Looking back over the year 2017, I am slightly overwhelmed by the changes, challenges and cherished memories that this year has held. I have wanted an opportunity to thank you-my wonderful travel clients, not only for your continued business but also for your patience and understanding during a time of great sadness and loss of my husband. He not only was a wonderful friend but also my business partner for 42 years. Cary and I had worked together and built International House of Travel into a thriving travel company and for the past 15 years also the St. Joe Riverfront Bed and Breakfast.

You may have very well figured out by now that HE was the organized, detailed accounting portion of this partnership whereas I have the excitement and enthusiasm, along with a childlike interest to explore and plan adventures that give you memories for a lifetime. Having to fill all those shoes has been a huge challenge for me, but one that I have risen to the occasion to fill.


Although his cancer came quickly and was very angry and aggressive to his body, I am extremely thankful that we had time to talk and make some good choices for the future I would face alone. One bit of advice, and blessing, that he gave me was to say, “Val, go travel. You love visiting new countries, exploring their culture, food and wine-you are passionate about this so go do it and enjoy – plus it will also keep the loneliness at bay.” I took his advice and these past 8 months have been filled with experiences that have taken me from India to Croatia, Italy to Israel. I have truly enjoyed learning abut these magnificent places, their colorful people and just how amazing your life can be enriched by immersing yourself in their history and land. I am even more excited to share my discoveries and knowledge with you.

I have handled pretty much every part of the world over the past 42 years in the travel business but you cannot truly be a specialist and know everything about the entire world. Several years ago I took the time to narrow my focus. As I have gotten older my appreciation for making memories, continuing to learn and taking care of myself-mind, body, spirit and soul have become priorities. I will continue to offer wonderful wine and culinary tours as this is a huge passion. However I will also be offering more tours for shared interest groups involved with yoga and wellness, faith-based and gardening. If you really stop and analyze each of these topics, getting involved with these types of groups makes you feel better about yourself and enlightens your entire being.

As we finish celebrating Christmas and all it’s festivities and the good feelings that come along with it, it makes me think that just like a wonderful Christmas present, every morning of this new year comes to us gift wrapped. Every day we have the opportunity to have moments we’ve never experienced before, opportunities we’ve never known, and new destinations we have never explored.

What a truly magnificent gift! Don’t let these chances slip away to visit new places, meet new people, enrich your life with the experience of travel and spread good cheer. Be an ambassador and give back with a smile and gratitude. You have the chance to turn this year, 2018, into a truly extraordinary year.

I am so grateful for my clients and memorable travel opportunities. Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems and I chose to focus on “all” that God has given me, not that which has been taken away. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I hope you will continue to read these and my blog posts each month to see just what can be in store for you in 2018.


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