posted on 04/13/2011 via
BabyBoomerTrips.com: We would like to take you back to a time when you were first starting to think about traveling independently. Can you relay some personal travel experiences from when you were just starting to travel on your own? Were your travel experiences very simple, such as going to "the lake," or the nearest "big city," or was it something more exotic like backpacking through Europe, hiking through Nepal, or taking a VW van cross-country? How much planning was involved back then, and what were your information sources?
Karen Fawcett: At the age of seven, I started flying from Washington, DC to Los Angles each summer to visit family. I'll never forget how elegant the Eastern Airlines stewardesses were - I loved their hats and incredible sophistication. My mother required I wear a dress, white gloves and Mary Jane black patent leather shoes before embarking on the prop plane. In those days, flying was glamorous and not akin to the cattle cars of today. I couldn't believe how those trays of food were always ready for munching. The flight took approximately 13 hours. But, every minute was so wonderful and the stewardesses would cover me with a blanket and place a pillow behind my head. If only I could grow up to be "one of them."
When I was 13, I took a vacation to Europe with a teen group. Our first stop was Paris and I recall being struck by the Eiffel Tower and taking a Seine river cruise. It was a true revelation that a place as beautiful as Paris had architecture that dated back centuries and people spoke a foreign language. I vividly recall going into a stationery story to buy some paper and a pen. After struggling through the request with my iffy French, the owner of the store commented, "That was wonderful - let's speak English" and gave me a candy bar as a bonus for my efforts.
BabyBoomerTrips.com: In your early travel days, how did you view the idea of flying to some distant country or a third world country? How does this compare to now?
Karen Fawcett: My subsequent trip to Europe didn't take place until I was 20. From that day on, I contracted the travel bug. Initially my trips comprised mostly of Europe and Eastern Europe. Then the world. One of the pluses of being based in Paris is that it's a major hub.
One summer, when my son was seven, I rented a house in Majorca, Spain. When I reflect back on this trip, it was more than a little bit gutsy. I overpaid for the summer vacation rental ($600), didn't speak a word of Spanish and was persuaded I was going to write the book that was brewing inside of me. Thirteen pages later - NOT!
Miles and I signed on for a week-long Mediterranean cruise. Each day, people embarked and disembarked. As soon as we'd meet people whom we liked, they'd leave the ship the subsequent day. But, we did see places such as Pompeii when our cruise ship stopped for the excursion of the day.
Now, it's not infrequent that I see a travel deal on the Internet and take off for Morocco or another country for a three day special. If you're able to be flexible, people can go for nearly less than the cost of staying home. Some travelers are planners. I confess I'm less of one and like to discover the country as I go after having done some rudimentary research, more than likely via the Internet.
BabyBoomerTrips.com: A fair amount of time has elapsed since you first started to travel independently. How has the travel industry changed since that time? How have your personal travel habits changed?
Karen Fawcett: The travel industry bears little to no resemblance to what it was 35 years ago. There was NO Internet and people were forced to depend on travel agents to find travel deals. If Rail passes existed, my mother certainly wasn't going to let me hit the rails solo. My generation was the "junior year abroad" one.
As for my personal habits, many factors have changed. Were I'm traveling dictates how I plan the trip. Some countries (especially when it's off-season) encourage increasing serendipity.
In France, some (many) trips have been focused on meals and where we stay is secondary. I TRY to travel light and not let my luggage own me.
BabyBoomerTrips.com: Do you still have a "Dream Vacation"? If so, where/what would that be?
Karen Fawcett: Asia is currently my passion. But, rather than going from place to place, my dream is to take an apartment in Hong Kong and fly in and out of there to destinations (e.g., Cambodia, Vietnam, China) and return to Hong Kong (an adult playground) in order to rest and soak up a bit of that culture.
BabyBoomerTrips.com: List your top 5 favorite travel destinations.
Karen Fawcett: France and France. After 18 years of living here, I've never encountered a day of boredom or when I didn't feel a high from simply walking out of the apartment. The scale and the aesthetics of the city are some of the most beautiful in the world. It's monumental without being intimidating. There's something for everyone. And, the people are incredibly friendly.
BabyBoomerTrips.com: In your opinion, what do you think some of the hottest travel destinations for baby boomers will be in the near future?
Karen Fawcett: That's a really hard call. People will gravitate to the Caribbean, Costa Rico and other destinations where the living is cheap. Europe is always going to be a major draw in spite of the weak dollar. "Baby boomers" are generally more energetic and have more disposable income than their parents. Adventure vacations will become increasingly popular. Distances (albeit the post 9-11 ramifications) are so much shorter. Most people in the hospitality business speak English.
Hotels (although they may not be the most deluxe - but then they might be) more frequently cater to American sensibilities and what those travelers want.
OTHER ADVICE FOR BABY BOOMERS:
Travel now and don't procrastinate. Even though "Baby Boomers" feel great today, there's no telling when their parents (or children) might need them and they'll be less mobile.
If I could have one wish, it'd be that every child's education would include traveling abroad and spending a minimum of six months with a family in another country. It's the best way to achieve global understanding and hopefully, peace throughout the world.
About Karen: Karen fell in love with Paris when she was 13. She thought it was the most beautiful city she had ever seen and dreamed she might live there someday. A native of Washington, DC, Karen started her career as an interior designer, went on to become part owner of two restaurants, and then wrote for numerous publications including The Washington Star, The Washington Times, USA Today and at least 20 others. Karen spent five years as Director of Public Relations for a Washington, DC-based financial services firm and then was Director of Public Affairs and Marketing for the City of Boston's Economic Development Agency. She moved to Paris with her husband, who had a one-year consulting contract there, and soon found that the life of leisure was not for her. As a nonresident, she couldn't be employed in France, so she turned to journalism again. When it was time to return to the U.S., Karen left reluctantly and soon repacked her bags and returned to France. She and her husband, Victor, bought a house in Provence, which has given her additional insights into French life. Since then, Karen has traveled extensively and has had a variety of adventures and interesting experiences, many of which are described in the Articles and Features Section of Bonjour Paris and BonjourParis.com.
One of Karen's great pleasures is sharing "her" France with others. "I don't claim it's perfect or without frustrations. But, it's pretty darn good." Karen has just passed the 17-year mark in France. Even she wonders how that could have happened but one doesn't hear her complaining. Karen was a founding member of the American Institute of Food and Wine - France. Additionally, she is a member of PRSA (the Public Relations Society of America), the International Women's Media Foundation, the Anglo-American Press Club of Paris and the Press Club of France. Karen is accredited by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a member of the foreign press corps.
It's not infrequent that people ask when Karen is returning home. At this point, her response is, “Paris is home.”