“I am blessed to wake up and do something I love,” says Sandra Gardiner, director of national accounts for Canada at AmaWaterways, reflecting on the job she’s had for the past ten years.
Gardiner has been in the travel business for as long as she can remember, starting off as a travel agent, then becoming a manager, and then an owner of an agency and then onto her role today, which covers the wholesale side of river cruising.
It’s for this reason that Gardiner understands and appreciates travel agents and the work that they do.
“[AmaWaterways] loves its travel agents. We count on them to get the good word out about our amazing river cruise product,” Gardiner told PAX. “We are committed to selling through them.”
Here, PAX checks in with the Halifax, Nova Scotia resident to chat about safaris in South Africa, eating Italian food in Prague and the article of clothing she won’t be returning to her former boss anytime soon.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Sandra Gardiner (SG): Laptop, cell phone and lip gloss.
PAX: Where are your favourite vacation spots?
SG: I was blessed to experience Capetown, Victoria Falls, and an amazing water and land safari all in South Africa. Truly the most exciting adventure ever. Every day I saw the animals in their natural habitat and met people in their remote villages who were so gracious and always smiling. It was a place one feels connected to immediately as your feet hit the soil there.
Europe, [also], for me portrays a lifestyle where people are so focused on living life and enjoying the sights and foods and wine around them. Competition for status doesn’t seem to exist. It’s all about friendships. It feels like home.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
SG: Halifax Stanfield International Airport. It’s home and always familiar.
PAX: What do you love most about your job?
SG: I love the people. I have been blessed to call this industry a second family. It’s always changing and presenting new challenges.
PAX: What was the first trip you ever took?
SG: My first memorable vacation was to PEI when I was 17. It was memorable because I said I would live in Atlantic Canada some day and now I do.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
SG: Two times I’ve travelled and bought art from a local artist and brought it home to be framed. One in Africa and one bought in Vietnam.
PAX: What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten while travelling?
SG: I was with a friend in Prague and we had the best Italian food ever!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
SG: I think people can become quite selfish when they fly: the middle person always gets the arm rest; some people put their feet in between the seats in front of them; bags in the bulkhead go in the overhead bins, not under your seat, as that belongs to the person behind you. People need to be mindful of others.
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
SG: Depends on length of travel and where. If it’s a beach vacation and not work I can do carry on for up to 10 days!
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
SG: I went to Greece for work and my bags were lost en route. I had to borrow under garments from my boss [at the time] and dress clothes from colleagues for a fancy dinner that was happening on the first night. Naturally, I kept the under garments!