Introducing: Elaine & Carl Martin, Longtime Odysseys Guests
Posted November 26, 2019
Elaine and Carl Martin, of Denver, CO, have
traveled with Odysseys 29 times and counting.
They recently spoke to us about why they travel, some of their memorable
moments on tour, and what draws them to Odysseys.
What excites you about travel?
Having grown up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we both have been interested in experiencing cultures other than our own. Reading about what is happening around the world makes us eager to see what it feels like to travel around the world.
Tell us about your Odysseys Tour Directors: What have they been like? What are some of
the common qualities that they share?
All of our Odysseys Tour Directors have been efficient, knowledgeable,
friendly, helpful with any questions, and able to roll with the punches … such
as when we were an hour from the hotel and a fellow traveler realized that he
had forgotten to empty the safe in his room!
Our tour director called the hotel, had them empty the safe, and hire a
cab to meet the bus. Meanwhile, we
visited a local garden until the valuables arrived. Important note: Put one shoe in the safe the night before
checking out so you won’t forget your valuables!
What we appreciate most from Odysseys tour directors is their
knowledge, and their talks about the places we visit, the geography, the
culture, their experiences growing up, and the like. They also offer advice about what to be careful
of, what to do in our free time, where to shop and eat, and other helpful
information. The interaction with them
and having our questions answered is more personal than reading information in
Describe a few of your most memorable moments on your Odysseys tours.
We have been to many local private homes where meals were served to
small groups and we visited with the family.
We’ve had cooking demonstrations, a visit to a wood carver’s studio (he
told us he was looking for a woman to marry, but none of us fit the bill), and
visits to several schools where the children performed for us and we sang and
interacted with them.
We tasted Iceland’s delicacy, fermented shark meat, which Anthony
Bourdain said he thought was the most disgusting food he’d ever put into his
In Colombia, the August Feria de las Flores festival takes place where up to 400 peasants come to Medellín, each wearing a huge wooden structure on their back loaded with flowers. At a nearby flower farm, Elaine was chosen to demonstrate how this is carried.
In Panama, we rode in a canoe to an Embera native village where the men wear loincloths and the women wear colorful wraps below the waist and lots of necklaces. They cooked lunch for us, showed us their handicrafts, and danced for us.
In Budapest, we enjoyed a private wine tasting with our tour director
in an underground cellar with the featured wines described by the restaurant
In Inle Lake, Myanmar, we were invited into the home of a family
preparing for a wedding the following day.
We were served tea, met the bride- and groom-to-be, and were invited to
come back the following day to attend the festivities, which of course we were
unable to do.
In Göreme, Cappadocia [Turkey], we visited a cave house carved into
one of the “fairy rock formations”.
It had several rooms, all of which were carved out by the husband. The wife had woven the carpets in the seating
Have you made friends with fellow travelers on Odysseys tours, and if
so, have you traveled again with any of these same folks?
It has been interesting to see the diversity of travelers on Odysseys tours. A more adventuresome tour like Southern Africa, Antarctica, or Alaska seems to appeal to more outdoor seekers, compared to a tour to Paris or Rome, for example. Only once have we traveled with someone we’d met on a previous tour, except for several tours with family members and friends.
Do any of your past travel companions stand out as having interesting
As we share who we are with fellow travelers, everyone has interesting
stories; however, on one tour we were privileged to meet a sculptor who had a
very successful career with installations around the U. S., mostly in
Oklahoma. We have been delighted to
receive a glossy book of her accomplishments and hope to travel with her on a
future Odysseys tour.
Of all the tours you’ve taken with Odysseys, which one most exceeded
your expectations or surprised you the most?
Having taken many Odysseys tours, each new tour includes an unexpected situation. For example, when we were in Southern Italy and visited Matera, we never before realized that until the mid-20th century, people were living in such primitive caves like we saw in the Sassi. And we were privileged to have our room in one of those “former caves”!
Iceland’s underground geothermal heating for homes surprised us. It enables greenhouses to produce fresh
vegetables year-round using this natural heat.
Homes use geothermal heating as well.
We visited a Berber family in their tent in Morocco and rode camels
into the desert to see the sunset.
In Alaska, a bear appeared 20 feet in front of Elaine while we were
hiking back to Kennicott from lunch on the Root Glacier.
In Cusco, our tour coincided with a celebration of the Virgin Mary and
the town square was filled with folks dressed in native costumes, singing, and
Every Odysseys tour has had an unexpected aspect!
You have a lot of choices when it comes to traveling and choosing a
tour company. What are some of the reasons you have chosen to travel with
Odysseys has established itself as a small group travel company with
tours for colleges and universities and we appreciate the educational and
administrative capabilities of every tour director we’ve had.
Odysseys’ small groups are very appealing.
Most tours use a large coach where everyone can choose where they want
to sit, other than always being in the front coach seat!
Odysseys tour itineraries match what we would choose if we were
Odysseys chooses excellent hotels and interesting accommodations in
The amount of touring time and free time is exactly what we like.
We appreciate that ALL tipping is handled by Odysseys, except for the
Tour Director who leads the tour.
We’ve traveled overseas many times independently, renting cars,
mapping out where to go, and each trip seemed to become more of a challenge
with increasing traffic and crowds.
After we first experienced traveling with Odysseys in 2006, we’ve come
to enjoy having someone else do the driving, planning the itinerary, handling the
reservation, and escorting us on tour.
If someone has never traveled with a small group before, what would
you tell them about the benefits of traveling with Odysseys?
Many of our friends who travel independently tell us they do not want
to give up their freedom to do what they please every day. We know that even
though we are touring as a small group, everyone has the opportunity to sleep
in if they wish, not hike if they don’t want to, take a day off to go somewhere
else if they choose, while telling the tour director what their wishes
are. Also, one can book airfare with
Odysseys, or on your own, to arrive early at a destination, or stay beyond the
end of the tour. I remember on one tour
someone exclaimed, “This is so easy, it IS the way to travel!”
You’ve been on 29 Odysseys tours; what is number 30 going to be and
what destinations are on your wish list?
We have not yet chosen #30. Israel is on our bucket list, and we want to go back to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and perhaps Thailand.
In your years of travel, you’ve doubtless gained a wealth of knowledge
and tips. Do you have any helpful hints
for travelers on an Odysseys tour?
At the start of a trip after notifying our credit card company of
upcoming travel, checking details on the use of a cell phone, we always hope to
“pack light”…easier said than done!
Our carry-on always holds camera equipment, cell phones, chargers, extra
batteries, meds and duct tape or electrical tape along with other items needed
before arrival. Duct tape is essential
for all sorts of emergency repairs!
Large clear trash bags become emergency rain jackets or laundry bags.
A hanging toiletry bag with clear zipped pockets is very efficient,
with toiletries in small containers.
Contact lens cases are perfect for liquid makeup or pills.
A flashlight is essential. Take
several adapter plugs that work in the country you are visiting.
Outlet configurations vary around the world and sometimes are
recessed. Be sure to know the voltage
(110/220) requirements for charging items before you leave home in case you
need a voltage converter. Most phones
use either 110/220, but what about a curling iron or shaver?
Do not take expensive jewelry or valuable items which might get lost
as you move from place to place.
When shopping, if you see an item you cannot live without, purchase it. You might never see the same thing again. India and Turkey have wonderful carpets which they will ship to you. All local markets have hand crafted items and condiments and spices which are fun to bring home. We bring home photos as souvenirs. If you are interested in viewing some of the 100+ videos I’ve produced from our tours, go to: www.youtube.com