Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Milinda Martin enjoys a cocktail during sunset with a view of Bolivia's Uyuni salt flats.

Milinda Martin enjoys a cocktail with a view of Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats at sunset.

Recently, Wendy has been recommending South America and I’m so grateful I took advantage of this. Despite the warm temperatures, there were few tourists, which ensured a really authentic experience. Ashton Palmer and his team (shoutout to Ashley and Keri) helped me plan an extended trip to all my desired destinations: Torres del Paine, the Amazon Basin, Lima, Santiago, Valparaiso, the Atacama, and the Altiplano of Bolivia.

It was a long journey, but I felt so supported as a single traveler all along the way. In Patagonia, Ashton recommended Patagonia Camp, a fantastic place owned by the Matetic family, of Chilean wine fame. Outstanding guides, excellent excursions, beautiful lakeside yurts, and the most divine food/wine. The camp helped ensure I met other travelers, so meals were always full of conversations.

For the Amazon, I asked for somewhere that didn’t have a ton of tourists, which took the cruises out of Iquitos off the agenda. Instead, Ashton recommended Posada Amazonas, an indigenous cooperative that sits on the Tambopata River in Peru. Here, I was the only guest for the first two days, so fully enjoyed my hikes, boat rides, and village visits that allowed me to see how life is lived in this region. The rooms are open to the rainforest, which made for magical evenings full of sounds. And it did rain on several days, which sounded one thousand times better than any recorded soundscape!

Then I was time for a few cities — Lima, Santiago, and Valparaiso. In Lima, Ashton and Wendy arranged a WOW Moment, which was right up my street — a ceviche lesson, tasting and tour with Marisol. We went all over the city, sampling different types of ceviche and learning about this rich Peruvian tradition. In Santiago and Valparaiso, I had made my own arrangements, but because of the wildfires, ending up calling on Ashton to help secure transport back from Valparaiso to ensure I made my flight. All the buses had been cancelled! And this is where it’s really reassuring to have a local fixer!

My last stop was my favorite part, four days in San Pedro de Atacama, followed by a four-day “travesia” across the Altiplano to the Uyuni Salt Flats. Arranged by Explora, this was exceptional. My Quechuan guide and driver introduced me to so many aspects of the local culture, including participating in the carnival celebrations. We hiked up volcanoes, sat in hot spring pools, rode bikes through slot canyons, and ate all the local dishes. On our final evening in Uyuni, after indulging in a wine/tapas al fresco meal, it started to rain, which meant the salt flats became a mirror of the skies. Ashton couldn’t have planned it better.

I spent three days in La Paz on the way home and loved that too. Such fascinating geography and a lively city. Four weeks of amazing journeys in three countries. I could not have asked for more, and was so thrilled with all of Ashton’s recommendations and support.

My favorite aspects of working with one of Wendy’s experts is the ability to customize when/where I’m going, to focus on places that are not overrun with tourists, to meet the local people and see how they live, and to get outside and really feel a part of the stunning landscape. Onwards!

Traveler Milinda Martin holding up an Antarctica flag after setting foot on the continent near Cierva Cove.

Milinda Martin holds up an Antarctica flag after first setting foot on the continent.

Antarctica! It had long been a dream to visit my seventh continent, but how to travel? As a solo traveler on this trip, it was important to me to select the right cruise ship. By nature, cruising is not my preferred method of travel, so I had some specific needs:

• There needed to be lots of other single travelers and ways to engage with them
• I wanted an active trip, meaning setting foot on the continent and doing some of my favorite activities while there — hiking, kayaking, a polar plunge
• I wanted like-minded travelers from around the world
• As much as I love families, this would not be a family cruise — I wanted time with adults
• Plenty of expertise and seminars on the continent, its history, and the animals there
• No casino, no endless buffet, no forced fun

As I have so many times in the past, I turned to one of Wendy’s experts, in this case, Ashton Palmer and his team. They immediately set up a Zoom call where I could share all my wishes for this trip, and given the pricing, I wanted to make sure my choice had everything that I wanted.

Ashton, Ashley, and Keri listened, and then did their research, eventually giving me four options which they walked me through. I chose Quark’s Ultramarine, and was grateful that Ashley had traveled on the same ship, solo, just the year before. It was, indeed, everything I could have hoped for.

I met a group of singles immediately in Buenos Aires and we ended up staying together for the entire cruise! They are so much fun, and we have stayed in touch since. In fact, I am seeing one on the ski slopes of Colorado and visiting another in the UK.

I can’t say enough about how Quark runs its operations. Every day we had full updates, were very well organized and did something exceptional. The food was amazing — healthy, varied, and we often ordered off the menu (as a gluten-free pescatarian, my diet isn’t easy). The cabin was outstanding. The excursions were just the best. I loved the kayaking, but the true highlight of the trip was the final day — a sunny, blue-sky day — when we all got a helicopter flight over the continent. We met penguins and whales and seals. We kayaked among icebergs. We dipped into the water for our polar plunge. We climbed to a lookout for a 360-degree view. And all this despite a medical emergency that forced us to return to South Georgia and medevac someone to Chile. Despite the change in agenda, both the captain and the excursion leader ensured we did not miss out.

A cruise to Antarctica is not cheap, no matter whom you travel with, but I know I made the right choice in trusting Ashton and his team. They helped me ensure every penny was well spent, and I had the final confirmation when I was at the airport afterwards and spoke with a couple from the US that had gone on a different cruise ship: no land excursions, no kayaking, no helicopter, no adventures at all! Thank goodness I had Ashton’s team to point me in the right direction. When planning the trip of a lifetime, having a trusted expert who listens and guides is the best way to ensure success. Thank you, Team Wendy.

Ashton was very knowledgeable and took the time to assess what we were looking for. He provided us with several options we choice Scenic Eclipse.

Antarctica was an amazing experience and I can say that the ship was extraordinary.

I would definitely use him again with help in selecting the best ship for us for another destination.

The Baja Peninsula was amazing! The adventure with Uncruise was the right level of activity and take-in-the-sights moments. The after-cruise hotel El Perdido in Todos Santos totally added to the vibe of the trip. Thanks!!

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