By Marcia Taylor, 3-time traveler, Spokane Valley, Washington
My mom, Marilyn Taylor—a 5-time traveler from Spokane Valley, Washington—and I have always traveled together. When I moved back to Spokane—where she lives—after 20 years away, we started taking road trips and visiting many places around the country. My mom had traveled with Grand Circle before, so when we were deciding on our next trip, we thought it was time to have someone else plan the vacation for us. Our Christmas Markets along the Rhine River Cruise was my first vacation with Grand Circle—and my mom and I had a ball.
When we were ready to travel again, we discussed the places still on our “bucket list.” Australia and New Zealand were places my mom had always wanted to see because of the different wildlife we’d encounter there. And Fiji sounded wonderful. So we booked Grand Circle’s Australia, New Zealand & Fiji vacation—and our expectations were certainly met.
Marilyn (left) and Marcia tour the area around Sydney Harbor.
I found Australia’s Outback thoroughly fascinating. There was something magical about the aura around the region. It was so different from any other place I’d ever been to. Ayers Rock was mind-boggling—and the meaning this place has for the Aboriginal people left me in awe.
En route to Ayers Rock, Marilyn and Marcia test their camel-riding skills at a local farm.
What really captured our hearts during this trip were the amazing people we met. We were welcomed by a young couple during our Home-Hosted overnight homestay in New Zealand. Mom and I tend to be on the shy side, but once we began talking with the husband and wife, we felt like long-lost relatives. We stayed up until midnight and enjoyed every minute of our conversations with them.
But our local interactions didn’t stop there. While in Fiji, we visited a local school, where we met a group of third-grade students. They sang and recited poetry for us. Once their presentation was over, the teachers let the schoolchildren loose, and a group of young boys surrounded my mom and I. The boys were beginning to learn English, so our communication was limited, but they were able to tell us about their favorite subjects and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Of course, they all wanted to be rugby or soccer players!
During their optional tour to the villages of Tjapukai and Kuranda, Marilyn and Marcia visit a small animal park, where they met this young male koala.
Our Program Director, Andrea Smyth—who was incredibly wonderful—brought us to a church service during our visit to a small Fijian village. When we first arrived, no one was there. We joked that everyone must be taking a nap. A few of the local children were the first to get to the church and began singing for us. Mom was a former music teacher, so their beautiful voices really impressed her. It was delightful to listen to them, and experience such a personal and true daily routine for these people.
My mom and I have realized that we (Americans) sometimes get the wrong ideas about other cultures. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see people living very similarly—and in many cases, differently—than we do through our interactions with local families. We are so alike, and it reminds us just how small the world really is. It helps us to have a greater understanding of each other.
During their pre-trip extension, Marilyn and Marcia deck themselves out in appropriate attire for their visit to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).
I love sharing these moments with my mom. She’s 80 years old and always teases that the reason she brings me along on our vacations is because I take care of her. But it’s so much more than that. We love seeing new places and experiencing new things together. And we’re best friends. You can’t get any better than that.
Experience the natural wonders and friendly faces of the South Pacific on our Australia, New Zealand & Fiji vacation.