Travel Diaries

From Ethiopia to Camino De Santiago

by Kristen Gray

This month, our readers savored the sounds of Andrea Bocelli in Rome, reached spiritual heights in Spain and skirted volcanoes in Africa.

Jodi Versus the Volcano

Jodi Morris, founder of the consulting firm Connecting Growth Globally, mixed work and sightseeing on her recent excursion to Ethiopia. “I’m in a hotbed of thermal activity, one of the weirdest, lowest, hottest places on earth,” Morris recalls of visiting Dallol, a below-sea-level volcano. “It’s part of the Danakil Depression in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia. It had me feeling like I was at the edge of earth. We walked amid bubbling acid pools of eye-popping neon color and deposits of salt, sulfur and other minerals. You could see, hear, smell and feel the volcanic activity below your feet. It was a feast for all the senses.” The following day, she and pals Matt and Laura Davis climbed up Erta Ale, an active basaltic shield volcano, “in complete darkness with just the light of our headlamps, and once we arrived at the top we camped out near the opening with some wine our tour guide surprised us with.”

A Star-Studded Celebration
(with a Conscience)

TransPak chairwoman Arlene Inch, pictured on the far right, has attended Celebrity Fight Night in Italy, an elite charity event with live musical entertainment, for the last four years. In September, the fundraiser for the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center was held at the Roman Colosseum, featuring performances by Elton John, Brooks & Dunn, Steven Tyler, Chris Botti, Reba McEntire, David Foster and Andrea Bocelli, who joined guests for five days of festivities. Inch partook with friend and philanthropist Nancy Hanley. “We stayed at the Rome Cavalieri, just outside of Rome,” she says. “Some of the events included a Fendi-hosted lunch that offered a tour of the Vatican, a cocktail hour at Palazzo del Quirinale, which is the residence of the President of Italy, and a dinner at Palazzo Colonna, a large, old palace in Rome. The trip finished off with a most amazing gala at Cinecittà, a film studio in Rome. The whole event was very hands-on, as we were able to dine, and chat with many celebrities, including Kristin Chenoweth and Smokey Robinson.”

A Guardsman Goes the Distance

The Camino de Santiago, the iconic Spanish pilgrimage popularized by the 2010 Martin Sheen film The Way, had been on Phil Spiegel’s bucket list for the better part of a decade. Ultimately, each year came and went and he never even managed to buy hiking shoes, let alone a plane ticket. But 2017 was different. Spiegel, Executive VP of the Clint Reilly Organization (parent company of the Gazette), bought the shoes, picked up a backpack and booked his flight. “It was completely unplanned,” Spiegel says. “I had a plane ticket in and out; the rest was left to chance.” Spiegel completed the 400-mile journey from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela in 26 days. “One minute you’re in a huge city square, the next you’re in the middle of a wheat field,” he recounts. “A lot of people were looking for that burning bush moment, some lightning bolt of introspection. For me, the total departure from my normal life—no email, living in hostels, spending three weeks in a T-shirt and shorts—that was my lightning bolt.” A renowned social maven, Spiegel laughs when describing the scene on the trail. “If you don’t like people, you will by the time you’re done. Every three days you have five new best friends and you fall in love twice, then you say goodbye.” Spiegel waxes poetic when describing the experience. “It’s so simple—you just walk. When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re thirsty, you drink. Throughout, you just keep walking. The days on the trail are long, but the full experience felt short. And that’s life, right?”

 

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