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Question of the Month: January

Is there a destination that turned out to be much different than you expected?

Posted on 1/30/2018 12:00:00 AM in Question of the Month

Because of its history, many travelers don’t know what to expect when visiting Vietnam, but most are pleasantly surprised.

We often arrive at a destination with a particular set of expectations—how the food will taste, what the locals will be like, or what it will feel like to finally visit a place that, up until now, we only knew in our dreams. We asked our readers to share their experiences—and these are just some of our favorite responses.

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Perhaps you, too, will be pleasantly surprised when you join O.A.T. for Inside Vietnam.

The Past is in the Past

You asked if there was a destination we went to that turned out to be very different from what we had expected or imagined. My answer to that would definitely have to be Vietnam! Growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War, we never had many good thoughts about the country, but we decided to go there because someone else we met on one of our trips said how much they liked it.

We were so hesitant that we didn’t even tell our family and friends where we were going for quite a while and, when we did, we heard “Why are you going there!”

Well, we are so glad we went, as Vietnam was a beautiful country and the people were so friendly and welcoming to us. They have had a very eventful and difficult recent history and yet, they are working so hard to overcome that. When asked, we still tell people that Vietnam is one of our very favorite trips that we have taken. Thank you for providing such wonderful travel experiences with Grand Circle and O.A.T.!

Thanks to: Kathy & Terry W., 8-time travelers & 4-time Vacation Ambassadors from Brownsdale, MN • Inside Vietnam

Experience diverse wildlife when you join O.A.T. for Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari.

Overcoming Fears

My wife had wanted to visit Africa since watching Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins as a child. I, on the other hand was quite anxious.

I had visions of being eaten by a wild animal hopping into our open air vehicle. Despite my reservations, we booked the Ultimate Africa trip. It was our best vacation ever, and before long, I found myself very into the experience and leaning out of the vehicle to take photos of lions three feet away. I was also quite blown away being up close and personal to penguins on the post-trip. Wow!

Thanks to: Mike A., 11-time traveler & 3-time Vacation Ambassador from Crockett, CA • Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari

Discover both the wildlife and people during O.A.T.’s Real Affordable Costa Rica adventure.

An Impressive Community

We were so surprised in Costa Rica. I think we were expecting a very third-world experience. Outside of the extraordinary wildlife, we were so impressed with the government’s support of the people via small loans, especially to women, to help them in business ventures.

The people were educated, friendly, and welcoming. There was so much to do there and it was so beautiful.

Thanks to: Mary S., 4-time traveler & 3-time Vacation Ambassador from Saint Helena, CA • Real Affordable Costa Rica

Pack accordingly to enjoy the beauty of the Sahara with O.A.T. for Morocco Sahara Odyssey.

Bundle Up

We normally would take a trip in February and look for someplace warm to break up the long Chicago winter. Normally, I'm pretty good researching a trip prior to going, and get the temperatures, restaurants, and sightseeing highlights. My research from O.A.T. for this trip showed temps of 47 to 67 and on February 5th, we left for Morocco. My thinking was that we were going to the warm desert.

Well, the nights we spent in tents in the Sahara Desert were no tropical beach. I missed the comment about how cold it can get in the desert. It got down to the lower thirties, and we slept under six to eight inches of blankets. Toilet time and showers were very short. It was not what I expected, even though this is one of my favorite trips of the 13 I have taken with O.A.T. and Grand Circle. The rest of the trip was in moderate temperatures and very pleasant.

Thanks to: Ron K., 13-time traveler from Orland Park, IL • Morocco Sahara Odyssey

Meet inspiring locals during O.A.T.’s The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg adventure.

Unforgettable Experiences

I knew when I first went to Africa that I would love the animals and the flowers, but I was blown away by the changing landscapes. Every day it was a different experience. I had not realized just how different it would be even though I had lived in Liberia and Nigeria. South Africa was an entirely different experience and I am glad I was able to go there twice.

My second favorite trip was to the Baltics and meeting the woman who had been exiled to Siberia by the Russians when she was 13 years old. It was very moving listening to her experiences about how she had managed to cope with her terrible life there, and how she eventually managed to return with a group of students to retrieve her mother's body frozen in the ice so that she could be buried in her home land.

Many thanks for all the remarkable trips I have taken with Grand Circle and O.A.T. and all the friends I have made along the way.

Thanks to: Patricia H., 37-time traveler & 2-time Vacation Ambassador from Wetumpka, AL • The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg

Fall in love with nature when you join O.A.T. for Amazon River Cruise & Rain Forest.

Amazing Amazon

My most surprising destination would have to be the Amazon. I took the trip to Peru and the Amazon in 2009, mainly because the dates fit with some vacation time I had available.

Up to that point, I had normally chosen trips based on access to museums, art, and historic sites. Lima was perfect for me, but when I arrived at the boat, I was seriously concerned about what I would do in a place with no ruins, churches, museums, or art galleries.

Turns out that I had a ball. I loved the jungle, the people, the animals, the bugs, everything.

One night, we took a small boat out into a tributary to look for wildlife. At one point, our guide turned off the spotlight and the motor, and we just drifted. After a few moments of silence, the night came alive with the most glorious sounds. Sitting there in the dark, under a canopy of stars, listening to the Amazon, was one of the most fantastic moments of my life.

Since then, I make sure to include more exotic and unusual locations among my trips.

Thanks to: Linda K., 9-time traveler from Woodsboro, MD • Amazon River Cruise & Rain Forest

Interact with plenty of welcoming locals with O.A.T. during Soul of India: The Colorful South.

Friendly Locals

Last January, my husband and I joined our friends on the Southern India trip. We had an unforgettable time. The experience that stuck with me the most was the people and how friendly they were to us.

We were told not to take pictures of the people unless we asked permission. Fair enough, but many of the people we encountered wanted selfies with us. Everywhere we went, the locals would clamor around us to meet and take pictures. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

Thanks to: Linda K., 9-time traveler from Mission Viejo, CA • Soul of India: The Colorful South

You don’t need to wait for a new Question of the Month to tell us a story. Email us any time at harriet@gct.com. To read more stories from your fellow travelers, check out our archive of Traveler Insights from previous editions of The Inside Scoop.

See the answers to previous Questions of the Month here.

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