To say that Bob and Terry Rockwell have seen a lot of the world is an understatement. In the last 16 years, they’ve each been on a total of 28 trips with us, to destinations ranging from Glacier National Park to New Zealand (their 29th, next month, will be to Iceland). In fact, as long-time members of our Encore loyalty program, they’ll soon be taking their second free trip with us. Here, we catch up with them about what they’ve learned while out in the world, their favorite destinations, and how Country Walkers has changed over the years.
Terry: I’ve been traveling all my life! I’ve always wanted to see what it was like to live in another place: what is their economy like? What are the people like? What is the culture like? I’ve always been curious about things like that.
Bob: When I worked, a part of my job involved travel. Sometimes Terry would come with me. We’d put together our own itinerary and make sure we knew what were doing and were prepared. We love getting outside and walking.
B: Terry and I had been talking about taking a trip a little more challenging than what we’d been doing. One day, I was in an orthopedic surgeon’s office and saw an ad for Country Walkers in a copy of Smithsonian Magazine. So we got in contact with you.
T: Like Robert says, we were both working. And it takes a lot of time and energy to plan a trip. We thought it was so much more convenient for us if you guys do all the work—we just want to get there and enjoy the trip. I had just finished reading Under the Tuscan Sun, so I suggested, ‘Why don’t we try that one?’
B: We remember all the guides! The first one we had was Alex Gullo. Recently, we went to Sicily and met up with Alex again. It was such a surprise: he remembered us! And, of course, we remembered him too, so it’s kind of nice. There’s another guide we really liked—Carolyn Beecher in Glacier National Park. We caught up with her again when we went to Bryce and Zion Canyons 10 years later. She remembered us quite well.
T: We pretty much both enjoy hiking. And we’re both curious. We like seeing other things. It’s not just about the things we have in common with each other, either, but there are aspects of us that are complimentary for travel. Often on a trip there are options to do one hike or another; so far we’ve always chosen the same one—the biggest hike you offer that day. We’re in unison!
B: The camaraderie of the group that you’re with—the discussions you have while you’re walking along—is such an important part of the experience. I still remember in Provence talking with a couple of doctors’ wives about health care and insurance. It was very interesting getting different points of view! People are open when you’re walking along. Sometimes, we people doing things that become examples for us. For instance, we had somebody who was in his 80’s on our last trip who hiked very well. It’s an incentive for us to keep in shape.
T: You know what happens? Your expectations of yourself change as you age. For instance, we just loved the challenge that Mont Blanc was at that time for us. But now, as you get older, you realize what you can expect of yourself so you judge your hikes according to that.
B: We hope so! We’ve talked about what our next few trips might be. We might do something like Japan. We’re not sure yet—we always enjoy going to Italy. It seems that somehow the food is always particularly good there. We haven’t done the Dolomites or the Lakes. Plus, I haven’t been to Venice. We’ll have to do some heavy thinking!
T: I’d tell them to follow the trip guidelines. If it says “this is moderate” or “this is easy,” be sure to be truthful and honest with yourself about that, so that your expectations and the trip they’ve planned are on the same wavelength. Plus, I’d tell them, “You’re going to a place that’s not like what you’re used to, so have your ‘curiosity hat’ on! Be open and observant and enjoy it all.
T: You’ve kept pretty faithful to some fundamental things: getting good guides, making sure that you plan and prepare the trip well, excellent accommodations. You’d have to hunt hard to see changes!
B: We’re probably in a poor position to make comparisons with any other travel company. But I can think of one thing that’s new: we did a Self-Guided trip to Cape Breton Island last year. We thought that was really good...we might do another!