Best of TBL! Staff Picks for 2015

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Holidays and the end of 2014 are approaching; it’s the time of year where we take stock of what we’ve done, and look forward to all the good things that are to come. In this spirit of anticipation, we asked the office staff at ToursByLocals to tell us about one destination they’d love to visit in 2015, and the ToursByLocals experience they’d like to have there.

The staff know so much about our tours and guides that they had a very hard time choosing just one place! But they did. The result? A curated list of 14 exciting places featuring 14 fantastic local guides – somewhere for each month in 2015…plus a couple bonuses.

Sara Cooke, Director of Communications
Choice: Spending time on a family ranch near Buenos Aires

I’ve wanted to visit Buenos Aires for a long time. But once I get there, the first thing I’m going to do is escape the city with Andres, a local guide who lives on an Argentine “estanca” in the Paraná Delta. He takes visitors for a sail along the region’s waterways, then for lunch (and horseriding!) at his family farm. A journalist recently took this tour with Andres. Read her story and you’ll see why this is my dream day!

Tomas Pantucek, Online Marketing Director
Choice: Watching the Northern Lights in Iceland

I’d like to travel to Iceland in winter with the goal of seeing the Northern Lights with our guide Stefan. I’m interested in photography, and Stefan offers photography tours that help travelers capture Iceland’s natural beauty through a camera lens. But I want to go a step further: my dream is to enjoy the lights display from a natural hot springs! Iceland is full of them, and I trust our guide to find me this perfect natural vantage point.

Luciano Bullorsky, Director of Business Development
Choice: Honeymoon tour in Thailand

I’m getting married in 2015, so I want a tour I can take on my honeymoon! We’re planning to visit Thailand, and I’d like to visit Ayuthaya, Sukothai and all the way up to Chiang Mai with our guide Angmo. She gets incredible reviews from ToursByLocals travelers, and I love her focus on combining history with off the beaten track fun. Just watch her video and you’ll see why she’d be a great person to explore Thailand with!

Marty Hurl, IT Manager
Choice: Visit volcanoes and black sand beaches on Hawaii's Big Island

If I was a cruise ship passenger with a day to spend on the Big Island of Hawaii, I’d spend it with our guide Scott. I love how much he fits into a day: the Kilauea Volcano, steam vents, rain forest walks, lava tubes, visits to black and green sand beaches, Rainbow Falls, “Boiling Pots”… He consistently gets rave reviews from travelers who fell in love with the Big Island, thanks to spending time on his tours.

Colin Garrity, Guide Recruitment Manager
Choice: Civil Rights History in Alabama

My pick is twofold! Joanne and Jake in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama respectively. 2015 Is the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march and both of our guides actually took part in this formative moment in American history. I would love to hear their stories, as well as those of others whose lives were changed by the Civil Rights Movement.

Jessica Pilon, Guide Support Manager
Choice: Foodie tour in Bologna, Italy

As usual, my main interest would be a culinary tour. Personally, I would prefer to explore how the locals eat, cook, and prepare their daily meal rather than learn about the history of the city. My pick is the Bologna Guided Gourmet Walk tour with our guide Olga. Olga posses all aspects of a great and reliable TBL guide. She has consistent 5/5 star reviews, lovely comments from travelers, great photos for her tours, excellent tour descriptions and I enjoy her motto "ITALIAN, UNIQUE, MEMORABLE”. To me, nothing is more memorable than a good meal with fun people in a great atmosphere.

James R, Customer Support Manager
Choice: From Tokyo to Mt. Fuji in a Day

As soon as I read the tour description for Yumi’s “Hakone one day tour from Tokyo”, I knew that I had found the PERFECT tour for me! It’s hard to imagine a tour that combines so many unique experiences into one amazing outing. The thought of reveling in the sheer efficiency of a bullet train ride to witnessing one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks, Mt. Fuji, whilst surrounded by the pristine waters and lush green flora of Hakone is enough to make me want to try the region’s famous delicacy: the black egg! The next time I’m in Tokyo, you can be sure that I will sign up for this tour. Yumi! Lead the way!

Paul Melhus, President
Choice: Visit New Zealand – AKA the Shire!

Top of my wish list in 2015 is New Zealand. With the release of the final installment of The Hobbit, its time to see where it was all filmed. Robbie, one of our guides in Wellington, was a movie extra for Lord of the Rings and offers insider tours of film locations. Plus I have a couple of Kiwi friends that I haven’t seen in awhile, so it would be great to catch up and get them to teach me the Haka!

Alex Goddard, Customer Support Manager
Choice: Shark Diving along the South African Coast

If I could take any tour in 2015, I would choose ‘Shark Cage Diving’ with our South African guide Daniel. Cape Town and its coastline looks so beautiful, and I hope to go there someday. If I ever get the opportunity to do so, I would not hesitate to ask Daniel to be my guide and arrange this wild excursion spent on the water with an opportunity to swim with the scariest predator in the deep blue sea! Daniel explains this tour as “a day that you will remember for as long as you live” and I’m sure it would be just that!

Paul Field, Customer Support Manager
Choice: Classical Music in Vienna

My pick this year is a counterpart of sorts to last year's, which was Rock’n’Roll with Richard in London. This time, it’ll be classical music with Ursula in Vienna, Austria. I am first and foremost a music enthusiast. I think that a tour around Vienna with Ursula would be very interesting. The city is rich with musical history, and this combined with Ursula’s background in musical study would make for a fascinating day. A number of the great composers spent their lives in this city, and it would be very interesting to see it all with a local expert.

David Young, Manager, Travel Agents
Choice: Explore St Petersburg with a Cultural Historian

I’d like to spend time with Irina in St Petersburg. I am fascinated by Russian history and St Petersburg in particular. What a spectacular city! So much culture and beauty everywhere. Given Irina’s background in history I think she would be a great help in educating me about both the city and Russia, too. Also, she gets great reviews! The glowing comments definitely make me want to tour with her.

Dan Bertasi, Guide Support Manager
Choice: Winter Surfing in Mexico

If I could go on any tour with any of our guides, I’d go on Marco Polo's "Surf Cerritos in the Winter” tour. Pacific Ocean winter waves are bigger, stronger, and usually more frequent – a dream for surfers. And this tour covers every surfing need: I wouldn’t have to worry about shipping my own surfboards to Mexico, I wouldn’t have to find my way back to wherever I’d be staying after the session, I wouldn’t have to wear a wetsuit (warm water!), and most important Marco is a local and would give me some valuable tips on where to surf during my stay. If all those reasons weren’t enough, the tour is in Mexico! I love everything about Mexico: the people, the food, the culture, the weather.

Mike Young, Area Development Support
Choice: Explore Copenhagen with Ivan

My pick for 2015 is going on tour with our guide Ivan in Copenhagen. Why? Ivan has a great sense of humour, he takes his good nature/humour on tour with him to make the tours with travelers enjoyable, and ends up doing a fantastic job both with us and with travelers. In 2014 he took over a tour for us at literally the last minute, rescuing a traveler from the port area and taking her on tour. He said her smiles were enough payment for him; he was happy he could make her day better! Who wouldn’t want to spend a day with a guy like that?

Melanie Mendiola, Customer Support Manager
Choice: See the best of Santorini with Dimitra

Santorini has always been at the top of my bucket list. Being able to experience the island and do as the locals do would make the trip that much more memorable. Dimitra is one of our highly rated tour guides in Santorini. She’s energetic, enthusiastic, friendly and passionate about sharing the beauty of Santorini; I’d love to spend a day with her.
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