Stories from Real Virtuoso Travelers Why I Travel: Kathleen McNamara

Why I Travel: Kathleen McNamara

Kathleen McNamara loves traveling with her three daughters.
Kathleen McNamara loves traveling with her three daughters.

Get Kathleen McNamara going on her travel dream list and inspired ideas come flying: “Let’s see ... trekking the Amazon. Never been to Machu Picchu. I’m dying to hike the Himalaya. Bike around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and huge stretches of the U.S. ...” Although she retired at 53 after selling her high-tech health company and spends many weeks away from her Steamboat Springs home each year, to hear her tell it, the world is still a vastly unexplored place. Denver-based Virtuoso travel advisor Dana Welch helps satisfy that unyielding wanderlust.

I travel out of a sense of high adventure. Nothing is more stimulating than seeing places I’ve never seen before. Hiking the hike, eating the food, cycling whatever they’ve got to cycle. It’s simply, let’s do this!

Even though I have three kids and a husband, I do a lot of solo travel. The joy is doing everything you want, when you want to do it. When it’s me and my suitcase, if I’m not having fun, I can pick up and go somewhere else.

New Zealand this year — Twenty-six days, nine different accommodations, countless unforgettable moments. I helicoptered up to glaciers and over Milford Sound and tramped around Abel Tasman National Park. At Huka Lodge, they have a private dining program that lets guests choose where they want to eat. You can sit by a fireplace. Someone was by the river. Someone chose by the trees. It’s pure freedom and beauty.

Traveling in New Zealand.
Traveling in New Zealand.

Bhutan was the most spectacular. Archery is the national sport, and all these amazing athletes hike over mountain passes to challenge neighboring villages. It’s not like anything you’ve seen at home: When someone scores, they do an amazing costumed dance in the shadow of those incredible snowy peaks.

For my youngest daughter’s 18th birthday, Dana booked us on a Silversea cruise through the Adriatic and arranged for local guides in every port. She usually goes over the top, but this trip was one for the books. In Dubrovnik, our guide had set up a treasure hunt through town. Clues led us down a little lane, where a band started playing “Happy Birthday” to Kiara. A bakery opened just for us, and she got to decorate an incredible chocolate cake. Then an artist sketched a drawing of her that we kept as a gift. That’s service plus, plus.

Dana knows I love feeling connected to the outdoors, and she’ll call numerous hotels to find one that has a window that opens or a balcony – that can be really challenging in some cities, but she finds one everywhere. This year, she actually found the one and only room at my London hotel that had a patio!

On safari in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve.
On safari in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve.

I run when I travel. Always ask the valet or concierge where it’s safe to go, and bring a map – you will get lost. I try to do it every day, preferably at dawn. You see so much more than you do from the inside of a car, and you get to see a sunrise.

I was looking to celebrate my older daughter’s graduation from law school, and Dana sent us to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on Vancouver Island. I heard ‘tented camp’ and thought, ‘Hmm,’ but we’re talking luxury bedding, Michelin-level food, and the clearest skies you’ve ever seen.

If you’ve never been to Zion National Park, go. I’ve hiked every trail in that park, and The Narrows is the best. Pick a beautiful sunny day – you’re in water the whole time with steep, towering red walls above. It’s heaven on earth.

With my husband, it’s slower paced. My ideal is scaling a mountain. His ideal day is golf and winetasting. He’s not going to be looking for that kayak.

Beaches? No thanks. I sunburn too easily.

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