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Introducing . . .

. . some of our wonderful TCE members.

Many of our members have turned their passion for travel into something more. They forge long-lasting relationships, set up homes, they establish businesses or found charities in the countries they visit, They write blogs or books, they become travel agents or group tour leaders. The common denominator is often the desire to give back– to share with others something of how world travel has enriched their lives. This page will introduce you to some of these special TCE members.

Unique tour of the hidden gems of Tuscany

Sauro Bertolozzi (TCE username saurob) grew up in the historic city of Lucca, near the northern end of Italy’s enchanting region of Tuscany. As a young man, he had a passion for rally racing, and even won the 1982 national championship. But his parents prevailed on him instead to enter the family business of paper-making, so he gave up his dream for something more “practical.” But there are no guarantees in life, and when changes in the industry made the business unprofitable, Sauro made a second leap and decided to move to Canada.

He eventually settled in the city of Hamilton (near Toronto) and after a couple of forays into independent businesses, decided his best opportunity would be to open an authentic Tuscan deli in a town that, until recently, had few choices for quality international food. With simple offerings of fresh sandwiches, a few hot entrees, and a small grocery section stocking the best of Italian oils, olives, cheeses and the like, the store soon attracted a loyal following, and became one of the catalysts in the transformation of the block into one of Hamilton’s trendier destinations.

But his heart maintained firm ties to the land of his birth, and he found he had a growing desire to share the real Italy, the Italy he knew, with his customers. Many of them had travelled to Italy, on their own or on tours, but talking with them, he realized that they had missed so much by not being able to get beneath the surface. So in 2006 he launched another new venture, and under the name of MyOwnTuscany.com took his first group of clients on a two-week tour. He took the group to the places he knew about and loved, that he had frequented in his youth, places where the authentic patina of the past had not been worn off by the passing of thousands of tourists in a hurry to get to the next gift shop.

The tour was a success, and was followed by at least one more each year after that. In 2009 he got his certification as a registered travel counsellor, and since then has been associated with Carson Wagonlit, one of the world's oldest and most reputable travel agencies.

But this year there is something special going on. Once every decade Lake Vagli, in the heart of the Apuan Alps, is drained for maintenance to the dam which formed it in 1946. Once the waters recede, they expose the medieval town of Fabbriche di Carreggine, which was drowned by the new lake, and lies silent and invisible for nine years at a time. But this year is the year when it emerges from its watery tomb, and visitors can again walk its streets and peer into its old stone buildings. So Sauro is including a visit to this unique site in addition to his usual itinerary this year.

Due to this unusual opportunity, the tour sold out quickly this year. But Sauro has agreed to add a second tour exclusively for TCE members! This small group itinerary will include visits to all his regular behind-the-scenes spots in the Val di Lima and the Garfagnana, and of course the beautiful Renaissance city of Lucca. And if you are unable to find a travel companion in time through TCE, Sauro will give a special 50% discount to the single supplement.

For a full description of the itinerary go to his website at TuscanyWithFriends.com. This exclusive tour will take place from September 25 through October 6, 2016. To make arrangements to join the tour, contact Sauro directly through the TCE messaging system. And . . . “Buon Viaggio!”

Terry Mikeska (TCE username 33piano)takes a trip somewhere about once a month. A couple of years ago, he started becoming aware of all the souvenirs around his house, and two thoughts began to form. First, he began to feel a desire to simplify his life– get rid of some of the clutter and a lot of things he didn’t need. Second, he said to himself “Forget the fun travel, I want to start doing something more. Let me make a difference in somebody’s life.” Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for . . .

Late this October, Terry will be leaving on a humanitarian mission to Nepal, to help the people of the village of Birtamode rebuild after the devastation following the earthquakes this spring. After backpacking into a remote area, he will be working side-by-side with the villagers to provide food, utensils, and clothing to for needy families and orphans, and to help rebuild damaged buildings, including the only library in the village.

But what is most remarkable about this is that Terry has organized this entire enterprise himself. Not satisfied with the way many established relief organizations work– he knows many use as much as 40% of the funds they collect for administration– he has relied on personal contacts he has built up in Nepal to identify both the need, and local sources of supplies. Then, he has turned to crowdfunding and social media to raise the required amount.

The need is immense– some10,000 killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. In the absence of proper cooking vessels and utensils, the village people had taken to scavenging through the trash to try and find empty cans they could set on rocks in fires on the ground, where they would cook their rice. So Terry has placed orders with a Nepalese factory for high-quality rice cookers, aluminum plates and utensils. He has ordered hundreds of kilos of rice– the hunger is so great that his contacts have asked him not to spend money on clothing, as that would divert funds from needed food.

None of the people working on this effort will be receiving any pay– all the money will be going directly to needed supplies. Terry will be going to Nepal at his own expense to oversee the distribution and reconstruction efforts which he has raised the money for.

If you would like to donate to this effort by a fellow TCEer, the easiest way is to go to his page on the Give It Forward website.

If you would like to read more about how Terry’s love of travel and his relationship with one family in Nepal culminated in this remarkable undertaking, click here.

"Do you know a fellow TCE member who is doing something worth highlighting– or are you that special member yourself? Send me a note, and I’ll share the news with everyone."
Brian Eugene

TCE Webmaster