I have a confession: for the past two weeks I’ve been keeping a secret from you. A big secret, and I’m sorry I’m not sorry.
It all started moments after my plane touched down in Toronto and I saw an email asking for last minute entries to Doubletree by Hilton’s DTour of a Lifetime competition. The prize was just too unbelievable to pass up: six winers, one per continent, sent on an adventure to photograph, blog and capture video of each location. Armed with only my iPhone and a dream I set off on a bike tour of the Toronto Islands with Toronto Bicycle Tours where I collected footage, including a couple attempts at an awkward selfie while the rest of my tour group waited patiently. That evening I loaded my footage and did a hasty voiceover while sitting under a towel on the floor of the hallway in my hostel. Imagine that for a moment. I very literally pressed submit about 90 seconds before entries were due.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and imagine my surprise and excitement when I was notified that I had been selected as a finalist! Part of my finalist application asked me to describe my favorite travel experience in 250 words:
In April 2011 a good friend and I hiked the “W” trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Unlike when we climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009, we had no guides or porters on this trek – just a map and a trail. Because we were there at the end of the season we only encountered a handful of other trekkers, all of them hiking the trail in the opposite direction. Most hours it seemed like we were the only people in the whole park.
The trail itself was just difficult enough to warrant a long sit by the fire at night and a little stiffness in the morning but the beauty of the landscape quickly numbed the blisters and sore calves. Because it was the end of the season it was cold, even snowy at times. But when the sun came out the aquamarine blue-green of the glacier lakes and bright reds and yellows of the leaves on the trees imprinted on me a beauty that has yet to be matched. On the third day of hiking we spotted a rainbow at about 8am. Quickly we snapped several pictures before it faded – but it didn’t. That rainbow only grew brighter as we hiked toward it for six hours before it simply vanished from our view. Patagonia always seemed so far away, almost unattainable. My trip there helped me realize that the best things in life often start out feeling that way. That’s why getting there is so worth it!
As well as introduce myself in a short video and describe why I’d be a good DTourist:
Shortly after submitting my finalist questionnaire I was summoned to the Doubletree Magnificent Mile for an interview. Turns out that was only a guise to get me to hotel, and the quiz I was told I needed to take was simply a way to get me in a private room. I was shocked when I rounded the corner to find the adorable staff waiting for me with balloons, champagne, flowers and (of course!) cookies. Turns out I had already been selected as a winner! The destination still remained a mystery, but I knew I was heading somewhere.
But here’s where the secret comes in. For two weeks I’ve been sitting on this information, waiting patiently for the big announcement that occurred yesterday via Google Hangout. Take a look at around minute 10 to see my reaction to the reveal that I will be traveling to Europe as a Dtourist!
(I’m featured at minutes 10, 22:20, 26, 29:45)
I will be traveling in the months of September and October (exact dates TBD) and while I am eagerly awaiting my itinerary one incredible highlight has been shared with me: I will be visiting Cappadocia, Turkey and viewing it from a hot air balloon! Two things I’ve wanted to do for sometime: visit Turkey and ride in a hot air balloon – I literally cannot wait for this amazing experience! Europe and Asia were tied as my preferred destinations for this contest and I’m so thrilled that I will be DTouring to Europe. I first visited, like so many Americans, during my semester abroad and left knowing that I had seen only a fraction of what that continent has to offer. I’m prepared for this to be a whole new experience – this hosteling trekker just might get used to a private room and hot shower at the end of the day!
I so look forward to this adventure and am so grateful to Doubletree for giving me this opportunity. Also, after meeting the other five DTourist during yesterday’s virtual hangout and visiting their respective blogs I am truly honored to be counted among them and am excited to follow their journey’s – starting with Virginia coming to North America in the next couple of weeks!
North America: Virginia Stuart-Taylor The Well-Traveled Postcard
South and Central America: Megan Claire Where in the World is MeganClaire
Australia: Loren Klein It’s Really Happening
Asia: MJ Tam Chicagonista
Africa/Middle East: Jenny Lowthrop She Gets Around