary meal and left the restaurant with a good chuckle. 

Perhaps knowing that you look like Chuck Norris leads one to carry his subconscious persona?  Nah just kidding… but the recognition did start to escalate soon after as Ashley and I made our way to Africa to run the Zambezi and climb Kilimanjaro.  In our first airport, a few security people joked that I looked like Chuck and we moved through unencumbered.  It wasn’t until  Victoria Falls trying to catch a charter flight to Hwange National Park that dividends stared to flow.  We had recovered the lost bags of another guest and were trying to get the overweight load through a backlog at the check-in desk. 

I was told that one bag was allowed and there were no exceptions.  I tried to explain the additional bags belonged to a 70-year old woman but was not making headway.  This is when “Being Chuck” became very helpful.  One of the intervening supervisors was convinced I had traveled with them before.  I assured him that I had not but was scouting the region for future business.  He was persistent and asked me why I looked so familiar?  Seizing the opportunity, I told him I was Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger and reached across the counter with a firm handshake.

He was so pleased to have a Chuck flying with his airline that we were escorted past security and straight out on to the tarmac.  The excess bag issues were as far behind us as the rest of the tourists waiting in the massive line up.  Being Chuck certainly had some advantages (although I’d still rather look like George Clooney). 

 Two weeks later on Kilimanjaro, the porters would fight each morning over who would carry my bags.  We also noticed our tent was pitched in prime locations at every camp.  I realized that this could present a problem for our paying guests and tried to get our lead trekking guide, Festo, to break it to them gently that I was not Chuck Norris.  The porters refused to believe him as they had been bragging to other groups of porters and would not retreat.  The word is that Chuck Norris films and shows are the rage these days on buses in Zimbabwe.  Who knew?

Later in early 2010, I was also identified as Chuck when traveling through Argentina.  We became further beneficiaries by not being hassled in markets or late-night on the streets Buenos Aires as well as special treatment in hotels, restaurants and shops.  New arrivals to our Futaleufu trip were skeptical of our claims until they all received 25% off their purchases at a local leather shop. 
In Mendoza, I made a comment to Ashley about a group of men who were ogling her in high heels and shorts as we were headed out for dinner.  Much to both of our surprise, they yelled “Hey Chuck” and were all very pleased when I waved in acknowledgment (Ashley also wishes I looked like George Clooney or Brad Pitt!).  That aside,  the ultimate success in this phenomenon was when I missed a connection in Buenos Aires recently.  The nice folks at American Airlines rescheduled me on a Miami flight a few hours later but warned me it was oversold and unlikely I would get on.  When asked if I get told I look like Chuck Norris, I said I was Chuck.  Despite having a Canadian passport with my name on it, I was immediately confirmed and upgraded. 

The benefits of Being Chuck are growing everyday.  So much… I feel obligated to purchase a Total Gym in Chuck’s honour.   With no assembly required, easy storage, convenient payment plans and a money back guarantee how could I go wrong?

Canuck Norris