Fifteen vacation days a year may limit Gretchen's (aka Isadora) travel opportunities, but that hasn't stopped her from being one of Travellerspoint's most active members, with over 12,000 forum entries, a ton of photos uploaded and a lot of additions to the wiki travel guide. All this activity has earned her unofficial status as "Travellerspoint Mom".
I figured it was about time to turn the spotlight on our TP Mom.
Isadora with her husband, TP's Beerman.
You're known on the forums as the "Travellerspoint Mom". How does it feel to be charged with the maternal responsibility for an entire online community?!
Wow! You are one tough interviewer, Dr. Pepper! Did you know there's a soft drink named after you? You're world famous! Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to digress... What was the question again? Ah, how does it feel to be charged with the maternal responsibility for an entire online community - right... To be honest with you, it's absolutely lovely. It's downright communal. Seriously. Look at it from my perspective - there are no nappies/diapers to change, no one is asking for the car keys or money for their travels, they all want to spread their wings and fly to unknown destinations, and I don't have to feed them. Granted, I'm a pretty good cook (ask those who have visited Isa Manor) but that number of daily meals would break the bank. Ultimately, being TP Mom just requires me to do what I have always done - answer people's questions honestly, give them support and let them fly. As you stated, it is a community and my ultimate goal is to be TP Great-Grandmom. (With 12,000+ posts, I'm off to a good start. Just don't tell anyone how I really earned them.) I'm not sure I would have been so liberal had I had my own children but I would hope so. I know how I felt growing up and being constrained. I don't want anyone to feel they can't go somewhere or do something because someone else doesn't see the point. Go! Explore! Enjoy! Fly! Don't forget to send post cards! Maybe call once in awhile!
You know this question isn't fair... You promised to start with "What is your name?" or "What's your favorite color?" or "What is the capital of Ancient Assyria?". I can answer those easily. (By the way the answers are Gretchen, purple and Nineveh.) Maternal responsibility is... well... a responsible question... By the way, are there martinis served during this interview? Okay, back to topic (a favorite Moderator comment) - I like the TP Mom distinction because it means that members know me, trust me and feel comfortable with me. Most of them like martinis too. And, the occasional spanking - it just comes with the territory. (Ummmm, you do know that there are about 172,686 members who don't know I'm TP Mom... Just thought I'd pass that along... Don't mind me...) What's the next question?
How did you first discover TP? Why did you decide to stick around?
Okay, now we're getting to the easy stuff. Phew!! I was beginning to worry that all of your questions were going to be of the "How does it feel" genre and I was panicking. How's the weather feel down in Melbourne? I hear it's about 14C during the day. We're about the same! Go fig! Oh, what was that again? How did I discover TP and why did I stay? Good questions. I've been asking myself the same things since 2005. Kris (beerman) and I were planning a trip to Panama because we'd read about the large ex-pat population and wanted to check it out for ourselves. I searched several different websites but experienced a "zero comfort level" with all but TP. I posted my first question on January 19, 2005. It received no responses by the time we left for Panama and I neglected to check back after we returned. All this time, I've been waiting for a reply and then I was outta here. Until you began this interview little did I know someone responded the day before we returned from our trip. (Yup, found that old thread.) I guess it's too late to quit TP now... I could but what would be the point. I'm TP Mom. If truth be told, we've stuck around because we've met some awesome people on this site, including Sam and Pete. You've met them, right? (Oh, have I got stories for you...) Again, seriously, we love the community and feel "at home" here. We have been "embraced" by total strangers who, over time, have become some of our closest friends. To date, we've been to 4 TP Meet-ups and have met 16 other TPers (including the above mentioned Overlords and the famous Cupcake) plus additional non-members who just had to see what this travel forum thingy was all about. (Don't tell anyone this either but the real reason I stick around - I'm co-moderator of Off Topic - how fun is that??!!! Oops - and I keep speaking for beerman ... Bad Isa...)
When was your first big overseas trip?
It all depends on how you define "big" or "overseas" or both. My first "big overseas" (meaning Atlantic Ocean) trip was September 2006 when we traveled to Ireland for a TP meet-up. It was also the year the American team lost the Ryder Cup trophy to the Europeans in Dublin and I had to pay Jase007 $5.00USD. No, not because I like him so much, I just lost the bet. (Hahaha - this year he lost and has yet to pay up. Kris is still waiting by the mailbox for that 10BPS.) Again, I digress... Anyway...
Prior to Ireland, my first "big overseas" trip was Jamaica in 1985 with my dad. My mom had passed away and we didn't want to spend Christmas in the deep dark depths of snow and depression. (Midwesterners, ya know. Insert Minnesota accent here. Sort of like a Canadian accent but different. We don't say "eh" at the end of everything.) Christmas had been her favorite time of year so we chose to celebrate it in our own way - in the sunshine. I even got my diving certification so I could see the things she'd always been afraid of under the water. (She had nearly drowned years before and always had a certain apprehension when I would go swimming.) It may not qualify as a "big overseas" trip but it will always be one of the most important trips I have ever taken. It brought me back together with my dad (a relationship that had been teetering on disaster for some time) and allowed him to see me as an adult. Okay - a bit maudlin but a defining moment nonetheless. We continued those trips for the next nine years until he passed away. Sorry, not to take away from Ireland... We had a wonderful time while in Ireland and met several TP members in the process. We can thank Pardus for taking us on a whirlwind tour of the country over 10 days (driving the circumference of Ireland). Since then, we have had Pardus, Jase007 and Purdy visit us at Isa Manor. Hopefully, we'll get back to the Emerald Isle to visit them soon. (Okay, Pardus has visited us 3 times - but he just doesn't take no for an answer.)
What do you look for in your travel destinations?
Free room and board - with a view. Nothing tacky, mind you. It has to be upscale, pool, jacuzzi, mini-bar, full breakfast (none of this continental breakfast - stale pastry and a cup of coffee stuff) and free laundry service. Okay, I'll be blunt - 6 star service, nothing less. Hey, I'm 55 years old and I enjoy creature comforts like clean sheets, a real bed, and a private bath. Yes, I'm, joking. Sort of. It really boils down to the type of "vacation" we're looking for at the time. Kris has 15 days of holiday leave so it doesn't bode well for 10 months of "on the road in S. America or Australia or S.E. Asia". If we want to relax, dive, eat, drink and just do nothing - we choose the all-inclusive resort packages. If we want to see particular regions, we do the cross-country driving tours. (Yes, there are people who will say, "take the buses" but with only 15 days and a whole country to scout out, spending most of it on a bus isn't all that appealing.) We book accommodations for the first/last nights then point to a spot on the map and we're off.
Regardless of which style vacation we choose, we do make a point to explore and experience the country and culture. Not too horribly long ago, during one of our "get out of Dodge" Jamaican trips, we were invited to visit some friends at the Desnoes & Geddes Brewery in Kingston - home of the world famous Red Stripe Beer. The car rental agency in Ocho Rios gave us a bright red Daewoo Llanos, pointed in the direction of Kingston and said, "Don't get killed." We think they purposely put us in a bright red car to warn everyone crazy Americans were behind the wheel and likely to drive on the right (wrong) side of the road. We didn't. The 60-mile tour de force through Fern Gully and over mountains and across one-car-width-wide bridges took 3 hours but we got there... In one piece and no accidents. We dodged cows, goats and little children walking to school. The children watch for traffic but the livestock... Well, let's just say they don't seem to have a very long lifespan when tethered to road signs. Kris and I also ended up making a deal somewhere along the way. The more nervous I became, the more I was allowed to sing - with increasing volume. By the time we arrived in Kingston, the poor guy was almost completely deaf. I was fine because the car had stopped moving. Did you know that Jamaicans not only speak English and Patois, but they have another whole language spoken in car horn and flashing headlights? It's amazing and if we ever decide to drive in the country again, we might be able to teach "Horn-Honking as a Second Language" to pay for the trip. Oh, yes, our friends were happy to see us but forced us to leave after a few hours so we'd be back in Ocho Rios before dark. We also had to promise to call when we got back though they beat us to it - 4 messages - each one more frantic than the last. That trip prepared us for Ireland - where they also expected us to drive on the right (wrong) side of the road. We did. But only for one block. Okay, maybe two.
I guess the lesson here is: "It doesn't matter your style of travel or the destination. Just be open and understanding of the local culture.
What are some of your favourite holiday spots in the USA?
Hmmmm... This is a hard one... They aren't the "big attractions" that most people want to see such as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or the Redwood Forest. And, that's mainly because I haven't been to any of those places myself. I'm guessing if I say "my own back yard" people will think it's too Dorothy-ish. You know - Wizard of Oz. (Wonderful movie. You should watch it. It's not about Australia. And I like the flying monkeys the best.) What was that? Oh, okay, back to the topic...
First on my list is New Orleans, Louisiana. It's been years since I was there but I want to go back in the worst way. The culture within the city and throughout the whole state for that matter is unique and distinctive. I contemplated moving there at one time but then life got in the way. Oh well.
Second on the list is Crystal River, Florida. There's a Best Western right on the river and the dive shop next door rents pontoon boats. The hotel is neither here nor there but it is convenient. The manatees come up river in the winter and calve there in spring. We've discovered the secret to finding their hiding places and have been rewarded with hours of sightings. Kris had one mother almost knock him off his feet when he got into the river to cool off. She was just checking him out. Our best friend and his family live 20 minutes away so we try to get down there yearly - for the manatees and our friend. The Rainbow River is right there also and it's beautiful. It's crystal clear, 23C all year round and great snorkeling. Back to Crystal River - the best burgers for miles and miles in any direction are right next door to the Best Western too, at a place called Crackers. It's on the right side and the dive shop is on the left - can't miss either of them.
Third would be Yellowstone National Park. I've only ever seen a small portion of the park and it's another "need to go back" destination. There is no other geological site in the world like it. Did you know that the Yellowstone sits on top of an active volcano? Check it out, it's pretty cool!
Last would have to be my own back yard. It's not much to look at but when we get TP visitors, it's the place to be. Martini anyone? We can do Mojitos too.
Do you have any future trips planned?
Do I have any future trips planned????? You mean like actually planning a trip and then actually going there??? You mean like leaving home and the safety of TP???? No, no, no!!!! You're interviewing TP's most vicarious traveler. I let everyone else do the planning, traveling and blogging about their adventures. Sometimes they even send me post cards to prove "we've" been such and such a place. It's a great way to explore the world - cheap too. Besides, it will probably be snowing soon and beerman will be lucky just to get to work let alone to an airport.
Okay, I see by the look on your face that you're not falling for that one. Understandable. We do talk about future trips all of the time. The one with the greatest potential for being next is another driving tour. We have our favorite music artists who sing about different towns and cities in the US. Such a trip would take us to (in no particular order because we haven't plotted out a map yet) Nashville, Pascagoula, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Vicksburg, and a few more. If we time it well, we'll be able to visit some friends during the Jazz & Heritage Fest in New Orleans.
Another one on the list harkens back to my dad and his time in the South Pacific during World War II. I have "cats eyes" (semi-precious gems) that he gathered from a beach in Guadalcanal. I have one of the U.S.S. Denver's war room rubber maps of Peleliu. I have a journal he kept during that time and it lists all of the islands he visited. I plan to see them all for myself before too long. It may not be tomorrow or even next year, but I will get there.
Anyway, there are my answers and I'm stickin' to 'em. You're still one tough interviewer, Dr. P.! Did you know there's a soft drink named after you? You're world famous. They even have a jingle: "I'm a Pepper, He's a Pepper, She's a Pepper, We're a Pepper, Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too? Be a Pepper ~ Drink Dr Pepper."
Check out these past interviews in the Talking Travel series: