‘Growing up during the Vietnam War, I never thought that Cambodia, Laos and Burma would become a destination for tourists.’
Lesley Spencer was a nervous traveller on her first trip with Titan in 1990. Her apprehension didn’t last and she has since been on over 30 tours. As a solo traveller, she’s well versed in the art of mingling and knows a thing or two about being supported by your Titan family when times get tough.
We’ve caught up with her at home in Kent to find out more.
Hi Lesley, what’s your story?
I am 60 years old and was born in Exeter before being raised in Manchester. I’ve lived in Kent for 39 years.
I am now happily retired after a career spent in public libraries, and free to pursue my many interests including golf, local history, football, and of course travel!
What started your love affair with travel?
When I was a small child I loved to read and learn about all the great Wonders of the World such as the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.
At the age of nine I was captivated by the story of the wonderful abandoned temples that were hidden away in the jungle. This year I finally fulfilled my ambition to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia. To be there in person, and appreciate their grandeur and beauty, was just wonderful.
I first travelled with Titan to Egypt in 1990. I was a nervous solo traveller, but felt included from the word go and met some lovely people on the trip. The tour manager was fantastic, and the local guides were very knowledgeable. Add in the pickup and return service and I knew I had found a very good travel company. This first trip gave me confidence to go further afield, and my second Titan holiday to the USA quickly followed.
Has there been a particular Titan moment that’s stood out?
Everyone will have their memories of where they were in 2001 when terrorist planes flew into the Twin Towers and other locations in the United States. I was in the Bavarian city of Bamberg, on a Titan tour of Germany, when the attacks happened.
As a tour group we supported each other through the shock and uncertainty of the next few days, including visiting a church together for quiet reflection and prayer. Being in Europe, we knew we could probably get home one way or another and in the end our return flight left as scheduled. Our tour manager was brilliant but, I must admit, it was the only time I have ever wanted a holiday to come to an end.
How has your experience with travel changed as you have grown older?
As the world develops and changes, new travel destinations open up while others are closed off, mainly due to wars and terrorism. I have particularly enjoyed travelling more widely in Eastern Europe and other former Communist countries, visiting many of the great imperial capitals and the Balkan states. Growing up during the Vietnam War, I never thought that part of the world would become a destination for tourists, along with Cambodia, Laos and now Burma.
On the other hand, other areas have become out of bounds. I was so pleased that I visited the Ukraine in 2007, on a river cruise from Kiev to the Black Sea and back. This included visiting the Crimea, an area now restricted due to the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
What is your favourite destination and why?
I can honestly say that I have never been anywhere I didn’t like, but some places do – of course – stand out. I love China and Indochina, where the culture is so different and the madness of everyday life is combined with the calmness of ancient philosophies – the food is fabulous too!
I loved Cuba, which exists within a timeframe of its own with some of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Turkey, with its wealth of ancient sites and the majestic city of Istanbul, is another one of my favourites.
Do you visit the same destination more than once?
I have been to Venice many times; at least twice with Titan and several times independently. It is one of my favourite places, not only for the wonderful sights along the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square, but for the maze of little backstreets and waterways where ordinary Venetian life goes on away from the tourist crowds – simply magical!
What’s your experience with the Titan tour guides? Have you ever had the same tour manager twice?
The Titan tour managers are unfailingly excellent and very knowledgeable about their destinations. I have been lucky in that few problems or crises have happened on my tours, but if they do they are always dealt with swiftly and smoothly by the TM.
Carolyn Jack has been my tour manager on two occasions, coming to my aid when my luggage went missing en route to Madeira!
Do you travel alone or with others? Which do you prefer?
I have always travelled solo on package holidays and I also travel independently, but I very much enjoy being part of a like-minded tour group with the pleasure of other people’s company.
I travel to places with a clear idea of what I want to do and see, so it is nice to have the opportunity to explore alone if time and circumstances allow. I also enjoy having some time for relaxation and reflection at the end of a hectic day of sightseeing.
Do you socialise with the tour group?
My fellow travellers with Titan have, in the main, been very friendly and interesting people who want to find out more about the history and culture of a country rather than just being on a relaxing holiday.
We look out for each other too, offering support if someone is unwell, helping out if luggage has gone missing in transit, or just making sure that no one gets left behind!
Uzbekistan and the Silk Road sounds incredibly romantic and appeals to the adventurer in me, while my ultimate dream has always been to go to Antarctica and Cape Horn!
Thanks Lesley, we can’t wait to see you on tour again.