Travel-loving Staten Islanders ‘book it’ to Sunday’s expo at the Hilton

BLOOMFIELD — From pristine beaches on Mexico’s Pacific Ocean coast to the majestic heights of Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city in the Andes Mountains of Peru, nonstop temptations bombarded visitors Sunday afternoon at the Fifth Annual Consumer Travel Expo, held at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“I come every year to get ideas,” said Adele Harris of Bay Terrace, who prefers cruise ship vacations and leaves next month on a 10-day journey to Bermuda, Haiti, San Juan and St. Maarten.

It was the second Expo for travel-loving West Brighton residents Connie and Nicholas Conti, married for 52 years. In celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, they enjoyed a 12-day Mediterranean cruise. The couple is planning a trip to Italy this summer, and a cruise to Bermuda in December on the Royal Caribbean Line’s new Quantum of the Seas.

“We’re also thinking of going to Alaska,” said Mrs. Conti, the mother of four with 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her husband added that he found the offerings of family-owned Collette Vacations “very interesting.” This third-generation tour company, in business for almost 100 years, features “exotic” trips to Antartica, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, among other destinations.

Mildred Roman of Bulls Head was visiting the Expo for the first time, and was not disappointed. She and her husband, Enrique, are planning a vacation in May, for their 20th wedding anniversary.

“We’re going to the Mexican Riviera,” she said, noting that they found four displays at the Expo with helpful information. “We travel two-to-three times a year — we’re going on vacations for the rest of our lives.”

Norwegian Cruise Line representative Meg Daly said Expo-goers showed “great interest” in upcoming cruises out of New York, “especially from families planning summer vacations.”

Starting May 4, the company’s new Norwegian Breakaway, its largest ship that went into service last year, will offer seven-day cruises from New York to Bermuda. The Breakaway features five multi-story waterslides and The Free Fall, “the fastest waterslide on a cruise ship, pulling nearly 4Gs,” among other features.

The Consumer Travel Expo is organized by Annette Silvestro, owner of Majors Travel Forest Avenue in West Brighton since 1986. “I get all my travel partners here — it’s a nice event,” she said.

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How to Shop for Travel Insurance


Mary Sue Stegehuis,

a teacher in Grand Rapids, Mich., traveled to Tanzania last summer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, she bought trip insurance—a policy that provided for emergency medical evacuation. On the fourth day of the climb, she felt chest pains and feared she was having a heart attack. A helicopter plucked her off the mountain and took her to a hospital in Nairobi.

After she was treated by an American board-certified cardiologist who determined that all was well, she was flown back to resume the climb. The insurance covered the $11,500 in evacuation costs, along with $5,000 for medical services.

“It was a huge benefit that the insurance company specializes in dealing with these logistics,” says Ms. Stegehuis, age 57.

Travel insurance has long been part of travel planning. But with more people participating in adventure trips and heading for increasingly remote destinations, policies today offer more options—and are more complicated—than ever before. Medical coverage, emergency evacuation, a choice of hospitals, medical escorts—any and all can be part of travel-insurance decisions.

Incidents Abroad

One provider, the travel and international health-insurance program GeoBlue, says enrollment among travelers age 65-plus has jumped 22% in the past nine months. Among the biggest concerns: orthopedic injuries and cardiac issues.

“They’re walking on cobblestone streets in Mexico or climbing a pyramid,” says

Brendan Sharkey,

director of individual products for GeoBlue, based in Radnor, Pa. “There are a lot of added physical exertions, so underlying chronic conditions tend to flare up.”

If you’re embarking on an ambitious trip to an exotic destination, chances are good you’ll need insurance that goes beyond plain-vanilla cancellation coverage (in which you receive a refund if you can’t travel). A more comprehensive package, which usually runs between 4% and 8% of the total trip cost, typically includes financial reimbursement if you need to cancel due to illness or injury; medical coverage, including medical evacuation; and medical assistance, which includes help finding the right hospital, says

Linda Kundell,

a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.

But even among comprehensive plans, there are differences. Some will transport you only to the nearest hospital, which may not have the highest-quality medical care.

Some travel insurance plans are really just evacuation plans; they don’t cover expenses related to medical care. All of this is usually made clear in the product description—as long as people take the time to read it, says

Moira Bishop,

a spokeswoman for GeoBlue.

Starting Point

Start by examining your current health-insurance policy to identify what’s already covered. For instance, your plan might provide for as much as $50,000 in medical costs overseas, which could sound generous. But an evacuation from a remote location could easily hit six figures.

When reviewing your health plan, also check to see whether international travel is considered “out of network” and, if so, at what rate you might be reimbursed, says

Linda Barger,

a spokeswoman for San Diego-based CSA Travel Protection.

In screening a potential travel insurer, begin with some fundamental questions: If I have a problem, how do I access help? If an emergency arises, where would I receive care? (In the nearest facility? A hospital of my choosing? Would I be transported home?) Do you have a network of doctors trained in Western-style medicine who (ideally) speak English?

The good news is that for most major travel insurers today, access to care and response times are points of pride. CSA, for instance, says it provides travelers with a 24-hour emergency toll-free number that is answered within 20 seconds, and local numbers that can be called collect. Global Rescue LLC, a Boston-based travel specialist, says its members who call in are connected immediately with, among others, critical-care paramedics or nurses. The company says that in many parts of the world, field rescue and evacuation can occur the same day.

Medical evacuation is a traveler’s largest financial risk, says

Dan Skilken,

president and chief executive of in Monte Sereno, Calif. As such, be sure your coverage matches your destination. In other words, if you’re traveling in Mexico or Central America—and if you need to be flown to the U.S. with a doctor on a private jet—budget for $50,000 in evacuation expenses, Mr. Skilken says. If you are traveling to Western Europe, then $100,000 to $150,000 will get you home. If you are traveling in Asia, you need at least $200,000, he estimates.

Ability to Compare

Comparing plans and rates online is essential; so-called aggregator sites make the job easier. Both, based in Warwick, R.I., and, in St. Petersburg, Fla., allow you to enter details about your travels and compare different policies.

The cost of coverage varies, with some insurers charging memberships to cover all trips in a year, while others insure by the trip. An individual seven-day medical membership at Global Rescue is $119, and a 14-day medical membership is $159.

If your home is in Massachusetts and you’ll be doing a 10-day trip to Mexico in April, and then traveling to Colorado in May for a long weekend of hiking, and planning on fishing in Canada at some point this summer, the short-term memberships quickly cost more than an annual medical membership, which is $329.

Finally, the best policies include a waiver for pre-existing conditions. Without it, your insurance company will insist on full medical records from your doctor to see if any problems you experience on your trip existed before you left.

Ms. Halpert is a writer in Ann Arbor, Mich. She can be reached at

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Your Weekly Travel Zen: New Zealand

cooks cove

This week’s Moment of Travel Zen comes to us from Eric Sheper. His photo of Cook’s Cove shows the spectacular natural beauty of New Zealand.

New Zealand is a perfect zen getaway — relax on a beach, hike one of the country’s many trails and see everything from mountains, to volcanos, to subtropical forests and fjords, or do something wild like bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge. New Zealand is filled with adventure and beautiful scenery — and unbeatable combination.

Loading Slideshow

  • Cook’s Cove, East Coast

    -Eric Scheper

  • Gisborne

    -Eric Scheper

  • Gisborne

    -Eric Scheper

  • Waikanae Beach, Gisborne

    -Eric Sheper

  • -Joanne O’ Halloran

  • -Joanne O’ Halloran

  • -Joanne O’ Halloran

  • -Joanne O’ Halloran

  • Waimea

  • 3 Sisters

  • Boat in Milford Sound-Fjordland- South Island

  • Dawson Falls

  • Tolaga Bay, East Cape, New Zealand

Where have you traveled for a moment of zen? Email with your travel zen or submit below!

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Map: Yankees will travel 28001 miles in 2014

2014 Travel Map

Daren Willman at Baseball Savant put together a neat collection of maps looking at how far each team will travel in 2014. The Yankees, who only have two straight shot coast-to-coast flights this season, will travel 28,001 miles this year, the tenth fewest in baseball. The Orioles (24,177) and Blue Jays (27,739) have easier travel, the Red Sox (32,919) and Rays (33,856) slightly tougher travel.

Which team will travel the most this season? Robinson Cano‘s isolated Mariners, of course. They’re 700+ miles from the closest MLB club. Cano and his teammates will travel 51,540 (!) miles this year, almost double the Yankees. The conveniently located Cubs will only travel 22,969 miles this summer, the fewest in baseball. The average distance traveled will be 33,141 miles. Good to be on the East Coast, eh?


Michael Axisa

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Travel films and programs: March 31-April 6


Artist Barbara Roth will show you techniques for drawing and painting while traveling and will discuss what art supplies to pack. You’ll also learn how to paint from your travel photos.

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Monday at Distant Lands, 20 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena.

Admission, info: Free. RSVP to (626) 449-3220.



Kurt Wedberg will offer tips for gear and trip planning and show detailed slides of various approaches.

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Adventure 16 store in Tarzana, 5425 Reseda Blvd., and Friday at the Los Angeles store, 11161 W. Pico Blvd.

Admission, info: Free. (310) 473-4574, Los Angeles; (818) 345-4266, Tarzana.



In this two-day session participants will learn tips for photographing the night sky.

When, where: 1-9:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. April 6, Oasis Visitor Center.

Admission, info: $135. (760) 367-5535

Please email announcements at least three weeks before the event to

Article source:,0,7319029.story

Foreign travel: Warnings on Crimean Peninsula, Mali

The State Department continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine and all travel to the Crimean Peninsula and eastern areas of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk due to tensions in the region. The U.S. believes that Russia is likely to continue to take further actions in the Crimean Peninsula consistent with its claim of annexation. The State Department also warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Mali, given terrorist activity there. “We strongly warn against travel to the northern parts of the country and along the border with Mauritania,” the department said. More info at (888) 407-4747 toll-free in the United States or, outside the country, (202) 501-4444.

Malaysia and the media

Did the level of public and media interest in the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 affect the flow of reliable information on the crash? “Yes,” according to a poll by travel booking site, which surveyed more than 1,300 fliers about the media’s influence on obtaining timely information. The poll asked: Do you think the international media has influenced Malaysian authorities to prematurely release information on Flight 370?

41% said, “Yes, and that’s why too much misinformation has been reported.”

23% said, “Yes, without the media, we probably wouldn’t even know as much as we do.”

22% said, “No, they’ve been slow to share information.”

14% said, “No, they probably would have taken this pace anyway.”

Theater collapse

Weakened century-old cloth and plaster ties caused a partial ceiling collapse that injured almost 80 audience members at London’s Apollo Theatre in late December, investigators have found. The ties had been in place since the Apollo opened in 1901. Seven people were seriously hurt and scores more slightly injured when chunks of plaster and wood fell from the ceiling during a performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” on Dec. 19.

Sheep shortage

The Irish require at least 6,000 sheep as hosts of this year’s Golden Shears World Championships. But they’re more than 1,000 short with just weeks to go before an event dubbed “the Olympics of sheep shearing.” Organizers said last week they need ewes, ages 12 to 14 months, to ensure that all competitors are supplied similarly shaped sheep. Prices for such animals in Ireland are running high, and farmers are under pressure to sell them before the May 22 start of the four-day competition in Gorey, south of Dublin.

Moon camera

A Hasselblad 500 camera that went to the moon in 1971 aboard Apollo 15 fetched nearly $760,000 at a Vienna auction. The new owner was identified as Japanese businessman Terukazu Fujisawa. The owner of an electronics chain placed his winning bid by phone. Bidding started at just over $110,000.

Zoo attacks

German police are hunting a killer responsible for the death of 15 flamingos at Frankfurt Zoo, some of which were beheaded as they slept. The culprit or culprits struck twice, both times at night. Keepers found nine of the long-necked pink birds dead in their enclosure one day, and six more the next. Zoo director Manfred Niekisch says despite putting in place extra security after the first incident, guards weren’t able to prevent the second attack.

Sources: U.S. State Department, Associated Press

Article source:,0,7012162.story

Procrastinators can plan on Last Minute Travel Deals

For those who can’t plan ahead, here’s another app to help you find travel savings.

Name: Last Minute Travel Deals

Available for: Website (, Android and iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

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What it does: Accesses flights from more than 175 carriers around the world, more than 100,000 hotels in 153 countries, nearly 20,000 vacation homes and about 10,000 activities. Last Minute Travel is able to offer hotel deals at wholesale rates because it buys rooms in bulk and well in advance of your travel. It is not distressed inventory.

Cost: Free

What’s hot: My biggest reason to keep this app handy on my smartphone is the “Tonight and Tomorrow” hotel deal feature. I found rooms starting at less than $60 in Atlanta, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, Milan, Montreal, Paris and more. I also appreciated that I could sort the hotel deals by TripAdvisor rating and not just the usual price and star rating options found on other sites.

What’s not: Take the flight search with a grain of salt. When I searched for flights from LAX to London, I found cheaper rates through both Kayak and Expedia. The website version also has travel coupons that I wish were available on the app. If they are, I couldn’t find them.

Worth it? Yes. The more deal options the better.

Article source:,0,2537510.story

Travel Deals and Steals for Sunday, March 30

You may not want to leave the luxe pool at the Orlando  World Center Marriott.
You may not want to leave the luxe pool at the Orlando World Center Marriott.


As Harry Potter fans anxiously await a new attraction at Universal Studios Florida, Orlando World Center Marriott has unveiled a magic-packed weekend escape for four.

Deal: Book the “Wizarding Weekends” escape and receive: two-day park admission tickets to Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure; round-trip “Hogwarts Express” car service to and from the mysterious Wizarding World of Harry Potter; a $200 food and beverage credit valid at all 10 on-property restaurants and lounges; complimentary Harry Potter movies on-demand in the hotel room; and jellybeans and tea turndown service. Rates start at $1,299, and are valid for two-night stays between June 1 and Sept. 30.

Experience: The Orlando World Center Marriott recently completed an extensive multimillion-dollar transformation. Thrillseekers will love the Falls Pool Oasis, which features two 200-foot winding flumes and a 90-foot, high-speed slide. There’s also a championship golf course, a full-service spa and fitness center, as well as 10 restaurants and lounges, including a food court.

Book it: Visit or call (800) 380-7931.


Feel Aruba’s island rhythms and lounge in paradise at Aruba Marriott for the annual Soul Beach Music Festival from May 21 to 26.

Deal: Book the “Aruba Marriott Soul Beach Festival” package. This deal includes a luxury room accommodation and $100 resort credit. The offer is valid for stays May 20-27. Rates start at $289 per night.

Experience: Get your groove on to the sounds of pop sensations Robin Thicke and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. After jamming on the beach, take a short stroll back to the resort for the hottest nightclub parties and comedy concerts. Check out the Aruba Aloe Factory and learn about the production of aloe vera and the 160-year-old history of aloe on the island. Another fun way to explore the island is with Aruba Motorcycle Tours, from the comfort of a Harley Davidson.

Sleekly designed rooms at the Radisson   Blu Aqua Hotel, ChicagoChris Close
Sleekly designed rooms at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago

Book it! Online at or phone (800) 228-9290. Use promo code RIV.


Experience Windy City luxury — but, thanks to the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, without breaking the bank.

Steal: During the month of April, guests enjoy promotional rates at $177 for business class rooms and $139 for standard city-view rooms. Business class rooms receive access to the 24-hour business lounge, which includes continental breakfast and evening beverage service. To receive the promotional rates, guests must stay a minimum of two nights.

Experience: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago is just one block from public art at Millennium Park, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. The hotel’s also one block from all the amazing shops on Michigan Ave., aka the Magnificent Mile. Guests can try deep dish pizza at Gino’s East (walking distance from the hotel) or Pizzeria Uno. Sports fans can catch the Bulls playing in the United Center or check out a Chicago White Sox baseball game after opening day on March 31.

Book it! On the Web at or by calling (800) 333-3333.

Conway Confidential is a content syndication provider specializing in travel, food and lifestyle.

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Travel notes: Washington Monument to reopen on May 12

The scaffolding is coming down from the Washington Monument as the National Park Service prepares to reopen the landmark with extended hours on May 12 after being closed for nearly three years.

The park service has spent $15 million — including $7.5 million donated by philanthropist David Rubenstein — to repair damage from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011. The earthquake caused more than 150 cracks in the structure.

Public tours of the monument will begin at 1 p.m. on May 12. The tickets will be available on a first come-first served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. that day at the Washington Monument Lodge, on 15th Street, between Madison and Jefferson Drives. Tickets for tours on May 13 and all future dates will be available on the NPS reservation page,, starting at 10 a.m. on April 16.

On opening day, the National Park Service and Trust will host a re-opening ceremony at 10 a.m.. Details will be forthcoming.

From that day until the end of summer, the monument will be open for extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

For more details, go to

Wi-Fi on cruises

Yes, when you’re on a cruise, you’re supposed to sit back, prop up your feet, breathe in the sea air and not worry about being connected electronically to the world.

But if you insist on checking your email or downloading a movie the action can cost you big bucks — usually 75 cents per minute — and it adds up fast.

Disney Cruise Line is the first to introduce a new pay model for Wi-Fi use, which charges by the megabyte rather than the minute. And for passengers who just want to make a few quick checks — mostly email checks or social media activity– that’s good news. Streaming entertainment will cost a lot more.

There are four options in Disney’s Connect@Sea system: Pay-as-you-go: 25 cents per MB. This is a good choice if you’re not sure how much you’ll need and you want to test the waters. The plan can always be upgraded to another level: small package, $19 for 100 MB (19 cents per MB); moderate use, $39 for 300 MB (13 cents per MB); and large package, $89 for 1,000 MB (9 cents per MB). This is the one to have if you want to stream movies or music.

The new system, which was introduced in February, is available now on all Disney cruise ships.

Cleveland, anyone?

Because Pittsburghers sometimes fly out of Cleveland to get a wider array of flights, an announcement that Frontier Airlines will be adding six seasonal destinations there as United dismantles its longtime hub at Hopkins may come as welcome news.

Frontier is establishing what it calls a “focus city” in Cleveland. New destinations from Cleveland will be Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale; Fort Myers, Fla.; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham and Tampa. Frontier will offer five weekly flights to Atlanta beginning June 13. The airline will fly three flights a week to the other five destinations.

When the new routes begin, Frontier will offer nonstop service to 12 destinations from Cleveland. The carrier currently flies from Cleveland to its bases in Denver and Trenton, N.J. Nonstop service to Seattle and Orlando will begin this June. Frontier also flies from Cleveland to Cancun, Mexico, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic as part of its partnership with Apple Vacations.

Upside of airline fees

Travelers protested when airlines began charging bag fees in 2008, saying the extra charge was a blatant money grab.

But a new study concludes that the nation’s airlines quietly lowered airfares slightly to make the bag fees more palatable to those fliers who would get stuck paying the new charge.

Still the airlines are profiting because the drop in fares was so small it did not totally offset the added cost of checking a bag, the study found.

“The fact that the airlines are doing it must mean they are coming out ahead,” said Jan Brueckner, an economics professor at UC Irvine who co-wrote the study with other economics experts.

The study will appear later this year in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.

A trade group that represents the nation’s airlines did not dispute Mr. Brueckner’s theory, saying fares are lower now that airlines are charging fees for extra services such as checking bags.

The nation’s major airlines began to adopt checked-bag fees about six years ago when a spike in fuel costs and the country’s financial crisis squeezed the airline industry’s already-thin profit margin. Bag fees started at $15 a bag and grew to about $25 each. In the first nine months of 2013, the nation’s airlines collected $2.5 billion in bag fees, according to federal statistics.

When the airlines added the bag fee, they faced downward price pressure — the resistance of budget-minded travelers to pay more, the study said. In response, airlines dropped fares slightly, by about $7 for most lower-priced tickets, according to the study.

Airlines didn’t lower fares for first-class and business-class fliers who are usually exempt from bag fees, the study concluded. But for travelers who do pay the extra cost, Mr. Brueckner’s study found the drop in fares offset only about half to one-third of the cost of the added fee.

Stuffed carry-ons

The addition of airline bag fees several years ago created another travel annoyance: people who cram all their travel necessities into carry-on bags to avoid the fees.

United Airlines recently began a crackdown on those passengers. And it seems that many fliers agree with United.

Nearly half of recent fliers who were questioned said they support United’s crackdown, according to an online survey of more than 1,000 adults, conducted by London research company YouGov.

In fact, 44 percent of people who have flown in the last year said passengers carry too much onto planes, making life miserable for other fliers, the survey found.

But the survey aims some criticism at the airlines as well.

Half of recent fliers said oversized carry-ons wouldn’t be a problem if airlines didn’t charge so much for checked bags.

Scented pillows, perks

More and more air travelers are buying expensive first-class and business-class seats, and airlines are coming up with some creative amenities to keep those big spenders happy.

That includes scented pillows and chauffeured SUVs.

The number of passengers buying expensive premium seats jumped 4 percent in 2013 and continued to grow thanks to improved business conditions around the world, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade group for the world’s airlines.

To serve well-heeled travelers, United Airlines recently announced it is expanding a service that takes elite fliers straight from one plane to a connecting flight in a chauffeured Mercedes-Benz SUV.

The service that has been offered at airports in Chicago, Houston and New Jersey will be expanded this spring to San Francisco International Airport.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has launched a program to improve sleep for long-haul fliers. It offers mood lighting, hot chocolate and herbal teas, noise-canceling headphones and pillows spritzed with lavender and camomile.

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Traverse City woman gives adventure travel a whole new meaning

When Jessica Pociask talks about adventure travel, she’s not talking about riding a roller coaster.

She is talking about hiking in Borneo or escaping a coup d’êtat in Mali. Which we will get to in a minute.

But first, a bit about adventure travel. You would think it was a hobby of muscled young men. Actually, at least 50% of adventure travelers are women. Why?

Meet WANT Expeditions owner Jessica Pociask

Be an adventurous woman traveler

Tell your story:
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“That’s the $64,000 question. I don’t know why that is,” Pociask (Posy-ak) says. “But more than half of my travelers are women. I know that in terms of the people who travel with me, they come from all over the world. They are very well- educated. They generally are extremely talented in some field. And by adventure, they are not looking for a zip-line tour. They are looking to follow in the footsteps of previous explorers.”

Pociask owns WANT (Wildlife and Nature Travel) Expeditions, a Traverse City adventure travel company. At age 33, she is the boss, tour leader, conservationist and increasingly known as the woman you want nearby in a sticky travel situation.

“The closest comparison I could say would be she is a ‘Lady MacGyver.’ You could give her the most challenging task or situation, and armed with a pen, stick of gum and a lightbulb she will have created a miracle that has everyone laughing and moving through the task like it was their purpose in life,” says Erin Britton, who has known Pociask since they were in seventh grade. Like the resourceful TV secret agent McGyver who could solve nearly any problem with whatever he had on hand, “she can handle any situation.”

Pociask has been traveling nonstop since she was 17 and has been to nearly 80 countries on all seven continents. Among the tours she leads are to places most of us have never been to or possibly even heard of, such as Borneo, Kamchatka, Russia and the Midway Atoll. She leads about 17 trips a year.

One of the hottest adventure destinations now, she says, is the Pantanal region of Brazil. “That is the most exciting wildlife destination outside of Africa,” she says. “I also can’t encourage people enough to go to India to see tigers in the wild, because they are not going to be there much longer.” (Indian tigers are nearly extinct.)

As she moves through the world’s most remote spots and busy cities with a confidence developed by hard experience, Pociask fully intends to keep a pledge she made when she was a teenager — to see every country in the world. But now, at 33, she is realizing that just seeing the world may not be enough.

Firing the imagination

Camping in Michigan was Pociask’s farthest horizon when she was a child in Detroit. Even when her family moved to Traverse City when she was 7, they did not stray far from home. Only her imagination did.

“My grandfather had pretty much every National Geographic known to man in his basement,” she recalls. “I would go down there and just start poring over volume after volume. I would look at these expeditions to Papua New Guinea to see people who live in the trees, or explorers who visited the tribes in Ethiopia. … I loved just the idea of being an explorer.”

One time, the little girl and her father visited the Boardman River in Traverse City. It was supposed to be 18 inches deep in that section, but the 7-year-old saw a deeper hole and jumped in.

“She jumped, and I panicked,” remembers her dad Jerry Pociask of Westland. “She went under. I went under.” For her, it was exhilarating. For him, it was hair-raising. “Jessie has always been a very — let me think of the term — determined and direct person,” he says. “She’s always been very passionate. She loves the outdoors. When she sets her mind to do something she just does it.”

Does he ever get nervous when his daughter travels now and faces far more daunting challenges than the Boardman River?

“All the time, ” he says. “But I have a picture from when she was in Mozambique swimming with whale sharks, and she is holding up a sign that says ‘Hi, Dad.’ It’s a picture I wouldn’t sell for 2 billion dollars.”

The dreamy and daredevil child got her first big travel chance at 16, playing her violin in a three-week orchestra trip to Europe. She graduated from high school at 17 and visited friends in Iceland and London. She left Olivet College after her first year and traveled and worked instead for five years. And by 21, she had gone beyond the safe confines of Paris or London to more remote and uncertain adventures.

Once while backpacking through Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, Pociask and a friend were pulled off a public bus by armed men and searched. Over the years, the scary incident has softened into an amusing tale — that she was saved by a pile of dirty clothes wadded on top of all her money in her backpack — the men stopped looking, and her cash was secure. But beneath the tale was a lesson for her: Be prepared for anything, even things that make no sense.

“To this day I could not tell what they were looking for. They tore our luggage apart searching it,” she says. “Now, I’m pretty much a master at navigating these types of situations.”

Making a career of it

Eventually, Pociask got a natural resources degree at Michigan State University, where she also did spring-break service trips to Mexico and a longer study abroad program in Antarctica. That led her to jobs leading all kinds of nature and adventure tours. In October 2010 she started WANT Expeditions in Traverse City.

The company’s 16 rotating expeditions include Madagascar, Borneo and Brunei, Uganda mountain gorillas, Iceland, the Voodoo Nations of Africa and more.

Her scariest moment was in 2012, when she took a small group to Mali and unwittingly into danger.

They had spent two weeks traveling and were back in Mali’s capital Bamako, about to fly to Ghana the next day.

Then another hotel guest told her there had been a coup d’êtat.

“At first I thought she was joking,” she says. “Then we looked at the television, and there was a giant general in his military fatigues reading off their list of demands. I thought, this is not good. … I went outside and was talking with my local guide, and then gunfire erupted all over the city.”

She and her four tour participants were stuck in the hotel for a week, trying to buy airline tickets every day to anywhere away from Mali, with prices fluctuating between $700 and $7,000 and no flight ever leaving. The day the curfew was lifted and borders opened, they were driven quickly through checkpoints to the airport. No flights. She told the group they needed to get out of the country one way or another. So she hired their driver to drive them seven hours to the border of Burkina Faso, even though some of her guests had no visas.

She is familiar with border agents asking for bribes, but this time when the exhausted group finally got to the Mali exit border and the agent started looking at her as if expecting one, something snapped.

“I looked at him and said, ‘you know, with everything we’ve been through, don’t you dare start this right now.’ We had a couple seconds of stare-down, then he broke into the biggest laugh. He handed me my passport.”

The next step

As the years pass and Pociask has experienced icy shores from Greenland to Antarctica and amazing animals from Madagascar to Uganda, Pociask has started thinking that she may want more. .

She is single, but “it would be awesome to find somebody to (travel) around the world with me. It makes it challenging while I myself am traveling quite a bit,” she says.

She also would like to start leading fewer trips and empower other talented women to lead them.

And she has started working on a new project with a group called Mothering Across Continents, which works to improve the lives of children in the world’s most needy spots. The idea is to plan somewhat complex trips to bring groups of women to places like Liberia and Rwanda to work on programs there.

“I am interested in trips that add value for the places and people you are going to visit,” Pociask says. “Even though they live there, they may not appreciate us.”

Mothering Across Continents director Patricia Shafer is trusting the planning to Pociask precisely because she has been on previous trips with her and knows the expedition leader’s formidable logistics skills and experience.

“There is hardly a place on this planet that she has not been. She is a naturalist, so she is passionate. She seems to have a near photographic memory for details. She is a fun-spirited person,” says Shafer, who met Pociask in Antarctica in 2011 and has taken a whale watching tour to Baja California with her as well.

“She will take a risk,” adds her father, who saw his little girl once jump into a hole in the river and pop back up, thrilled, while his heart just about stopped.

“But it is a calculated risk.”

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