Christine Durling, Author at Starr Tours & Charters
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How Not to “Pack It On” When Getting Away For a Week or a Day

You’ve been doing your 10,000 steps each day, eating healthy, and just moved your belt buckle in two notches.  You are feeling good and looking even better!  Then your calendar reminds you that you are booked on one of Starr Tours fabulous day or overnight bus trips.  No need to panic!

 

You can still maintain your weight and exercise regimen with a tiny bit of planning:

  1. Weigh yourself before the tour date. This will be the guide to help you stay on track, especially when you get back home and see that you are the same weight or even less.

 

  1. Carry some snacks with you. Those, of course, that will give you energy and fill you up between meals – protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Dried unsweetened fruits, nuts, packaged cheese/crackers don’t take up a lot of packing space.  Be sure to make smart choices when choosing snacks at rest areas, too. Many rest areas will have packaged fresh fruits and vegetables for those mid-day munchies.

 

  1. Drink plenty of water. While it will definitely hydrate you, it will also put the brakes on hunger.  Remember, you may be moving a lot more while on tour which means your body will need more of boost.

 

  1. Eat foods that you know aren’t too caloric. It’s probably not a good idea to experiment with large volumes of high fat foods. These foods may also slow you down on tour. Eat light and feel better!

 

  1. Pace yourself. Most hotels offer a buffet breakfast.  A trick is to walk around the buffet table first.  See what looks appealing and then go back in line to make your choices.  You are bound to eat less.  If you’ve had a substantial breakfast, you may want to eat a salad and/or soup for lunch.  When dinner is plated with large portions, it is a good idea to divide the food in half and ask for a “to go” box or share with your dining partner. Even though you are on the road, some hotels have microwaves and/or mini fridges that can safely hold your food perhaps for the next day’s lunch.

 

  1. Move it – of course at your own pace!  The team at Starr do an excellent job of planning multi-level attractions.  Some have opportunities for a lot of walking while others have a minimum amount of walking.  When stairs are available and you feel comfortable, take them.  Most hotels have small gyms with treadmills, bicycles, and weights.  Some hotels offer indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs.  Even if you are not a swimmer just walking in the pool will work wonders for your joints and muscles while burning calories.

 

As the 2019 bus touring season revs up, I’m lining up my healthy snacks. . . see you on the road!

Christine Durling
Starr Tour Director

When the Seat is Reversed… Traveling Solo

As a long-time Tour Director with Starr, I am a real advocate for traveling solo, especially on our wonderfully-planned bus tours.  So much so, that I wrote an article about it – “I Want To Be Alone…Really” –  to encourage more solo traveling.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, too often people are held back from traveling because they don’t have a traveling companion due to lack of interest, time, and/or money.  Apprehensions include safety, being alone at meal times, having no one to converse with, or feeling like a “third wheel.”   I know these are traveling myths since facilitating multiple tours and observing our guests from the Tour Director’s seat. However, I decided to change my seat to test “solo-ness” by booking a Starr bus tour and traveling by myself.

I made my reservation for one on the Vermont Valentine at the Brandon Inn this past February.  What better way to test traveling solo, than to book what most people would construe as a “couples only tour!”

With reading material and crossword puzzles in hand, I boarded the motorcoach with excitement and anticipation.  First, to test my traveling solo theory and, secondly to visit our Green Mountain State in the throes of winter.  I quickly nestled in my seat at the back of the bus, arranged all of my traveling needs, and watched eagerly as one couple after another couple took their seats.  I was right.  This was the perfect tour to test traveling solo.

 

As we made our way, I was happy to pull out my reading material for a time, check my emails, and close my eyes—after all, this was a mini get-away for me too!  It felt good to be “alone.”  CHECK!

 

It was at our lunch stop that I noticed a group of traveling companions walking towards me.  Could it be?  There were three?  As it turned out, I was not the only solo onboard.  Another woman, who had recently lost her husband took the plunge at the insistence of her son and booked this “couples” tour.  A husband and wife embraced this party of one not only for that meal but for others as well.  CHECK!

 

The historic Brandon Inn provided every opportunity for guests to mingle from group meals in the dining room to entertainment and fireside chats in the spacious living room while watching nature at its finest—snowing.  There was much chatter and laughing and sharing!  CHECK!

 

The highlight for all of us was the ride through the woods on a horse-drawn sleigh!  It was a Hallmark moment!  Seating was not a problem as there were seats for two and three which worked out perfectly for myself, my fellow solo traveler and our Vermont guide. We huddled under the thick blanket as we sang, “Over the river and through the woods. . .”  CHECK!

 

Riding back home on the motor coach was, for me, a lot different than going.  I chose to put my reading material and crossword puzzles aside, and spent the entire time talking and laughing with my new found-friends and seatmates.  Yes, they were a couple, but we shared our grandchildren’s pictures, our shopping deals, and future Starr tour plans. We exchanged contact information and looked forward to staying in touch.  CHECK!

 

As far as feeling safe and secure—we were all cared for professionally by Lucille George, our Tour Director, and Bud Cartwright, our driver, on Starr’s state-of-the-art motor coaches.  CHECK!

 

As I get back to my Tour Director’s seat, I look forward to seeing you all during our 2019 travel season!  CHECK! CHECK!

 

 

Christine Durling
Tour Director

A Salute to Starr Family Veterans

Every Veteran’s Day I am reminded of my time in service in the US Army. Most of my friends don’t even know that I served, and some are even shocked when they see a picture of me in my BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) in full camouflage makeup, holding an M-16 rifle! Going into the military was no surprise to my family though… my father started off his military career in the Marine Corps but only lasted a couple days, then he went into the Navy and was sent to Vietnam in 1968-69 working in radio communications (he met and married my mom over there – she was a translator and also the desk clerk at their quarters!).  After Vietnam he trained to become an engineer aboard aircraft carriers and would go out to sea for several months. In 1981 he used the GI Bill to go to school for nursing and branch-transferred into the Army Nurse Corps, then retired in 1992. Since I grew up as a “military brat”, we moved frequently throughout the United States due to my dad’s assignments and training courses – I lived in 10 different places by the time I was thirteen! My dad’s father was a retired Army Quartermaster Officer who served in WWII and the Korean War, my brother was in the Marine Corps Reserves, my husband (whom I met in Army ROTC at Penn State) was an Army Field Artillery Officer, and his father graduated from West Point in 1965 and was sent to fight in the Vietnam War along with many of his classmates.

As you can see, I had a fairly strong military presence in my life, which influenced my decision to serve. I was awarded an ROTC scholarship, so I took 4 years of Army ROTC classes at Penn State, where I learned about military history and tactics, how to march and how to be a soldier, and most importantly I gained leadership skills. At graduation I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, and I had the honor of having my dad swear me in! I was then sent to the Army Medical Department’s Officer Basic Course in Ft Sam Houston, TX and then served 5 years on active duty, assigned to the hospitals at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Lewis, WA. Even after my military career ended, I continued working at Madigan Army Medical Center as a civilian for a couple more years. Although it seems like a lifetime ago when I got out of the Army in 1997, I am always proud to say “I Served.”

AUDREY DONAGHY, US Army Nurse Corps, Captain 1992-1997
Starr Tour Coordinator 

 

Last year at Veteran’s Day, I casually mentioned to a fellow co-worker that I was in the Army. She thanked me for my service and we wondered if there were other Starr employees who were veterans. Thus the idea to write this blog recognizing Starr employees and their family members who are military veterans came about…

THANK YOU to all those who have served in the past and the present- we are all grateful for your service!

 

Please join me in saluting these other veterans of the Starr Family:

 

I was stationed at Ft Knox, KY and Ft Gordon, GA. I was a Stevedore, but never saw a ship! One of the jobs I had was to shovel coal to heat the barracks. In training I received the High Marksman award.

ALAN GLICKMAN, US Army, Reserves, 1965-1971
Owner of Starr

 


 

I joined to serve my country and to pay for my education.  I was very fortunate to have served 20 years without seeing combat.  My highlights were being able to travel and live in some amazing places.  I spent 6 years in Germany, and one year in Korea. I also served in Oklahoma, California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  It was a very challenging and fulfilling career.

An Interesting Fact: Rick was Audrey’s husband’s Army ROTC instructor at the Penn State Ogontz/Abington branch campus from 1988-1990!

 

RICK WEISS, US Army Field Artillery, Major (Retired) 1972-1992
Tour Director at Starr

 


 

The tears streaming down my face as I humbly try to pay tribute to my hero are no match to the physical and emotional pain my dad, John W. Pazdan, suffered as a witness to the horrors of WWII.  Enlisted in the US Army when he was just 18 years old, he was assigned to the European Theater in 1943.  As a member of the 53/54 Replacement Battalion he served as a crew member of a Sherman M4-A1 medium tank and engaged in battle in Belgium at the Battle of the Bulge.  During this conflict, his tank was struck and completely destroyed.  He was ejected from the tank and lay unconscious for 24 hours in sub-freezing weather.  The entire tank crew was killed.  After his rescue, he finished out his term of service for ten months in a hospital bed at Rhoads General Hospital in Utica, New York.

Like so many of the servicemen and women of “The Greatest Generation,” he never shared any of these details with our family.  I can only surmise that his courage and bravery to protect his country when he was a young man extended to protect his four children from knowing the atrocities of war.

As part of my welcome introduction on our Starr tours, I always include a salute to the servicemen and women and by doing so, it’s my way of saying, “Thanks dad, my hero.”

 

CHRISTINE DURLING
Starr Tour Director

 


 

I joined the Reserves during the Vietnam era. Did not leave the US however; was in Louisiana and Texas. Most impacting memory was working as a Medic in the Valley Forge Hospital in PA where all the Amputee Soldiers returned for medical treatments.

JAMES AGASAR, US Army, Reserves, 1967-1973
Starr Driver 

 


 

I come from a family with a lot of military veterans. Several uncles and great uncles in the Navy and Army and one in the Air Force. Unfortunately, most of them have passed and I don’t know their stories, but I still have the letters that my grandfather and father sent back home to my grandmother while they served in the Army and Navy, respectively, mostly reassuring her not to worry about them. My grandmother worried about everyone, all the time, and never gave up on that intense love.

My father was stationed on a naval ship in Norfolk, Virginia at the time of the Vietnam War, but he was never sent anywhere else aside from a brief stint in Panama.  My mother grew up in Norfolk and had several friends in the Navy – she met my father through one of their mutual friends while he was stationed there. He was medically discharged because of a serious illness before he served his full 4 years and returned home to North Jersey. The illness almost killed him, but my grandmother nursed him back to health with beef blood juice and a few other concoctions. My mother drove up almost every weekend, from Virginia, by herself, to visit him. My grandmother thought she was crazy, that no woman should be driving that distance alone to see a man, but my mother quickly grew on her and became the daughter she always wanted.

His father served in the Army during World War II and was stationed in several places throughout Europe. Most of the letters he wrote back home to my grandmother, his fiancé at the time, were to tell her not to worry about him; alerting her when he was going to be on the move and unable to write and reassuring her of his love, and… sometimes gently scolding her for getting upset anyway after not hearing from him. I wish I had the letters she wrote. While he was stationed overseas, his mother and family kept a close watch on her – escorting her everywhere and making sure she wasn’t left alone too much. They cared about her, but she said mostly they were afraid that she would change her mind before my grandfather got back and find someone else. They were married over 60 years before my grandfather passed in 2008. In addition to those precious letters, I still have some of the items he brought back from WWII including a dress sword, some coins, and several medals he earned. He never talked about his experience.

I’m honored to have had so many brave men in my family.

SHANA D’ATTILIO
Marketing Associate at Starr


 

Did you know? Starr offers a 5% discount on all motorcoach trips, all year long to any and all US Veterans!

Starr values our veterans, and would like to formally salute anyone who has risked their lives for our country.

Make Your Bus Trip Better with a Book

Make Your Bus Trip Better with a Book

While traveling around the country as a Tour Director on many of Starr’s bus vacations, I am always thrilled when I stumble upon historical fiction titles dealing with people, cultures, and events that showcase the places we are visiting.  Sometimes, I find a book while on tour as I did in Chicago. I purchased Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson in the gift shop of the Willis Building—the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  It is a great read detailing the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair while unraveling a sinister killer luring young victims to his hotel.

Book recommendations from friends, tourism folks and fellow travelers rank high on my reading list.  So, I couldn’t pass up reading Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom after our local guide in West Virginia presented me her paperback copy on our last day in town.  A real page turner chronicling the capture of Mary Draper Ingles by the Shawnee Indians and her 1,000 mile journey on foot back to her family.  Having read multiple books by Sue Monk Kidd, I was happy to pick up The Invention of Wings” when I found out the plot centers in Charleston, SC—one of Starr’s best-selling bus tours!  It takes place at the beginning of the 19th Century when a young slave girl is given to a young wealthy girl as a birthday present.  Although their birthrights were significantly different, their loyalty propels them towards liberation and empowerment.  Then there is “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil” by John Berendt.  This novel was on the New York Times Best Sellers List longer than any other non-fiction narrative.  The true story is traced to Savannah, GA. Starr passengers, while on a trolley tour, will stop in front of the infamous house where the murder of a well-known male prostitute took place.  Passengers can also see the famous Bird Girl Statue featured on the cover of the book and premiered in the movie of the same name at the Telfair Museum.

While doing my research for the Cross Country tour, there were two books that caught my attention.  I was intrigued by The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff.  Expelled from the Mormon Church as an outcast after separating from Brigham Young, the Church’s leader, Ann Eliza Young, his 19th wife begins a crusade exposing polygamy in the United States.  While visiting Salt Lake City Utah, Starr passengers can stroll Temple Square, the entrance to the Church of the Latter Day Saints—the Mormon Church.  Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline takes the reader from Maine to Minnesota on trains carrying thousands of orphaned children from 1854-1929.  The premise of such a journey was to have children adopted into loving homes needing help on farms during the Westward Expansion.  Unfortunately, many children were adopted into a life of servitude and endured many hardships.

As this new travel season approaches, I am on the hunt for additional historical fiction titles that will expand my knowledge as well as enhance our bus tour guests’ travel experiences.  So, if you have any book suggestions for our upcoming Starr bus tours going to Dublin, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; or Block Island, Rhode Island, I’d love to add them to my reading list!  See you on the road and don’t forget to bring your favorite book with you on the bus!

 

Christine Durling,
Starr Tour Director

I Want to Be Alone… Really!

I Want to Be Alone… Really!

Did you ever want to go to the beach and no one wants to go with you because they don’t like the sand?  Did you ever want to go a flower show and you can’t find a companion who loves the greenery as much as you?  Did you ever want to take a trip near or far, but no one has the time to partner up with you?  Or, how about visiting some historic sites and no one you know has any interest in the Civil War.  Well, now you don’t have to keep wishing and hoping for that someone to make all of these adventures happen for you!  Traveling solo on a Starr bus tour is the perfect answer for the traveler who is leery about traveling without a partner.

 

Travel websites suggest that the number one fear of traveling alone is feeling lonely.  Nothing could be further from the truth when traveling on a Starr bus tour.  As an experienced Tour Director, I have seen complete strangers board our tour bus in the morning, and by our lunch stop many acquaintances have been made.  Dinnertime brings on new-found friends, and truly by the end of a one-day or multiple-day tour, passengers are exchanging contact information.  Our Travel Advisers can attest to the fact that many of our solo travelers have buddied up with people they have met on previous tours and have been booking trips together for years!  This phenomena gave rise to the Starr Reunion Cruises and Starr Birthday/Anniversary-themed tours where many of our passengers reconnect with their Starr friends.

 

Some hesitant solo travelers may be concerned about safety.  Traveling in a group setting such as with our bus tours has a built-in safety feature all its own.  Starr provides a great balance of being with the group for attractions and some meals, and then having free time to decide whether to pair up with someone on the tour or to go off on your own.  It truly is the best of both worlds.  With today’s technology, everyone is in touch— or not— all day long and wherever the road leads.  A solo traveler on our Cross Country by bus trip, who was recently widowed, was encouraged by her daughter to take the 26-day journey by herself.  Her daughter was truly surprised that her mom almost never called during the four weeks away because she was having such a good time! We have another solo traveler who had so much fun on last year’s Cross Country trip, that she’s going again this year!

 

Susan Barkowski, a frequent solo Starr traveler, recently shared these highlights about traveling alone.  “During one Starr group meal, I sat next to a couple in their 90’s who told me that they still enjoy walking and jogging together and that they can’t wait until they get their new Christmas picture taken in their jogging gear.  At another group meal, a fellow solo traveler was telling our whole table about his job at the Philadelphia International Airport and all of the rock stars and Hollywood celebrities he has met over the years.  Each Starr trip has been more than just the places I have traveled.  It has been the people I have met on the Starr bus that has made me think about what is truly important in life.  It gives you the opportunity to meet people who you would never meet unless you traveled solo.”

 

The pluses of traveling “alone” with Starr simply outweigh sitting at home and wishing for a companion to go along.  You choose the kind of tour you want to go on.  You pick the time of year.  You never have to negotiate your free time—you can rest when you want, eat what you want, and book something special.  You are more open to your surroundings and the people you meet. Then, at the end of the day, you get to relax in the peace and quiet of your room with full control over the TV remote!

 

Rick Steves, world traveler, guidebook author and TV host, suggests that when struggling with the idea to travel alone remember, “Your trip is a gift from you to you!”  I hope you plan to treat yourself this travel season with a Starr bus tour with or without a partner!

 

Happy travels,
Christine Durling
Starr Tour Director