Women’s Travel Network: The Real Deal with Colleen Washnuk
Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you’re not traveling? Where do you live?
My name is Colleen Washnuk and I was fortunate to be able to retire two years ago at the age of 55. I worked at several jobs over the years as an RN, mostly in the small town of Hanover, Ontario where I have lived for almost 33 years. Originally I’m from St. Catharine’s, Ontario. I enjoy skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and have just started biking in the warm months. I love the beach and being outdoors whether doing yard work, gardening or walking. While on vacation, I love to snorkel and scuba dive.
When was the first time you heard about the Women’s Travel Network and what make you decide to go on a trip? Where did you go on your first trip?
Unfortunately my husband was very ill and passed away about two years ago. He wanted me to continue to travel and I was determined I would but I had no idea how or where to go. A friend mentioned she knew of someone who traveled with a women’s group but did not have any information to offer me. Thankfully for Google, I found the Women’s Travel Network and called Debbie Ross. She was so warm, friendly and reassuring that I had no doubts I had found a great group to travel with. It’s been life changing for me. My first trip was a riverboat cruise with AMA Waterways through Provonce, France.
How many trips have you been on so far and where did you go?
I have been extremely fortunate to travel to France on a riverboat and spend some extra time in Paris. My next trip was to Vietnam and Cambodia, which also included a riverboat cruise with AMA Waterways. I have been on a luxurious Paul Gauguin cruise to Tahiti, Bora Bora and the surrounding islands in the South Pacific. As I write this I am just overcoming jet lag from returning from Kenya, where I went on a safari with nine fabulous women.
We understand you were nervous about being paired up with a roommate on your first trip. How did that go?
I was extremely nervous and almost didn’t go. I could have paid the single supplement but it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. After staying awake all night it came down to going with a roommate or staying home and going nowhere. Well, I now have an amazing new friend and we continue to keep in touch and visit each other. Since then, I’ve made many new friends from my travels whom I continue to visit and keep in touch with. Debbie seems to be able to pair people up and has a good sense of who will get along with who. It is fun to share the experience with your roommate and have someone to talk to.
What were some of your most memorable experiences.
Definitely the fun, laughter and camaraderie with the other women in our group. On all of the trips, the food was fabulous along with the accommodations. I must say that I found Cambodia life-changing. Our local guides had lived though the horrors of the Pol Pot Regime and were able to give us some insight into the way life was yet they showed no bitterness–only courage and determination to live a good life. The people there had very little, yet they were hospitable and welcomed us. We were surrounded by the wonders of glorious temples and a way of life I knew little about.
Kenya is also at the top of my list. I was able to experience something I thought I could only dream about or watch on TV. The local guides were friendly and so knowledgeable about the culture, people and the animals living in the wild. The small nomadic tribes of Kenya welcomed us and showed us their lifestyle–one I could never imagine living. We were able to watch the wild animals from our jeeps as they went about their daily lives, whether it be killing for a meal, giving birth or mating, all within a few feet of our jeeps.
What do you wish you knew before you headed on your first trip with the Women’s Travel Network?
Actually I was well prepared. Debbie has a meet and greet before the trip and all who are able to attend do. We get to meet each other and ask questions. Debbie also goes over the itinerary in great detail and gives us many useful tips. If you don’t take her advice, you later wished you had. We have a tour guide who accompanies us the entire time so we feel safe and organized.
What’s next on your travel list?
Everywhere, but I am booked to go to India in March. I already know this will be another life-changing event in my life.
Thank you for letting me share some of my experiences. I feel so grateful to have found this group and be able to travel with them and explore the world.