TORONTO — Sheila Gallant-Halloran didn’t join the travel industry until 2006, but her travel memories could fill several lifetimes – and she’s not stopping any time soon.
She also has incredible recall. Asked for her favourite moments in this industry, as part of Travelweek’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Gallant-Halloran was able to offer an almost year-by-year retelling of her own major landmark moments, from once-in-a-lifetime trips, to career decisions that got her where she is today: an award-winning independent travel advisor and owner of Lush Life Travel, an affiliate of Vision, a Direct Travel company.
Gallant-Halloran tells Travelweek: “I wasn’t in the industry in the heyday of commissions on air, and junkets and fams. Of course, the upside is that I came to travel with 20+ years in financial services, so that risk management background helped ground me in the travel industry in a different way.”
She adds: “I used to be an actuary, and worked on ‘return on investment’ – but as a travel advisor, I truly did get into ‘return on life’ for my clients.”
While 2006 seems like recent history, there have been big changes if you know where to look. When the Ottawa-based Gallant-Halloran was still working in financial services, as a corporate traveller she used to fly the Ottawa-Toronto corridor 2 – 3 times a week. “I flew into Billy Bishop before its current incarnation. My memories are of a very bare-bones terminal, with maybe a spot to buy coffee if you were lucky.” Now, of course, passengers flying in and out of YTZ enjoy a full-service lounge and plenty of perks and services.
Here are Gallant-Halloran’s travel memories, both before her industry career, and after: “These memories stand out.”
1987 or 1988: “Flying the Ottawa -Toronto corridor regularly on Wardair. Regular service included a steward(ess) hanging your coat for you, and serving you champagne and orange juice for breakfast before taxi.”
1988: “Going to New York City for the first time on a business trip, and enjoying the crazy hustle of the city. I remember St. Patrick’s Cathedral taking my breath away.”
2001: “Getting on a plane again in October after 9/11 and being absolutely terrified.”
2006: “Joining MouseEars Vacations as a Disney specialist.”
2008: “Joining Travel Counsellors in Canada as an independent travel counsellor. Also, sailing on the Diamond Princess to Alaska with my family, mom, and cousins – and enjoying the views of the beautiful Glacier Bay from my balcony suite with my family.”
2009: “Winning ‘Top Travel Counsellor’ in Canada from Travel Counsellors, and flying to Manchester, England to get the award. Also, annual trips to Disney with my family.”
2010: “Joining Vision Travel as an independent travel advisor, and being a part of helping build the new @home division.”
2012: “Staying at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach as a Virtuoso luxury travel advisor, and overhearing (to my dismay) my youngest daughter (then 6 years old) order the Bentley to come pick us up for dinner (and they sent it).”
2012: “Visiting the Galapagos on a fam with Adventures by Disney, and walking where Darwin walked, and coming up close and personal with the blue footed boobies.”
2013: “Taking my first trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, and being astonished by the beauty that is Western Canada. I remember walking on the Athabasca Glacier and being wowed. Also, hosting my first luxury cruise with Seabourn to the Caribbean as a Virtuoso host, and being fêted with the wining and dining, and escorting my Virtuoso passengers on a customized shore excursion – and celebrating my 50th birthday with their champagne and caviar beach BBQ.”
2014: “Taking my family on a Tauck river cruise on the Danube, and watching my kids learn and be excited about sailing with other kids on a family cruise product throughout Europe – and having my youngest try escargot for the first time.”
2015: “Taking my mom on an Oceania cruise – just mom and adult daughter spending alone time together, and visiting wonderful spots like Spice Island Beach Resort.”
2016: “Returning to Disney on annual trips again, but now having to ride the roller coasters with my family – my youngest was no longer my excuse to sit them out. Also, visiting Fogo Island Inn with my family and my mom, and being so proud to see this five-star wonderful hotel in my home province. And teaching my eldest daughter to jig a cod.”
2017: “Going to Australia on a fam to Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, and pulling over in a van one night, and being overwhelmed with emotion as we saw the stars from a different perspective and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and pinching myself I was there. Also, taking my eldest daughter to India, and being overwhelmed with the magical chaos that is India – the noise, smells, and people stay with you as does the beauty of the Taj Mahal and the various forts and temples, and riding in the back of a rickshaw in Delhi plus riding an elephant in Jaipur.”
2018: “Taking my husband and youngest daughter to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest on a river cruise, and being blown away by the stillness of the experience. We had a marvelous time, no TVs or cellphones, all the wildlife and birds and nature was amazing and jumping in the Amazon for a swim, and later catching piranhas in the water that we later ate for dinner.”
2019: “Visiting Machu Picchu with G Adventures, and just being awed by the wonder of the spot – I called all my family around the world to tell them where I was and show them pictures. Also, taking a group on the Rocky Mountaineer, and having older ladies picked up by limousine to take them from the airport – they were so excited for their first limo ride, and of course, the train ride was even better. Also, taking a group of 75 people on a Uniworld river cruise as we ‘Dashed Through the Danube’, partnering with a ladies’ fashion store, Shepherd’s Fashions in Ottawa. We combined fashion and fun, with shopping through Europe. Amazing.”
2020: “Experiencing the devastation of the pandemic on the travel industry, cancelling and cancelling again a huge book of business, and seeing that play out again and again for the better part of two years with lockdowns. The one upside was the full embrace of professional fees.”
2021: “Getting on a plane again to go to Newfoundland once it finally re-opened, so I could visit family again, and being absolutely overjoyed to get on a plane again. Even the smell of airplane coffee was a welcome sensory experience.”
2022: “Incorporating my boutique company, Lush Life Travel, as an affiliate of Vision, a Direct Travel company. Winning a 2022 Virtuoso Luminaries, Legends, and Leaders Awards category – WELLNESS award in Las Vegas at the Bellagio – my first in-person Virtuoso Travel Week since 2019. Doing a river cruise with AmaWaterways on the Rhine, cruising through the beautiful Rhine Gorge, and taking in the Christmas markets again that had been closed for a couple of years. And taking a group to my home province of Newfoundland, and watching ‘Come From Away’ in Gander, at the stadium with all the main players and mayors and participants in the house. Completely emotional, and made me so proud to be from Newfoundland.”
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