How Sydney grandmother Nina Gage went from tourist to tour guide with Nina’s Pathways
It seems that for some of us, our passions only come to fruition later in life, after retirement.
Like a lot of women of my generation, I have raised children and supported family businesses, which I am very proud of. But, for the first time, at the age of 65, I would undertake a venture of my own, and have a chance to put my passion for travel into action.
Travel was always an obsession of mine, much to my family’s consternation. “There she goes again off to one of the world’s trouble spots,” was a catch-cry common in our household. Little to my children’s knowledge, I have been travelling to the more unlikely corners of the Earth since I myself was a teenager. My first visit to India was in 1967, via Afghanistan, on a year-long backpacking journey from London. In hindsight, it was probably this adventure that opened my eyes to the kind of exhilaration and education you can only receive from visiting cultures so different to your own.
In the years following, I travelled from Cambodia to Penang, Kenya to Tanzania, Russia to Croatia.
In 2010 I had the good fortune to visit Sri Lanka, which I had never managed to get to in my previous trips, but had always wanted to. I went with my two daughters. We enjoyed two wonderful weeks of relaxation, visiting historic sites and eating incredible food. I was hooked.
The following year I was compelled to return to Sri Lanka and organise a more extensive visit with some girlfriends. We explored further north, incorporating the lovely tea estates of the dramatic Central Hills.
My friends so enjoyed the itinerary I had planned they asked me, “Why don’t you do this for everyone?” And so, Nina’s Pathways was formed. Since then I have taken two small groups (5-10) guests to Sri Lanka – one in March and one in October – every year.
Why Sri Lanka?
The diversity of Sri Lanka’s landscapes, its historical richness, its charming residents and the ease of moving through it are all reasons I keep returning.
From the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, through the ancient capital of Kandy and on to beautiful tea estates in the Central Highlands, to the southern national parks that protect wildlife – elephants, leopards and birds – I have grown enamoured of the beauteous natural environment and the layers of history. Sri Lanka’s 2000-plus years of culture can be discovered at ancient sites where legendary temples boast beautiful details, and feats of human ingenuity can be seen in remarkable monuments and architecture.
For all of these reasons it’s the perfect destination for older travellers seeking an rich cultural experience in comfort.
Tour groups with a difference
I’ve spent these years travelling through Sri Lanka selecting destinations and activities aimed at giving seniors an authentic perspective of the country they would not receive in a large, cookie-cutter tour group.
The activities they enjoy include unique and off-the-beaten track activities such as a cooking class in a real Sri Lankan home and a visit to the newly-opened northern city of Jaffna and the fascinating surrounding islands. We visit an orphanage where Nina’s Pathways guests have the opportunity to donate some small gifts and give back a little to the Sri Lankan people. For guests who have a particular interest, I organise activities such as train journeys, yoga, meditation or golf.
I love travelling in small groups as it allows me to give get to know all guests – they are always interesting! I also very much enjoy seeing them make friends – we’re always a jolly party of family, couples and singles travelling through the country, and guests in the past have created ongoing friendships. We are also accompanied by a wonderful Sri Lankan guide and a driver, making light work of the language barrier and giving us in-depth cultural insights.
Our accommodation is eclectic, with a mix of rustic boutique and luxury. Among these hotels are a converted tea factory in the highlands, a British colonial-era mansion and a Geoffrey Bawa-designed resort on the side of a mountain.
These tours are for more intrepid travellers who wish to see the real Sri Lanka in comfort and without lifting a finger.
I would love to show this incredible country to Go55 readers.
Please visit my website to learn more, email me or simply give me a call – I love to chat with people personally about what they can expect.
Let 2016 be there year you discover wonderful Sri Lanka.
Limited places are still available for our March-April journey! See the itinerary: http://www.ninaspathways.com.au/itineraries/